Home > North Korean Leadership Watch
North Korean Leadership Watch
North Korean Leadership Watch

 

Kim Jong Un
Kim Jong Un, the youngest son of Kim Jong Il, was declared to be the leader of North Korea following the death of his father in December  2011. His father appointed him a four-star generaland vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party in September 2010. On April 11, 2012, the Workers’ Party declared Kim Jong Un to be “supreme leader”, making him the first secretary of the party's Party Secretariat, Chairman of the Central Military Commission, First Chairman of the National Defense Commission, and Chairman of the Armed Forces.
Kim Yong Nam
He was born in the Central District, Pyongyang, on February 4, Juche 17 (1928). After graduating from a university, he worked as a teacher at the Central Party School, vice department director of the WPK Central Committee, vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, and first vice department director, department director and secretary of the WPK Central Committee, vice-premier of the Administration Council and concurrently minister of Foreign Affairs. He has worked as president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly since September of Juche 87 (1998).
Park Pong Ju
Technocrat Pak Pong Ju, who served as DPRK Premier from 2003 to 2007, has taken the position of deputy (vice) director of the CC KWP Light Industry Department.  His presence at the 50th anniversary of the Okryu Restauarant, broadcasted by KCBS, identified a man of the same name holding that position.  On 15 August 2010 Mainichi Shimbun, citing informed sources, reported on Pak’s return to the central party.  He previously served as deputy director of the Light Industry Department in December 1993.  Pak has had ties to Kim Kyong Hui, and Jang Song Taek, for nearly three decades.
Choe Tae Pok
Choe Tae Pok is a member of the Political Bureau, a CC KWP Secretary and Chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly.  A chemist by training, he has been a member of the party leadership since the mid-1980s and regularly travels outside the country to meet with the DPRK’s allies abroad.  Choe T’ae-pok has been an adviser to Kim Chong-il for nearly three decades.  He is one of the most popular members of the central leadership.
Pak To Chun
Pak To Chun (Pak To-ch’un) is a member of the National Defense Commission, Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Secretary (with the portfolio for military and machine-building industries) and a member of the KWP Political Bureau.  Pak is one of several 2nd generation elites who moved to the power center during 2009-2010.  He is a former manager in military and machine building industries.
Choe Ryong-hae
VMar Choe Ryong-hae (Choe Ryo’ng-hae) is director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Bureau [GPB]. As director he is responsible for the political management (personnel decisions, surveillance, patronage) of the DPRK’s conventional military forces as well as its political education and cultural activities. Choe is a member of the 2nd revolutionary generation and knew the late supreme leader Kim Jong-il for over 50 years. Choe has numerous political and social relationships with numerous DPRK elites and has a close relationship with Kim Kyong-hui and Jang Song-taek. During the 1980s and 1990s Choe had a leading role in consolidating Kim Jong-il’s succession and building his political support and reported accomplishments as head of the Kim Il-sung Youth League.
Kim Kyung Hui
Kim Kyong-hui began her official career in 1971, with a management position in the Korean Democratic Women’s Union. She married Jang Song Taek in 1972. In 1975, she became a vice director at the KWP International Department. She was promoted to 1st vice director in 1976. In 1993 she was named department director of the KWP Economic Policy Inspection Department. Kim Kyong Hui has been a more significant public presence since her return to political life at the 12th SPA in April 2009. In 2010 Kim Kyong Hui regularly accompanied Kim Jong Il on his public appearances. On 28 September 2010, she was given the rank of KPA General, and elected a member of the CC KWP Political Bureau.
Yang Hyung Sop
Yang Hyung Sop was elected as a member of KWP’s Central Committee Politburo in 2010. He was elected chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly in 1983, and served until 1998. He is currently vice president of the Presidium of the SPA. Yang attended Moscow State University and Kim Il-sung University, and is married to Kim Shin-sook, a cousin of Kim Il sung.  
Kim Won Hong
General Kim Won Hong is Minister of State Security, a member of the Korean Workers’ Party Political Bureau and member of the Party Central Military Commission [CMC]. He is also a member of the Party Central Committee and deputy to the Supreme People’s Assembly. According to DPRK state media, Gen. Kim was appointed Minister of State Security in April 2012. From 2004 to approximately 2010, Gen. Kim headed the Military Security Command [MSC], which polices, investigates and watches military officers and facilities. Gen. Kim frequently shadowed Kim Jong Il during his appearances at military bases or military-related locales within the DPRK.
Kim Gi Nam
Kim Ki Nam (Kim Ki-nam) is the Korean Workers’ Party Secretary of Publicity and Information (Propaganda) and is the DPRK’s leading official who manages the country’s media, press and culture. A former diplomatic official and academic, Kim was a close social cohort of Kim Jong Il’s. He led propaganda efforts in support of KJI’s succession to his father, Kim Il Sung, and has led similar efforts to support KJI’s successor and youngest son, Kim Jong Un.
Ri Myung Su
