Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
Pak Pong Ju (born 1939) is serving as the DPRK’s Premier for the second time. His first appointment to this position was from September 2003 until his formal dismissal at a plenum of the 11th SPA in April 2007 after a suspension in June 2006 for misappropriation of funds. His second appointment began again in 2013. He is also the Vice Chairman of the State Affairs Commission, member of the Workers’ Party of Korea [WPK] Political Bureau Presidium (standing committee), WPK Central Military Commission, a member of the WPK Central Committee and deputy of the Supreme People’s Assembly.
Pak began his career as a manager of the Ryongchon Food Factory in Ryongchon County, North Pyongan. However, the big boom of his career began in the 1980’s where he served as a party manager of the DPRK’s chemical industries and was elected as an alternate (candidate) member of the WPK Central Committee during the 6th Party Congress in October 1980. He was appointed party secretary of the Namhu’ng Youth Chemical Complex in July 1983. He visited the former Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary in May 1987.
In the 1990’s, Pak’s career migrated from chemical industry to light industry starting in 1992/1993 when he became Kim Kyong Hui’s principal deputy at the CC KWP Light Industry Department. He then changed to her deputy director from 1994-1998 when the Light Industry was consolidated into the party’s Economic Policy Inspection Department. In 1998, he came back to the chemical industry when he was elected a deputy (delegate) to the 10th SPA and appointed Minister of Chemical Industry.
Pak was then elected to the 11th SPA and appointed Premier for his first tenure of service. As Premier, Pak was a key figure in the establishment of the July 2002 Decrees. He also fostered a group of innovative policy wonks involved in economic planning and policy.
Following his official dismissal in April 2007, he was replaced by Kim Yong Il, a former Minister of Land and Marine Transport. Some sources also allege that Pak had fallen out of favor, or was undone, due to his support for new economic policies including an hourly wage system and the 2 July 2002 decree. Pak’s status was not known following his ouster until he was identified as a factory manager when he appeared on DPRK television in 2008. He most likely returned the power center in late 2009, with the increasing influence of Jang Song Taek and Kim Kyong Hui, particularly on economic matters. On 15 August 2010 Mainichi Shimbun reported that Pak was working in the central party, due to his ties to Jang and Kim. Pak was identified by his new deputy director’s title when KCBS aired a story on the 50th anniversary of the Okryu Restaurant in Pyongyang. He was instrumental in formulating and executing new economic laws promulgated in the summer of 2010 involving labor rights and the protection of SOEs and JVs in the DPRK.