Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
revised 15 August 2013
Jon Pyong Ho (Cho’n Pyo’ng-ho) was the former Chief Secretary of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Committee of the DPRK Cabinet (2010-2012), a former member of the DPRK National Defense Commission [NDC] (1990-2011), the former KWP Secretary and Director of the Machine-Building Industry (Munitions Industry) Department and a past vice chairman and chairman of the Second Economy Commission. He was also a member of the KWP Political Bureau and a member of the Party Central Committee. For over four decades Jon was a senior manager in the DPRK’s production and development of conventional and advanced weapons, and a key figure in the country’s development of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.
Jon’s official career began in 1951. During the Fatherland Liberation War (Korean War), he worked as a shop manager at the Kanggye Tractor Factory, a leading DPRK arms manufacturer. He completed his graduate education after the war at Moscow State University. In 1956 he began work at the KWP Organization Department (later the KWP Organization Guidance Department). In the 1960s he also was a dean and faculty member of at the School for Central Party Officials where he authored several ideological tracts. Jon was a guidance officer and deputy director in the KWP Organization Department until 1970. During this time he worked under then-director Kim Yong Ju to establish Kim Il Sung’s monolithic leadership in the 1960s and the implementation of KIS’ four-military lines, including the modernization and establishment of self reliance in munitions production. Jon also participated in the purges of the “military adventurist” and Kapsan factions.
He was elected an alternate (candidate) member of the Party Central Committee [CC KWP] at the 5th Party Congress in 1970, and appointed deputy director of the CC KWP Machine Industry Bureau. In 1971 as its deputy director Jon was instrumental in the consolidation of the CC KWP Machine Industry Bureau with the network of weapons factories under the party, government and military. Jon also served as a department director of the State Planning Commission This became the Second Economy Commission [a.k.a. the Second Economic Committee], directly subordinate to the KWP. In 1972 Jon Pyong Ho was appointed director of the Second Economy Commission’s [SEC] General Bureau, which directs weapons orders and the processes of the SEC’s other production bureaus. Jon also served as Chief KWP Secretary of the SEC’s primary party committee. From the mid-1970s through the 1980s Jon served as a Vice Chairman and 1st Vice Chairman of the Second Economy Commission.
At the 6th Party Congress in October 1980 Jon was promoted to full membership on the Party Central Committee. In 1982he was elected a deputy to the DPRK’s unicameral legislature the Supreme People’s Assembly in 1982 and later that year was elected an alternate (candidate) member of the KWP Political Bureau. During the early to middle 1980s Jon continued serving on the Second Economy Commission, but his political standing (and that of his cohorts) was not solid. At the Party Central Committee’s 12th plenum (12th plenary session of the 6th CC KWP) held on 27 December 1986 Jon was elected the KWP Secretary of Munitions Industry. He was elected to full membership on the KWP Political Bureau at the Party Central Committee’s 14th plenum, held during 28 to 30 November 1988. At the first session of the 9th Supreme People’s Assembly, held in May 1990, Jon was elected a member of the National Defense Commission. Jon’s career advancement from the late 1980s onward was due to his supervision over a series of advancements in the DPRK’s ballistic missile capabilities, including the Rodong-1 and Hwasong-6 as well as executing a corporate restructuring of party, government and army offices responsible for foreign weapons sales and the acquisition of technologies from abroad.
During the 1990s, whilst reporting directly to late DPRK leader Kim Jong Il (Kim Cho’ng-il), Jon supervised the development of the Taepodong and Musudan ballistic missile. Jon also executed an agreement in which Pakistan exchanged detailed information on gas centrifuge technology and uranium enrichment for the DPRK’s ballistic missile designs. In 1998 Jon Pyong Ho supervised the test launch of the Taepodong missile. In the early 2000s Jon led a group of senior DPRK policymakers which was given a broad license in formulating and implementing economic policies. Part of this policy working group’s work was focused on the preparatory phases for the DPRK’s first experimental nuclear detonation, which Jon directly managed, on 9 October 2006. In November 2008 Jon Pyong Ho met with a military delegation from Myanmar that visited the DPRK. During the visit, Jon hosted a reception for the delegation and coordinated their on-site visits to several military production facilities. During 2008 to 2009 Jon supervised the DPRK’s second major long-range missile test and its second experimental nuclear detonation.