General Ri Myong Su (Ri Myo’ng-su) is the DPRK’s Minister of People’s Security and member of the National Defense Commission. He is also a member of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Political Bureau, Central Military Commission and Central Committee. As public security minister he is responsible for the daily operational management of the country’s police and public safety forces. Ri was a military aide of the late supreme leader, Kim Jong Il.
Kim Yong Chun
VMar Kim Yong Chun (Kim Yo’ng-ch’un) is Vice Chairman of the National Defense Commission and director of the KWP Civil Defense Department. He is also a member of the KWP Central Committee, its Political Bureau and the Party Central Military Commission. Kim had close social ties to the late DPRK supreme leader Kim Jong Il.
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.
O Guk Ryol
General O Kuk Ryol is a Vice Chairman of the National Defense Commission. He is also a member of the Party Central Committee (CC KWP), and has been a delegate (deputy) to the SPA since 1967. Gen. O is the country’s primary manager of intelligence training and operations in East Asia, and is currently believed to head the NDC Reconnaissance Bureau.
Kim Jung Gak
VMar Kim Jong Gak (Kim Cho’ng-kak) is Minister of the People’s Armed Forces. He is responsible for the daily administration of the DPRK’s convention military forces. Kim is also a member of the National Defense Commission [NDC], a member of the KWP Political Bureau, a member of the Party Central Military Commission [CMC], member of the Party Central Committee [CC KWP] and an SPA deputy (delegate).
Hyun Yong Chol
General Hyon Chol Hae is concurrently Director of the National Defense Commission’s Standing Bureau and a deputy (vice) director of the CC KWP Organization Guidance Department. Gen. Hyon is also a member of the Party Central Committee (CC KWP) and a deputy (delegate) to the Supreme People’s Assembly. Gen. Hyon manages the general daily operations of the National Defense Commission. He also directs and coordinates Kim Jong Il’s visits to Korean People’s Army units. Due to his acumen at political management and military logistics, Gen. Hyon has been a valued military aide to Kim Il Sung and KJI.
Kang Sok Ju
Kang Sok Ju is Secretary and Director of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] International Affairs Department.  He is one of the DPRK’s most experienced and influential foreign policy officials, having been one of Kim Jong Il’s trusted foreign policy hands.   He participated in numerous interactions, both in support of KJI and as a delegation leader, with the foreign leadership of the US, Japan, ROK, China and Russia.  Kang is a cousin of Kim Jong Il’s, and served for three decades as a deputy to Kim Yong Nam.
Kim Yang Geon
Kim Yang-gon is a candidate of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the WPK, secretary of the Central Committee, and head of the United Front Department in Central Committee. He is also a member of the Presidium of the 12th Supreme People's Assembly.
Kim Pyung Hae
Kim Pyung Hae is a candidate of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the WPK, secretary of the Central Committee, and head of the Cadres Department in Central Committee. He is also a member of the 12th Supreme People's Assembly.
Kwak Pom Ki
Kwak Pom Ki is a Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Secretary and Director of the KWP Finance and Planning Department.  He is also candidate of the KWP Political Bureau, a member of the KWP Central Committee, a deputy (delegate) to the Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA] and Chairman of the SPA Budget Committee.  Pak is a technocrat with experience as a manager in heavy industry.
Oh Soo Yong
Oh Soo Yong is a candidate of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the WPK and secretary of the Central Committee. He is also a member of the 13th Supreme People's Assembly and a head of the Budget Committee.
Hyun Yong Chul
Hyon Yong Chol is the Minister of the People’s Armed Forces, the DPRK’s equivalent to a minister of defense. From July 2012 to May 2013 he served as the Chief of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Staff.  Hyon is also an alternate (candidate) member of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Political Bureau and a member of the Party Central Committee.
Ju Kyu Chang
Ju Kyu Chang is a Member of the National Defense Commission and director of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Machine-Building Industry Department.  He is the country’s chief official of the science research and development in the DPRK’s conventional and advanced weapons programs.   In September 2010 Ju was elected to membership on the Party Central Military Commission and alternate membership on the KWP Political Bureau.  Ju came to the attention of Pyongyang watchers in 2000 when he was appointed deputy director of the KWP Military Industry Department, and began escorting Kim Jong Il on guidance tours.  From 2000 until KJI’s death in 2011 Ju was a regular member of KJI’s retinue.
Kim Kyong Ok
Kim Kyong Ok (Kim Kyo’ng-ok) is a senior deputy (1st Vice) director of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Organization Guidance Department [OGD], a member of the KWP Central Committee and a member of the Party Central Military Commission [CMC].  Kim also holds the rank of KPA General (taejang).  Kim is a close aide of Kim Jong Un’s and one of KJU’s chief political enforcers within the party and the DPRK’s national security community.  Kim has been responsible for the dismissals and arrests of a number of senior DPRK officials since 2011.  In his current position Kim is responsible for political security for the supreme leader Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n).  His portfolio includes internal security (Guard Command and Military Security Command) and the KPA General Political Department.
