North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Ri Je Gang Dies

Ri Je Gang, former senior deputy director of the Organization and Guidance Department and a close KJI aide, passed away 2 June 2010 (Photo: KCNA/

KCBS reported on 2 June 2010 that Ri Je Gang, Senior Deputy Director of the Organization and Guidance Department, died in an auto accident at the age of 80.  Mr. Ri regularly escorted Kim Jong Il on guidance tours and was a deputy (delegate) to the Supreme People’s Assembly and the KWP Central Committee.  Mr. Ri was one of Kim Jong Il’s closest lieutenants, who began his career at OGD around 1970 as a cadre, and successively advanced as an OGD manager, from section chief to the coveted position of OGD Deputy (Vice) Director, and later, Senior Deputy Director.  He was reportedly a rival of Jang Song Taek, however these reports and rumors have never been conclusively corroborated.  Mr. Ri was rumored to have had a hand in Mr. Jang’s sabbatical, and disappearance from North Korean public life, in mid-2003 to early 2006.

Ri Je Gang managed personnel appointments in KJI’s Personal Secretariat (including the Cadres’ 5th Section and Joy Brigades), as well as having some administrative oversight over the State Security Department.  Mr. Ri had close ties to Kim Jong Il’s 4th wife, Ko Yong Hui, and was rumored as an early supporter of one of Ms. Ko’s sons as KJI’s hereditary successor.  Mr. Ri’s name appears in numerous rumors, reports and other accounts on Kim Jong Un’s succession campaign, and has been identified as one of KJU’s political tutors, as well as one of his most enthusiastic supporters among the core elite.

According to defector reporting,  Ri Je Gang’s son-in-law, Cha Chol Ma, manages several profitable trading corporations on behalf of the Supreme People’s Assembly.  Mr. Ri reportedly had an easy-going personality and a good sense of humor.

Mr. Ri escorted Kim Jong Il on the latter’s recent guidance tours in May 2010 (about which RFA has a short piece with a different take than KCNA’s hagiographic chronicles), and was reported by the North Korean media on 2 June 2010 as having have joined the Supreme Commander for a concert by the Guard Command-linked KPA Unit 963.

Among the audience were KPA General Yun Jong Rin, KPA Col. General Kim Song Dok and other commanding officers of the army, Department Director Kim Kyong Hui, First Vice Department Directors Kim Kyong Ok, Ri Je Gang and Ri Jae Il and other leading officials of the WPK Central Committee.

Ri Je Gang (3rd R) posed in this commemorative photograph with KJI and other core leadership at the monumental tower to the Battle of Pochonbo in May 2010 (Photo: KCNA)

KWP Organization Department (Organization Secretariat) building in Central Pyongyang is 1st L

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