In September 2010, during the 3rd Party Conference, Jon entered semi-retirement. He retained his membership on the KWP Political Bureau, but retired as KWP Secretary and Director of the Munitions Industry Department. He migrated to serving a position as the chief political official at the DPRK Cabinet holding the concurrent job titles of chief secretary of the Cabinet’s KWP Committee and as its political director. In April 2011 he retired his membership on the National Defense Commission. Jon was a member of Kim Jong Il’s funeral committee in December 2011 and attended several funeral events. By the spring of 2011 Jon retired completely from DPRK public life.
Jon was born to an itinerant farming family in Chagang Province in March 1926. He studied mechanical engineering in the DPRK and Russia. Early in his career Jon worked diligently to understand the development and management of military production and industry. From the 1970s on, he held a rare dual-hatted place in the DPRK’s political culture having concurrent political and technocratic management positions in the country’s arms and munitions industries. According to several sources, Jon is a talented writer and had an excellent knowledge of both policy and the political process. Jon Pyong Ho had close professional and personal ties to Choe Yong Rim, the former DPRK Premier (2010-2013) and current Honorary Vice President of the Supreme People’s Assembly Presidium, and with Choe Tae Bok, KWP Secretary and SPA Chairman.
Jon Pyong Ho died from a heart attack at the age of 88 on 7 July 2014.
Jon Pyong Ho
1951: Manager, Kanggye Tractor Factory
1957: Cadre, Party Organization
1970: Deputy Director, Machine Industry Department
Elected, Alternate Member, CCKWP
1972: Director General, General Machine Bureau, Second Economic Committee
1980: Elected Member, CCKWP
1982: Deputy, 7th SPA
Appointed Chair, Second Economic Committee, CCKWP
Awarded, Order of Kim il Sung
Alternate Member, CCKWP Political Bureau (Politburo)
1986: Deputy, 8th SPA
Appointed, Secretary of the Munitions Industry, CCKWP
1988: Appointed Member, Political Bureau (Politburo), CCKWP
1990: Deputy, 9th SPA
Director, Military Policy Inspection Department, CCKWP
1994: Director, Economic Policy Inspection Department, CCKWP
Member, Kim Il-so’ng Funeral Committee
1998: Awarded, Labor Hero
Delegate, 10th SPA (representing 254 Electoral District)
Appointed, Member, Central Military Committee
2003: Deputy, 11th SPA
2009: Deputy, 12th SPA
2010: Chief Secretary, KWP Committee of the DPRK Cabinet
Director, DPRK Cabinet Political Bureau
Elected, Member, CC KWP Political Bureau
2011: Retired from NDC
2012: Retired from all political positions
Interviews by Michael Madden (2008-2010); Bermudez, Joe. “North Korea’s Missile Capabilities” (January 2012) Chong, Bong-ak . A Handbook on North Korea (Seoul: Naewoe Press, December 1996) p. 40; Gause, Ken E. Scenarios and Signposts: Managing Future North Korean Crises (Alexandria, VA: Center for Naval Analyses, June 2009); “Narrative Biographies on DPRK Officials Seoul Sindong-a (in Korean), January 1995, pp 210-278; Yonhap News Agency. The North Korea Handbook (Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe , 2003) pp. 796-7; “Biographic Information on 100 Officials,” Wolkan Kyonghyang (in Korean), January 1989, pp. 12-89; Pak, Yo’ng-t’aek. “Enhanced Position of the North Korean Military and Its Influence on Policymaking” (in Korean) Seoul Korea Institute for Defense Analyses paper, January 2008; “Profiles of Presidium, Members and Alternate Members of the Political Bureau,” Korean Central News Agency and Korean Central Television, September 28, 2010.