Ri Pyung Chol
General Yi Pyong-chol is commanding officer of the Korean People’s Army’s Air Force.  General Yi is a 3rdgeneration KPA leader coming to the center of power.  For a number of year Yi served as Vice Chief of the General Staff (MPAF).  Ri is a member of the Party Central Committee (CC KWP) and the Party Central Military Commission.
Choe Pu Il
General Choe Pu Il is Minister of the People’s Security, the DPRK’s senior domestic law enforcement official.  Gen. Choe is also an alternate member of the KWP Political Bureau, Party Central Military Commission, KWP Central Committee, the DPRK National Defense Commission and a deputy (delegate) to the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly.
Kim Yong Chol
General Kim Yong Chol (Kim Yo’ng-ch’o’l) is director of the Reconnaissance General Bureau (under MPAF and NDC), member of the Party Central Military Commission (CMC) and a member of the Party Central Committee (CC KWP).  Kim is one of the DPRK intelligence community’s primary managers, and he has been involved in ROK intelligence collection and operations for nearly two decades.  Gen. Kim has also served as one of the public faces of the Korean People’s Army in state media and the country’s foreign relations.
Yun Jong Rin
General Yun Jong Rin (Yun Cho’ng-rin) is commanding officer and director of the Guard Command, which is responsible for personal security of Kim Jong Un and core DPRK elites.  Yun directs and manages the most powerful and technologically advanced of all of the country’s security services or military branches.  He is a member of the Party Central Committee (CC KWP) and the Party Central Military Commission.
Choe Kyung Sung
Lt. Gen. Choe Kyung Sung is Commander of 11th Army Corps, KPA. He is a member of KWP Central Committee and was elected to the Workers Party of Korea's Central Military Commission in April 2012.
Kim Rak Gyom
Lt. Gen. Kim Rak Gyom is Commander of Strategic Rocket Forces, KPA. He is a member of Workers Party of Korea's Central Military Commission.
Jang Jeong Nam
Lt. Gen. Jang Jeong Nam was elected as a member of National Defense Commission and elected to the Workers Party of Korea's Central Military Commission in 2014. Jang is also believed to have played a role in the 2010 bombardment of Yeonpyeong, which killed four people. 
Seo Hong Chan
Lt. Gen. Seo Hong Chan is a member of Workers Party of Korea's Central Military Commission. He was also selected as a vice-minister of the People’s Armed Forces in 2013. 
Byun In Sun
Gen. Byun In Sun is a member of Workers Party of Korea's Central Military Commission and was selected as a vice-minister of the People’s Armed Forces in 2013. He was also selected as a chief of KPA’s Operation Bureau and a Vice-chief of KPA’s General Staff in 2014.
Kim Myung Sik
Major Gen. Kim Myung Sik is a member of Workers Party of Korea's Central Military Commission and he was appointed as a commander of KPA’s Naval Central Command in 2013. 
Hwang Pyong So
Hwang Pyong So (Hwang Pyo’ng-so’) is director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Bureau [GPB]. As director he is responsible for the political management (personnel decisions, surveillance, patronage) of the DPRK’s conventional military forces as well as its political education and cultural activities.  Hwang is also a member of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Central Military Commission, the KWP Political Bureau, a deputy to the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly, a member of the Party Central Committee and holds the military rank Vice Marshal.  Hwang’s ties to Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) for nearly a decade.  After the death of supreme leader Kim Jong Il (Kim Cho’ng-il) in December 2011, Hwang emerged as a key close aide of Kim Jong Un’s (Kim Cho’ng-u’n).
Ri Yong Gil
Gen. Ri Yong Gil (Ri Yo’ng-kil; Yi Yo’ng-kil) is Chief of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Staff.  Ri is also a member of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Central Committee and a deputy (delegate) to the Supreme People’s Assembly. Gen. Ri was appointed Chief of the General Staff in August 2013.
Cho Choon Ryong
Cho Choon Ryong was elected a member of the National Defense Commission at the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly on 9 April 2014. Since he was elected to replace Paek Se Bong, the immediate past Chairman of the Second Economy Commission, it has been speculated that he is in charge of the Second Economy Commission, which manages military production, including missile program.
Kim Yeo Jung
Kim Yo Jong (Kim Yo’-cho’ng) is a Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] official and the youngest daughter of the DPRK’s late supreme leader Kim Jong Il.  She works as an aide to older brother, current supreme leader Kim Jong Un, tasked with managing his public events, itineraries and logistical needs.
Lee Seol Ju
Lee Seol Ju (Ri Sol-ju) is the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. North Korean state media officially identified her as “his wife, Comrade Ri Sol Ju. She was born in January 1985.
Kim Seol Song
Kim So’l-song (Kim Sul-song) is Kim Jong Il’s second oldest daughter and was one of his key aides.  So’l-song directed his security and logistical support and managed the offices that control financial and bookkeeping operations personnel.  In 2011 She was appointed a deputy director of the KWP Organization Guidance Department and works as a close aide to her step-brother, current DPRK supreme leader Kim Jong Un.

