North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

VMAR Ri Yong Mu

Vice Marshal Ri Yong Mu is Vice Chairman of the National Defense Commission.  He is one of the DPRK’s elder elites and the husband of one of Kim Jong Il’s aunts (on his father’s side).  Vice Marshal Ri appears regularly at government and party functions and frequent rostrum member at report meetings and other official events.  He was elected a member of the CC KWP Political Bureau at the 3rd Party Conference in September 2010.

Ri Yong Mu was born in 1925.  He joined the Central Guard Battalion in 1947.  He was a political commissar in the 1960s, part of Kim Il Sung’s campaign to put the Korean People’s Army under party control.  Ri was elected to full membership on the Party Central Committee at the 5th Party Congress in 1970.  He was elected a deputy to the 5th Supreme People’s Assembly in 1972.

In 1973, Ri was promoted to Colonel-General and appointed director of the MPAF General Political Department.  He was the KPA’s primary political manager until 1977.  Ri Yong Mu was expelled from the CC KWP and dismissed as chief of the GPD because of succession politics, and his ties to anti-KJI personalities.  Ri was disappeared from public life, and underwent several years of re-education.  He did not seem to hold an official position until 1985 when he was appointed Vice Chairman (for Administration) of the Ryanggang Provincial People’s Committee.



Ri Yong Mu (R) attends military exercises conducted by KPA Unit #567 held to commemorate the Day of the Sun (Photo: KCNA)

Ri Yong Mu was restored to the CC KWP with election as a candidate member in 1988 and full membership in 1989.  He was appointed Chairman of the State Inspection Committee in 1989 and Chairman of the Transportation Commission 1991.

Ri was appointed Vice Chairman of the National Defense Commission at the 10th Supreme People’s Army, and promoted to Vice Marshal in September 1998.  He was elected to full membership on the CC KWP Political Bureau on 28 September 2010.

Ri Yong Mu

Vice Chairman, National Defense Commission

Member, Party Central Committee (CC KWP)

1964: Lieutenant General and political commissar, KPA

1970: Elected Member, CC KWP

1972: Deputy, 5th Supreme People’s Assembly

1973: Promoted, Colonel General, KPA

Director, MPAF General Political Department

1974: Elected, Member, Political Bureau (Politburo), CC KWP

1977: Removed, Director, MPAF General Political Bureau

1985: Vice Chairman, Ryanggang Provincial People’s Committee

1988 Elected, Candidate Member, CC KWP

1989: Elected, Member CC KWP

Appointed Chair, Central Inspection Committee

1990: Deputy, 9th SPA

1991: Chair, Transportation Committee

1992:  Awarded, Order of Kim il Sung

1994: Member, Kim il Sung Funeral Committee (#55)

1995: Member, O Jin U Funeral Committee (#52)

1998:  Awarded, Labor Hero

Appointed, Vice Chairman, National Defense Commission

2003: Deputy, 11th SPA

2009: Deputy, 12th SPA

2010: Elected, Member, CC KWP Political Bureau


Chong, Bong-uk (editor).  A Handbook on North Korea (Seoul: Naewoe Press, November 1998) p. 78

“Abbreviated Profiles of 200 DPRK Figures,” Seoul Sindong-A (Seoul: January 1995) pp 593-608

Yonhap News Agency.  North Korea Handbook (Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe, 2003) pp. 656; 905-6

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