North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Choe Yong Rim

Choe Yong Rim (3rd left) at a February 8, 2018 parade marking the KPA’s anniversary

updated March 7, 2018

Choe Yong Rim [Ch’oe Yo’ng-nim] is the Honorary Vice President of the Supreme People’s Assembly Presidium.  From 2010-2013 he serves as the DPRK Cabinet Premier. Choe is also a member of the Workers’ Party of Korea [WPK] Central Committee. Since 1972, he has served as a deputy [delegate] to the Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA] where he served from 2006 to 2009 as Secretary General of its Presidium [Standing Committee].  Choe’s father served in Kim Il Sung’s guerrilla unit.  His ties to the Kim family go back six decades and he has served in a number of key positions in the party and government.

Choe Yong-Rim was born in 1930 in North Hamgyo’ng.  His brother was the late DPRK propaganda writer, Choe Yong Hwa.  Choe was active in the former Communist Youth League and was among the first graduates class of the Mangyo’ngdae Revolutionary School.  He studied in the Political Economy Department at Kim Il Sung University, as well as Moscow State University and the WPK Cadre Training School.  For a brief period of time in 1950, he was a member of Kim Il Sung’s personal security escort during the war.

Choe began his political career in 1956 in the Party Organization Department (later OGD) and was promoted to chief cadre in 1957.  He was elected a Alternate [candidate] Member of the WPK Central Committee [the 4th Central Committee] at the 2nd Party Conference [Meeting of Party Representatives] in October 1966.  As a deputy (vice) director of theWPK  Organization Guidance Department in 1967 Choe was a major player in the purging of the Kapsan Faction from the political leadership.  He was elected a full Member of the WPK Central Committee [5th Central Committee] at the 5th Party Congress in 1970.  In 1971 Choe was appointed a department director of the WPK Economic Affairs Department.

At the 3rd plenum of the 12th SPA newly appointed Premier Choe Yong-nim (1st Row, 2nd L) is seated next to his colleague of almost five decades, Chon Pyong-ho (1st Row, L) (Photo: KCNA)

In 1973 Choe Yong Rim became director of Kim Il Sung’s presidential office and personal secretariat before taking a concurrent position in 1974 as department director of the WPK General Administration Department (also known as the General Affairs Department or General Department).  Choe was elected a candidate member of the Political Bureau [Politburo] at the Sixth Party Congress in October 1980.  He was elected to full membership on the Political Bureau at the CC KWP’s 6th plenum [6th Term/6th CC] held in Hamhu’ng, South Hamgyo’ng, in August 1982.

In December 1983 he was appointed Vice Premier.  In October 1985 Choe Yong Rim was removed from the Political Bureau and resigned as Vice Premier. He returned to his previous position as head of Kim Il Sung’s presidential office and personal secretariat.  In May 1990 he was appointed Vice Premier and Chairman of the State Planning Commission.  Choe returned to the Political Bureau as a Candidate Member at the CC KWP’s 18th plenum (6th Term/6th CC) in May 1990.  In December 1992 he was appointed Minister of Metal Industry.

At the first plenum of the 10th Supreme People’s Assembly in 1998, Choe Yong Rim was appointed a member of the SPA Legislation Committee.  He was also appointed Central Public Prosecutor, a position he held until the first plenum of the 11th SPA in 2003.  From 2004 to 2006, he was a member of one of Kim Jong Il’s special operations groups, in this instances a contingency planning management council formed in 2004 by KJI after the US invasion of Iraq. Choe also served on a VIP policy working group involved in resource allocation and planning for the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program.

In 2006 Choe Yong Rim was appointed Secretary-General of the SPA Presidium.  In 2009 he was appointed Chief Secretary of the Pyongyang WPK City Committee, a type of mayoral position usually occupied by an elite with close ties to the Kim Family.

New DPRK Premier Choe Yong-rim is 3rd L in this photograph from KJI’s December, 2009, guidance tour of the Pyongyang Cornstarch Factory (Photo: KCNA)

At the third plenum of the 12th SPA in June 2010 Choe Yong Rim was appointed DPRK Premier.  Given his advanced age, it has been assumed by some Pyongyang watchers that Choe’s is an interim appointment.  However he possesses almost four decades of experience in the party and government.  Since his June appointment Choe has traveled within the country for public appearances, and has made numerous speeches at official occasions.

Choe Yong Rim was promoted to full membership in the CC KWP Political Bureau and appointed to its presidium at the 3rd Party Conference and September 2010 CC KWP Plenary Meeting.  Choe led an official DPRK delegation on a trip to northeastern China in November 2010.  During the trip Choe met PRC Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang, toured several factories and visited the Yuwen Middle School.  As DPRK Premier, Choe also made dozens of on-site visits to factories, schools, cooperative farms, construction projects and military bases.  Choe Yong Rim’s tenure as DPRK Premier involved him redefining the role of the DPRK Cabinet’s chief executive officer through conducting on-site visits and boosting the position’s public profile.

On 1 April 2013 Choe Yong Rim was replaced as DPRK Cabinet Premier by Pak Pong Ju, during the 7th session of the 12th SPA.  He was appointed Honorary Vice President of the SPA Presidium (standing committee).

Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang (R) shakes hands with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea(DPRK) Premier Choe Yong Rim during their meeting in Changcun, northeast China’s Jilin Province, Nov. 3, 2010. (Xinhua/Wang Haofei)

Choe was a central operative in facilitating the establishment of the monolithic ideological guidance system in the 1960s and 70s.  As a two-time chief of Kim Il Sung’s presidential office, Choe provided Kim Jong Il  reports about the activities and personalities in KIS’ office (including KJI’s step-mother and step-siblings).  Choe also assumed an elder statesman’s role and helped usher in the succession and accession of DPRK leader Kim Jong Un [Kim Cho’ng-u’n].

Choe Yong Rim has a pleasant and calm demeanor, and collegial personality.  He is highly intelligent and other than Korean, speaks English, Japanese and Russian.  Choe’s adopted daughter, Choe Son Hui, is a Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and has served as a senior Foreign Ministry official for over a decade.

See also:

“Abbreviated Profiles of 200 DPRK Figures” pp 210-278 Seoul Singdong-A January 1995

“Biographic Information on 100 Officials,” pp 12-89 Wolkan Kyonghyang January 1989

“DPRK Premier Visits PRC’s Middle School, Meets Heilongjiang, Jilin Provinces’ Leaders,” KCNA, November 6, 2010

“North Korea’s Premier in Northeastern China to Strengthen Economic Ties: State Media,” Yonhap News Agency, November 4, 2010

“Who’s Who” in The North Korea Handbook pp 155-56; 772 (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2003)

“Short Biography of Honorary Vice-President of SPA Presidium Choe Yong Rim,” Korean Central News Agency, April 2, 2013

“Seventh Session of 12th SPA of DPRK Held,” Korean Central News Agency, April 1, 2013

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