North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Gen. Kim Won Hong

updated May 31, 2018

General Kim Won Hong [Kim Wo’n-hong] is a former deputy director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Department and former Minister of State Security.  Kim was also a member of the Workers’ Party of Korea [WPK] Political Bureau, member of the WPK Central Military Commission [CMC] and former member of the DPRK State Affairs Commission.

According to DPRK state media, Gen. Kim was appointed Minister of State Security in April 2012.  From 2004 to approximately 2010, Gen. Kim headed the Military Security Command [MSC], which polices, investigates and watches military officers and facilities.  Gen. Kim frequently shadowed Kim Jong Il during his appearances at military bases or military-related locales within the DPRK.

According to DPRK records, Kim Won Hong was born in 1945.  He joined the Korean People’s Army [KPA] in 1962.  Kim became known to external observers as a member of MAR Choe Kwang’s funeral committee in 1997. He was elected a deputy (delegate) to the 10th Supreme People’s Assembly in 1998.

His first significant position was as a member of the WPK committee of the Pyongyang Defense Command.  Kim also served as deputy director of the KPA General Political Department as well as a political commissar of VII and IX Army Corps, both of which link with the MSC.  He was appointed MSC chief around 2004 after the death of longtime MSC commander General Won Ung Hui. Kim was temporarily demoted to the rank of Lieutenant General around 2005 due to a failure to monitor international telephone usage by officials working for KPA-owned trading corporations.

Kim was promoted to General in April 2009.  In 2009 or 2010, Gen. Kim reportedly migrated from MSC to an unspecified position in support of hereditary successor Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n).  According to ROK open sources, Kim was appointed a deputy director of the KPA General Political Department during February 2009.  However, during 2009 to 2011 Kim continued to function as head of the MSC.  During the same period of time, Kim accompanied then-hereditary successor Kim Jong Un on field inspections of military and internal security units.

Kim Won Hong was elected a member of the WPK Central Committee and member of the WPK Central Military Commission at the 3rd Party Conference on 28 September 2010.  During the 3rd Party Conference, Gen. Kim was seated next to Kim Jong Un.  Following Kim Jong Il’s December 2011 death, Kim emerged as one of Jong Un’s closest aides.  During the first two years, he regularly accompanied Jong Un on military inspections.

Gen. Kim was one of four senior KPA officials prominently depicted supporting and assisting Kim Jong Un.  On 8 March 2012, Gen. Kim sang a duet during a concert by the U’nhasu Orchestra held on International Women’s Day. On 11 April Kim was elected to full membership on the Political Bureau and was identified as Minister of State Security.  He was subsequently elected a member of the DPRK National Defense Commission.

During 2013, Gen. Kim led an investigation into the business, political and personal affairs of Jang Song Thaek, brother-in-law of Kim Jong Il and uncle of Kim Jong Un.  Jang was subsequently removed from office, dismissed from the WPK and was executed following a tribunal of the Ministry of State Security.  Gen. Kim also oversaw numerous investigations, dismissals, incarcerations of various senior and mid-level party and government officials during 2013-2015.

Gen. Kim was elected to the State Affairs Commission at the fourth session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly in June 2016.  From December 2016 to April 2017, Kim Won Hong did not appear in public.  There were rumors, later proven untrue, that he had been removed from office.  Gen. Kim returned temporarily to his post at State Security, appearing at an April 2017 military parade.  He was seemingly ignored by Kim Jong Un when the latter passed by senior DPRK official on the parade platform.

In May Kim Wong Hong was appointed deputy director of the KPA General Political Department.  However in September he was again suspended from duty pending an investigation by the WPK Organization Guidance Department.  He was removed from office as a result of the investigation.  During April and May 2018, Kim lost his positions on WPK Political Bureau, the WPK Central Military Commission and the State Affairs Commission.


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