North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Hwang Pyong So Back after Four Month Public Absence

Hwang Pyong So applauds at the beginning of a central reporting meeting in Pyongyang on February 15, 2018 (Photo: KCTV-Yonhap).

Hwang Pyong So [Hwang Pyo’ng-so’] has returned to an unknown position in the Workers’ Party of Korea [WPK] Central Committee.  He was observed in the front row at a February 15 central report meeting marking KJI’s birth anniversary;  Hwang later joined other WPK Central Committee officials accompanying Kim Jong Un [Kim Cho’ng-u’n] on a midnight visit to Ku’msusan to pay their respects to Kim Jong Il.  Hwang’s last public appearance was in mid-October when he attended a central report meeting marking the foundation anniversary of the DPRK’s revolutionary high schools.

He was once one of the top four officials in the DPRK as a member of the WPK Political Bureau Presidium and Vice Chairman of the State Affairs Commission.   Hwang was dismissed from his powerful position as Director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Department [GPD] during November 2017.  At that time, the WPK Organization Guidance Department [OGD] was concluding an extensive audit and inspection of the GPD, the first since 1996 following the ouster of Colonel-General Ri Pong Won [Ri Pong-wo’n] who was later executed.

Hwang Pyong So with other WPK Central Committee officials accompanying Kim Jong Un to Ku’msusan on February 16, 2018 (Photo: KCNA-Yonhap).

Kim Jong Un salutes during a February 8, 2018 military parade. At the left is VMar Kim Jong Gak, Director of the KPA General Political Department and Hwang Pyong So’s replace (Photo: KCNA).

Hwang Pyong So has since been replaced by VMar Kim Jong Gak [Kim Chong-kak], who served as the GPD’s daily operational manager (due to the physical infirmity of then-director VMar Jo Myong Rok) and later interim director from 2007 to 2011.  VMar Kim has not yet taken Hwang’s other top posts in the Political Bureau, State Affairs Commission or Central Military Commission.

Based on the time that has elapsed between his appearances in DPRK state media, Hwang has undergone the soul-searching 12-week “revolutionization” course for senior cadres at the Kim Il Sung Higher Party School.  It is not certain whether Hwang attended the Higher Party School because he was going to be rotated out into another position, which would be SOP for senior officials, or if he was sent down in lieu of being expelled from the party, incarcerated or executed.  It is highly likely that with the OGD inspection of the GPD, Hwang accepted responsibility for whatever institutional defects were uncovered during the investigation.  One thing to note is that many of Hwang’s immediate subordinates among the GPD’s deputy directors have been rather scarce and numerous political officers and commissars under the GPD have been incarcerated or executed.

It is not clear to what WPK Central Committee Department Hwang Pyong So has been assigned what his writ is.  Given his positioning at the two Day of the Shining Star Events, he does hold the title of deputy director, possibly even senior deputy director.  He may be working at the WPK Military Affairs Department or the WPK Civil Defense Department.  He may also have landed back at OGD (and is now working for Choe Ryong Hae, the man whom Hwang replaced as GPD Director in 2014 and who was part of dismissing Hwang from GPD in 2017).



An affiliate of 38 North