[EXCLUSIVE] Kim Won-hong appointed deputy Chief in NK Politburo

Monday 1st May, 2017

Kim Won-hong is now the new Deputy Chief of Organisation in the General Politburo. What does this mean, and how did he get there?

This is Part 1 of a 2-part analysis. Read Part 2 here.


Changes are taking place in the North Korean State Security Department, according to a report from a New Focus correspondent inside North Korea.

Kim Won-hong, removed from his position as Minister for State Security, was moved to the military Politburo to the position of deputy Chief of the Politburo’s Organisation department. Kim Won-hong was also reportedly introduced as an executive member of the Korean People’s Army Party Central Committee during Day of the Sun celebrations on the 15th of April.

The correspondent said that Kim Won-hong’s prior removal from the State Security Department was not a dismissal but rather a “return to promotion”. While the title is relatively tentative, the correspondent stated that “when ex-Politburo Chief Cho Myungrok was still alive, Kim Jong Il’s trust was unexpectedly focused not on the Chief but the Deputy Chief at the time, Hyun Cheol-hae… This circumstance arose out of the Organisation and Guidance Department’s rather distinctive strategy of ‘double-spying’ in and out of the Politburo. At the time, Kim Jong Il was at the head of the Organisation and Guidance Department. That way, the OGD can limit and prevent any potential conflicts within the government.”

The position, according to the correspondent, is not new to Kim Won-hong, which is why the appointment is considered his “return”. “Kim Won-Hong originally worked in the Politburo’s Guidance Department before becoming Minister of State Security. By word of other elites, he may have been removed from his position as Minister of State Security on account of mismanagement. But his promotion to the higher position is actually a result of the Party’s unchanging trust and loyalty in him, and the State Security Department.”


To explain further, the correspondent provided details on Kim Won-hong’s political history. “At the beginning of this year, Kim Won-hong was dismissed for making a false report accusing the Yanggang Province Party Secretary of Labour of leading anti-Party, anti-revolutionary factions in Yanggang Province.

“In December last year, Kim Jong Un visited Samjiyeon district and watched an art performance by the Women’s Union. He expressed his satisfaction with the performance, but the Yanggang Province Party Secretary of Labour pointed out the actresses’ mistakes and criticised them heavily. Since then, a group of actresses brought claims against the Party Secretary, adducing that he defied Kim Jong Un by daring to go against the leader’s words of encouragement. The Party Secretary was accused of going against the principles of Suryeong absolutism, and was arrested.

“The State Security Department consequently commenced an investigation. However, the Department, in a dissembling attempt to acquire exaggerated evidence, tortured anyone associated with the Party Secretary and forced them to confess that they were anti-revolutionary spies. Rumours about the State Security Department’s heinous method of information extraction circulated in and out of Yanggang Province, eventually reaching the OGD, which consequently enforced strict censorship on the issue.

“In the end, members of the State Security Department and five other elite-level officers were executed by firing squad. One of the officers protested, saying that an institution designed to protect the regime such as the State Security Department should have done better to address the complaints of the people, or nobody would work. The officer was promptly dragged away and executed.”

The correspondent said that the State Security Department’s credibility and authority amongst ordinary citizens took a considerable blow as a result of these events. To add, as widespread dissatisfaction amongst ordinary North Koreans heightens, nervousness and uncertainty runs high amongst State Security Department officials, some even considering themselves as victims, not compatriots, of the regime. Previously, it was customarily forbidden for lower- or mid-ranked officials in the Department to gossip about the executions of their superiors. However, State Security Department officials are becoming increasingly enlightened.

The first Minister of State Security, Kim Pyong-ha, went to great lengths to demonstrate his loyalty to Kim Jong Il, but shortly after being framed for corruption, he committed suicide. His successor, Lee Jinsu, was suspected of addiction to inhalants. Also exposed as corrupt was Kim Yong Ryong, Chief of the First Division, who killed himself with his own gun before authorities had a chance to arrest him. Another ex-Minister of the State Security Department, Woo Dong-cheuk, died suddenly from stroke. Ryu Kyung, considered the State Security Department’s third-in-command, also was shot dead.

Who will replace Kim Won-hong at the State Security Department? Read Part 2 here.

Read in Korean.

Proudly in partnership with

Monday 1st May, 2017

Who is Lee Jungrok, and how did he get promoted to Minister of State Security?  [caption id="attachment_9307" align="aligncenter" width="403"] Picture from Wikimedia commons.[/caption] This is ...

Monday 10th April, 2017

How effective are South Korean attempts to penetrate North Korea's media wall by radio? [caption id="attachment_9297" align="aligncenter" width="479"] A radio, made in China. Photo credit: Wikimed...

Wednesday 8th March, 2017

North Korea is one of the few countries in the world where International Women’s Day is a national holiday – well, sort of. In North Korea, what the free world calls International Women’s Day...

Monday 6th March, 2017

"Why must the process of planning a Truth Commission happen now? A fine line exists between historical amnesia and mass retribution. All forms of transitional justice must deal with imperfect realiti...