The North Korean Leadership Watch page is adapted from Ken Gause's publication Coercion, Control, Surveillance, and Punishment: An Examination of the North Korean Police State and Michael Madden's North Korean Leadership Watch blog.

North Korea's Camp No. 25 Update
Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.
Jun 05, 2014

As part of a joint undertaking with the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) to use satellite imagery to shed light on human suffering in North Korea AllSource Analysis (ASA) has been monitoring activity at political prison facilities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, more commonly known as North Korea).  This report covers activity observed during the past 12 months at the facility commonly known as Kwan-li-so&nbs

In Illicit: North Korea’s Evolving Operations to Earn Hard Curre­­ncy, Sheena Chestnut Greitens provides a detailed and thoroughly researched account of the role of illicit activities in the North Korean economy. A central conclusion of Chestnut Greitens’ analysis is that in the context of eroding state control over the licit aspects of the economy, illicit activities are also being “privatized” by North Korea’s elite.  As HRNK Co-chair and for

David Hawk interprets reports of changes in North Korea's political prison camps in his most recent report, North Korea's Hidden Gulag: Interpreting Reports of Changes in the Prison Camps. Please view the press release here. 

The newest version of Coercion, Control, Surveillance, and Punishment: An Examination of the North Korea Police State by Ken Gause, updated on May 24, 2013. 

North Korea's Camp No. 25
HRNK & DigitalGlobe, Inc.
Feb 25, 2013

For this report, DigitalGlobe Analytics examined eleven images collected from 2003 to 2013 of the North Korean political prison facility known as Camp 25 (a.k.a. Kwan-liso No. 25, Political Prison Facility No. 25, No. 25 Chongjin Political Concentration Camp, Susŏng Correctional Center) in Susŏng-dong, Ch’ŏngjin-si, Hamgyŏng-bukto, on the northeast coast of the nation. In this analysis, imagery was compared to identify changes in the organization of the camp, including variations in:

North Korea's Camp No. 22 - Update
HRNK & DigitalGlobe, Inc.
Dec 11, 2012

As a follow-up to the October 2012 joint HRNK- DigitalGlobe imagery analysis of North Korea’s Camp 22 (Kwan-li-so No. 22, Korean People’s Security Guard Unit 2209), DigitalGlobe’s Analysis Center was asked to assist in identifying reported activity in and around Camp 22 in Hamgyŏng-bukto. More specifically, the Analysis Center was to examine: The outer perimeter fence, guard towers and guard positions to determine if some, or all, have been razed. The

North Korea's Camp No. 22
HRNK & DigitalGlobe, Inc.
Oct 24, 2012

During late September 2012, the North Korean activist community began reporting that the notorious political penal labor facility Camp 22 had been closed in early 2012. On October 1, 2012, in response to these reports and in partnership with the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, DigitalGlobe’s Analysis Center initiated an imagery analysis of Camp 22.

