Ri Pyong-chol: appointed to the NDC

According to “Chosun Ilbo”, Ri Pyong-chol, a commanding officer in the North Korean air force, is emerging as the most powerful figure in the North Korean military.

Ri was appointed to the top decision-making National Defense Commission, a political organization at the top of the North Korean Army (KPA), at a regular session of the Supreme People’s Assembly in Pyongyang last Thursday.
« It’s the first time a field commander has been appointed a member of the Defense Commission, » a government official here said Friday. « We need to watch what role he’ll play in the future. »

Ri’s promotion probably has something to do with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s special interest in the aviation sector. Out of 40 military-related on-site inspections he undertook this year, 10 involved the air force.

Ri Pyong-chol (circled in green). Source; KCNA
Ri Pyong-chol (circled in green). Source; KCNA


Ri Pyong-chol is a close advisor to Kim Jong-eun. Taking in account the musical chairs game of the DPRK leadership, a question appears: whether he will be removed within the next months?  I think that it’s rather more important to focus that he’s a strong member of the “Kim Jong-il’s guard”, a movement of military officials who were promoted in the mid-90’s (Ri Pyong-chol was awarded the Kim Il-sung Order in 1995. Ri Pyong-chol never belonged to the NDC. His nomination is not therefore a great surprise. The NDC which is a Party Organization appointed a miitarian to its structure. This is also a movement to be observed.

Ri Pyong-chol is at the head of a group who is fighting for power against the O Keum-chol group, the deputy head of the KPA. I would observe whether O Keum-chol will be removed (including his family).


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Nicolas Levi

Analyst on North Korean issues

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