Fully updated list of publications

My list of publications has been updated on the Google Scholar platform, you can have a look using the following link. Some of them are also available on my linkedin profile.

Some of these publications are also available on my academia and researchgate profiles.

Reappearances of O Kuk Ryol, Ri Yong Mu, and Choe Yong Rim

O Kuk Ryol reappeared at a concert of the DPRK National Symphony on the 28 July 2019. He was accompagned by Ri Yong Mu, and the former Prime Minister of North Korea Choe Yong Rim.

O Kuk Ryol [오극렬/呉克烈], born 1931, is a North Korean military general and, since April 2009, has been  Vice-Chairman of the National Defense Commission of the DPRK. Following a brief setback in the 1980s, O has accrued a great deal of authority in North Korea over the past two-decades. O’s rise—and the great deal of trust placed in O by his colleagues—in part stems from his family credentials and revolutionary heritage.

A Revolutionary Heritage | General O is the son of O Jung Hup, a communist revolutionary fighter who fought the Japanese alongside Kim Il-Sung, the ‘eternal president’ of the DPRK. (By some accounts, O is the nephew of O Jung Hup, not his son. In any case, O Kuk Ryol is still protected by a revolutionary lineage.) Because of the connection between their fathers, O Kuk Ryol was also a childhood friend to Kim Jong Il, opening the possibility of having been one of the Kim’s mentor in military affairs. O and Kim were furthermore nurtured by the same women as children, Kim Jong Suk, and thus share another point of connection. The theme of generational and family ties persists today, as the young Kim Jong Un is closely advised by O Se Won, a son of O Kuk Ryol.

A child of a revolutionary hero, O was educated at the prestigious Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in Pyongyang and later enrolled in Kim Il Sung University. He subsequently studied air power and learned Russian at the Frunze Military Academy, one of the most advanced academic institutes for military education in the Soviet Union. Born in Jilin Province (part of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo at the time), O Kuk Ryol is also fluent in Chinese. He is also said to speak English fluently, but, like Kim Jong-Un’s supposed command of German and French, evidence for this assertion is purely anecdotal.

A Rising Political Star | In the 1960s, O Kuk Ryol jumpstarted his career in the North Korean air force  and joined the Central Committee of the Korean Workers Party. According to one source, during the Yom Kippur War, O was an air pilot who helped Egyptian forces.  In 1979, he was promoted to the head of the North Korean Army. As he rose through the North Korean government, O’s support of Kim Jong-Il’s successor status was crucial during the 1980s.

In 1988, O Kuk Ryol was temporarily sidelined, as Choe Kwang, a former ally of Kim Il Sung, took over O’s leadership posts. Despite this setback, O persevered, and eventually returned to the top of the North Korean military scene in 2009. He was nominated as Vice-Chairman of the National Defense Commission, the most powerful military organization in North Korea. O, however, is not a very influential political figure—he does not belong to the Politbureau of the Korean Workers’ Party, for example.

O Kuk Ryol is a classic product of the Songun (military-first) oriented North Korean leadership style. He was an advisor to Kim Il Sung, to Kim Jong Il, and now his son, O Se Won, is an advisor to Kim Jong Un—apparently on relations with China. O Kuk Ryol is also reportedly an advisor to Kim Jong Un on operations against South Korea. If this is true, O Kuk Ryol was probably involved and partially responsible for the Cheonan Incident in March 2010.

The O Kuk Ryol Family and Kim Jong Un | Despite the lifelong ties between Kim Jong Il and O Kuk Ryol, it appears that during the last few months of Kim Jong Il’s life, O was pushed completely out of the North Korean political scene, and rumors circulated in 2011 that Kim Jong Un purged many of O’s supports. Nevertheless, it is clear that O Se won, son of O Kuk Ryol, is in fact a close advisor to Kim Jong Un. O Se Won, then, may have asked Kim Jong Un to elevate his father to the top of the North Korean Army.

Beyond O Se Won’s ties to Kim Jong Un, the O Kuk Ryol family is also famous for its involvement with the Mirim Electronic Warfare Institute—an institute which is probably at the forefront of DPRK cyber-security and training North Korean hackers today. O Se Won is also allegedly responsible for  North-Korean counterfeiting activities, an important source of income for the DPRK government. O Se Won also figures prominently into a group of third generation North Korean elites called Ponghwajo.

One of O Kuk Ryol’s other children, O Se Uk, defected to the United States in 2004. While family members of defectors are usually punished, O Kuk Ryol and O Se Won were seem to have narrowly avoided any further consequences. Indeed, it seems that O Se Won will continue to absorb more responsibilities and play a key role as North Korea transitions into the third generation of leadership.

N.Korean diplomat (a potential member of the O Kuk-ryol family) from North Korean embassy in London defects

“A DPRK diplomat in London is going through procedures to seek asylum in a third country,” the JoongAng Ilbo said. “The DPRK Embassy made belated attempts to figure out the diplomat’s whereabouts, but has failed.”

Continue reading “N.Korean diplomat (a potential member of the O Kuk-ryol family) from North Korean embassy in London defects”

Fourth Day of the WPK Congress: Kim Jong-un becomes the Party Chairman

North Korea’s ruling-party congress on Monday announced a new title for Kim Jong Un — party chairman. Kim Jong-un had already been head of the party, but with the title of first secretary.

Officially bringing more people into his inner circle, Kim Jong-un filled two vacancies on the powerful Presidium of the party’s central committee. Senior party official Choe Ryong Hae regained a seat that he had lost; once considered Kim Jong Un’s No. 2, he had been briefly banished to a rural collective farm last year for re-education.

Ri Tuk Nam
On the first row we see the former North Leadership. Starting from left: Yang Hyong-sop, Kim Ki-nam, Pak Pong-ju (the North Korean Prime Minister) and Kim Yong-nam (88 years, secretary of the SPA-the North Korean assembly). At the top of the picture on the left side, we notice the presence of Ri Tuk-nam (deputy chair of the Party Control Commission). Source: Rodong Sinmun

Premier Pak Pong Ju was also named to the Presidium. Other members are Kim Jong Un himself; Kim Yong Nam, who as parliament leader is the country’s nominal head of state; and Hwang Pyong So, the top political officer of the Korean People’s Army. Kim Yong Nam, 88, stayed on despite speculation from North Korea-watchers that he might lose his position because of his age.

North Korean authorities plan to revise party rules to reflect “nuclear state” status