North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Jon Il Chun

Cho’n Il-ch’un, attending KCI’s guidance tour of a seafood processing facility in February 2010. (Photo: KCNA)

updated February 24, 2018

Jon Il Chun (Cho’n Il-ch’un) is a deputy director of the Workers’ Party of Korea [WPK] Finance and Accounting Department and section head of Office #39.  Jon also holds concurrent positions as a director of T’aesong Group.  From 2010 to 2013 he was President of the DPRK State Development Bank and the DPRK T’aepu’ng International of Investment Groups.  He was one of Kim Jong Il’s [Kim Cho’ng-il] closest friends and has been linked to DPRK foreign trade for almost 40 years.  Jon replaced Kim Tong Un [Kim To’ng-un] as chief of Office #39 in early 2010.

Jon was born in Pyongyang on August 25, 1941.  He was a classmate and childhood friend of Kim Jong Il’s at the Namsan Senior High School and Kim Il-so’ng University.  His first significant position was as a director at the country’s Ministry of Foreign Trade in August 1973.  He traveled to Malaysia as part of an official delegation.  He also completed trade deals in the early 1980s with Zimbabwe and Angola.

In January 1981 he was appointed Vice Chairman of the State External Economic Affairs Commission.  In January 1993 he was promoted to Chairman of the State External Economic Affairs Commission.  In February 1995, Jon Il Chun became the 1st Vice President of the T’aesong Economic Group, one of the corporations linked to Office #39.  In February 1998, he was appointed deputy director of Office #39.  In April 2009 Jon was elected a deputy to the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly.

A sporadic member of KJI’s guidance tour retinue in the 1990s and early 2000s, Jon began appearing more frequently with KJI in 2009 and 2010.  He came to the attention of Pyongyang watchers in early 2010 when he was appointed chief executive of T’aepu’ng International Investment Group and the State Development Bank.  In February 2010 he organized KJI’s guidance tour of a seafood company controlled by Office #39.

Jon Il Chun did not appear on a list of WPK Central Committee members or other leadership in September 2010 nor was he observed in DPRK media for several months.  However he was observed by ROK media at Kim Jong Il’s side during the latter’s tour at the So’nhung Foodstuffs Factory in Pyongyang in December 2010.  Jon was later elevated to the position of Senior Deputy Director of the WPK Finance and Accounting Department, a position he still holds.

Jon accompanied and briefed Kim Jong Il during KJI’s December 15, 2011 visit to the Kwangbok Area Supermarket in western Pyongyang.  The visit would be Kim Jong Il’s last observed public appearance before he died on or around December 17.  In January 2012, Jon was the leading party official to attend the supermarket’s formal opening.

During the 7th Party Congress in May 2017, Jon Il Chun was elected an alternate (candidate) member of the WPK Central Committee.

Jon Il Chun attends KJI’s on the spot guidance of the Mt. Myohyang national park in 2009 (Photo: KCNA)

An affiliate of 38 North