North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Kim Yong Chun (Kim Yo’ng-ch’un)

updated 11 May 2012

Marshal Kim Yong Chun (Kim Yo’ng-ch’un) is a retired senior Korean People’s Army [KPA] and DPRK Government official.

Kim Yong Chun was born in 1936 in Yanggang Province.  He attended the Mangyo’ngdae Revolutionary School and Kim Il-so’ng Military University.  Kim began his career as member of the KPA’s political corps.  Kim was appointed a party secretary on the South P’yo’ngyan Workers’ Party of Korea [WPK] Provincial Committee in the early 1960s.  In a rare move at the time, he migrated from the party apparatus to the KPA and held several command positions in the 1970s.

Kim Yong Chun was elected to candidate membership on the Party Central Committee at the 6th Party Congress in October 1980.  In 1986 he was appointed director of the General Staff Department’s Operations Bureau and also elected a deputy to the Supreme People’s Assembly and a full member of the Party Central Committee.  However, he was demoted along with then-Chief of the KPA General Staff, Gen. O Kuk Ryol.

Kim was restored after receiving re-education, and was promoted to General in 1992.  He was appointed director of the General Munitions Mobilization Bureau in 1993.  In 1994 Kim was appointed command of the VI Army Corps in North Hamgyo’ng Province.  Kim was a member of Kim Il-so’ng’s Funeral Committee in July 1994.

Kim Yong-chun (L) attends KJI’s meeting with PRC President Hu Jintao in August 2010 (Photo: Xinhua)

Kim supervised the disbanding of the VI Army Corps in 1995.  The VI Corps which had been accused of corruption and treason.  He was promoted to Vice Marshal and appointed Chief of the KPA General Staff.  He was elected to the National Defense Commission at the 10th Supreme People’s Assembly in September 1998.  He was promoted to NDC Vice Chairman in April 2007 and appointed Minister of the People’s Armed Forces in February 2009.   In September 2010 Kim Yong Chun was elected a member of the Political Bureau and reappointed membership on the Party Central Military Commission.  He was one of seven officials who ceremoniously escorted Kim Jong Il’s hearse during funeral services for the late leader in December 2011.

In April 2012 Kim was replaced as Minister of the People’s Armed Forces.  During the 4th Party Conference he was appointed director of the WPK Civil Defense Department which manages the country’s reserve military training units (Worker-Peasants’ Red Guard; Young Red Guards, etc).  He retired in early 2013.  On April 14, 2016, Kim was given the honorary title of KPA Marshal.

Kim Yong Chun had close social ties to Kim Jong and was part of a small circle of senior KPA officials who attended hunting trips with KJU. He also routinely attended KJI’s banquets and so-called close aide parties, and traveled with him on visits to China and Russia.  Kim had close patronage and social ties to Gen. O Kuk Ryol for four decades, as well as close ties to Jang Song Thaek.  Despite rumors of fragile health, Kim has appeared vigorous and agile at public events, taking part in tug-of-war contests, dancing and at the age of 76 riding on an amusement park ride.  Kim Yong Chun has a gregarious personality and can be quite blunt.  He once discomfited KJI at a party meeting by saying a senior Cabinet official “should be shot dead.”

VMar Kim’s son-in-law, Ri Song Ho, serves as Vice Minister of Commerce.  Another of VMar Kim’s daughters is married to a manager of a foreign trading corporation.

Kim Yong Chun


KPA Marshal

1960: Secretary, South Pyongan WPK Provincial Committee

1980: Elected Candidate Member, 6th WPK Central Committee

1986: Director, Operations Bureau, General Staff Department

Deputy, 8th Supreme People’s Assembly

Elected Member of 6th WPK Central Committee

1987: Order of Kim il Sung Award

1990: Deputy, 9th SPA

1992: Promoted, General, KPA

1993: Director, General Logistics Mobilization Bureau, MPAF

1994: Commanding Officer, VI Army Corps

Member of Kim Il Sung Funeral Committee

1995: Member, O Jin U Funeral Committee

Promoted, Vice Marshal, KPA

Chief of the KPA General Staff

1998: Deputy, 10th SPA

Elected, Member, National Defense Commission

2007: Elected Vice Chairman of the NDC

Member, Pak Song Chol Funeral Committee

2008: Member, Hong Song Nam Funeral Committee

2009: Appointed, Minister of People’s Armed Forces

Deputy, 12th SPA

2010: Elected, Member, KWP Political Bureau

Elected, WPK Central Military Commission

Member, Jo Myong Rok Funeral Committee

2011: Member, Kim Jong Il Funeral Committee

2012: Appointed, Director, WPK Civil Defense Department

2016: Promoted, KPA Marshal

Elected, Member, 7th WPK Central Committee

See also:

Chong, Bong-uk (editor).  A Handbook on North Korea (Seoul: Naewoe Press, November 1998) p. 75

Gause, Ken. North Korean Civil-Military Trends: Military First Politics to a Point. (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute USAWC, 2006)

Kim, Kwang-in. ’Revolutionization;’ Euphemism for Banishment” Chosun Ilbo. 7 December 2001

Yonhap News Agency.  North Korea Handbook (Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe, 2003) pp. 655-6; 858-9

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