North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Col. Gen. Kim Kang Hwan (retired)

updated February 25, 2018

Colonel General Kim Kang-hwan was a Member of the Party Central Military Commission [CMC] from 1980 to 2010.  He was a military adviser to Kim Chong-il.

Kim was born in Pyongyang in 1931 and attended Mangyongdae Revolutionary School.  During the Fatherland Liberation (Korean) War Kim served as a platoon leader and company commander.  After the war he received professional military education at the Combined Arms Academy in Russia (USSR).  His official career began when he served as a guidance officer in the CC KWP Military Department in early 1962.

In 1965 Kim Kang-hwan became deputy director of one of the General Staff Operation Bureau’s department.  In the 1970s Kim served as deputy chief of the Operation Bureau.  He was elected an alternate (candidate) member of the Party Central Committee [CC KWP] in 1976.  In 1977 Kim was assigned as chief of the Operations Bureau, under then chief of the KPA General Staff, O Kuk-yol.

At the 6th Party Congress in October 1980, Kim was elected a full (regular) member of the CC KWP.  He was also elected to the CMC and an alternate (candidate) member of the CC KWP Political Bureau. In the 1980’s Kim served as head of the CC KWP Military Department.  He was purged in the late 1980s due to his personal and patronage ties to O Kuk-yol.  Kim retained his membership on the CMC, but was removed as an alternate on the Political Bureau.  Kim was restored as a  Vice Chief of the KPA General Staff and adviser to Kim Chong-il.  In September 2010 Kim Kang-hwan was neither retained as a member of the CMC or CC KWP.

Kim Kang-hwan was a member of one of the first graduating classes of the Mangyongdae School.  Kim had long-standing personal and political ties to Gen. O Kuk-yol, as well as to VMar Kim Yong-chun, Col. Gen. Choe Sang-uk and the late Gen. Kim Tu-nam.  It has been suggested by ROK-based watchers that Kim was part of a group tied to O Kuk-yol that was shut out of power at the 3rd Party Conference/September 2010 CC KWP Plenum.

Kim Kang-hwan is intelligent with a highly determined, gregarious personality.

See also:

“Abbreviated Profiles of 200 DPRK Figures” Seoul Singdong-A (Seoul:  January 1995) pp 593-608

“Biographic Information on 100 Officials,” Wolkan Kyonghyang (Seoul: September 1989) pp 12-89

Gause, Ken.  North Korea Civil-Military Trends: Military-First Politics to a Point (Carlisle, PA: USAWC SSI, 2006) p. 29

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