The North Korean government assigns a “songbun” status to every citizen at birth based on the perceived political loyalty of his or her family going back generations. While a small, politically loyal class in North Korea is entitled to extensive privileges, the vast majority of citizens are relegated to a permanent lower status and then discriminated against for reasons they cannot control or change.

The Hidden Gulag Second Edition
David Hawk
Apr 10, 2012

Based on extensive interviews with over 60 defectors and more than 40 satellite photos of North Korean political prisoner camps, the report calls for the dismantlement of the vast North Korean gulag system in which 150,000 to 200,000 are incarcerated.

Taken!
Yoshi Yamamoto
Nov 30, 2011

TAKEN! provides an in-depth and comprehensive history and analysis of North Korea’s state-sponsored policy of abducting citizens of other countries. This criminal enterprise dates back to the earliest days of the regime, and to policy decisions made by Kim II-sung himself. Those abducted came from widely diverse backgrounds, numerous nationalities, both genders, and all ages, and were taken from placs as far away as London, Copenhagen, Zagreb, Beirut, Hong Kong, and China, in addition to Japan.

This report calls the world’s attention to the suffering of North Korean women who have become the victims of trafficking and forced marriages after escaping their country to seek a new life in China. Seventy-seven interviews with North Korean women living in China yield 52 personal accounts--life stories of women who leave their home country for survival and safety only to be purchased by Chinese men who abuse and exploit them in China. In spite of finding places to live, North Korean women ent

North Korea after Kim Jong-il: Can We Hope for Better Human Rights Protection?
Kim Kwang Jin, HRNK Non-Resident Fellow
Dec 31, 1969

North Korea today is in a state of power transition that could lead to new dangers, instability, and uncertainty.  This was not the case during the first succession.  Kim Jong-Il had been carefully groomed by his father to succeed him.  The process had gone on for twenty years and was directed by Kim Il-Sung himself. In North Korea, all political power derives from Kim Il-Sung’s reign.  At the present, North Korea refers to itself as “Kim Il-Sung’s nati

After Kim Jong II: Can We Hope for Better Human Rights Protection?
Kim Kwang Jin, HRNK Non-Resident Fellow
Dec 31, 1969

This report is part of HRNK’s “Occasional Papers,” expressing a viewpoint not necessarily representative of the Committee or its Board of Directors. Rather, this paper is written from the viewpoint of a courageous man who has seen the North Korean system from within and has participated in the workings of that system. The author knows how outcomes are produced in North Korea and which individuals are critical to the political process. Kim Kwang-jin provides an overview of the North K

This report is a sequel to the previous report, “Failure to Protect: A Call for the UN Security Council to Act in North Korea” (2006), which called for the UN Security Council to take action. The report identifies concerns with respect to human rights in North Korea. While North Korea has opened up to some international aid, their food policy and inequitable social classification system (“Songbun”) prevents large segments of the population from ever receiving food provided by i

Legal Strategies for Protecting Human Rights in North Korea
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Dec 31, 1969

For over sixty years, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has engaged in the systematic, flagrant violation of nearly every human right recognized and protected by international law. This handbook describes the options available to human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) seeking to pursue international legal action against North Korea. The international legal system offers a variety of avenues for action, which NGOs can pursue. This report explores such legal avenues, linking NG

Czech Republic President Havel, Norwegian Prime Minister Bondevik, and Nobel Peace Prize Laurate and Boston University Professor Elie Wiesel commissioned the global law firm DLA Piper LLP to work with the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, because they believed that the security threat posed by North Korea has relegated the human rights concerns in the country to a second-class status. With the unanimous adoption by the UN Security Council of the doctrine that each state has a “resp

The North Korean Refugee Crisis: Human Rights and International Response
Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland
Dec 31, 1969

Concentration on the strategic problem in the national security context is clearly warranted, yet there is another, growing dimension to the North Korean problem that poses a grave challenge: the plight of ordinary North Koreans who are denied even the most basic human rights, and those who risk their lives to escape the world’s worst nightmare, the tyranny of the Kim Jong-il regime. In this report, six experts – Stephen Haggard, Marcus Noland, Yoonok Chang, Joshua Kurlantzick, Jana Mason,