North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Kang Sok Ju


updated and revised 23 February 2018

Kang Sok Ju is a deceased DPRK diplomat.  Prior to his death he was Secretary and Director of the Workers’ Party of Korea [WPK] International Affairs Department.  He was one of the DPRK’s most experienced and influential foreign policy officials, having been one of Kim Jong Il’s trusted foreign policy hands.   He participated in numerous interactions, both in support of KJI and as a delegation leader, with the foreign leadership of the US, Japan, ROK, China and Russia.  Kang is a cousin of Kim Jong Il’s, and served for three decades as a deputy to Kim Yong Nam.

Kang Sok Ju was born in 1939 in South P’yo’ngan.  He was a maternal cousin to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, being related to KIS mother, Kang Pang Sok.  His older brother was Kang Sok Sung, a former director of the Party History Institute.  Kang attended the University of Foreign Languages.

Kang began his career as a cadre at the WPK International Department around 1972.  At the International Department he worked under then-director Kim Yong Nam.  He would later work with Kim Kyong Hui when she was the department’s deputy director in the late 1970s.  In 1981 Kang was assigned as a diplomatic secretary at the DPRK’s UNSECO Mission in Paris.  He was appointed a Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1984.

In 1986, Kang Sok Ju was appointed Senior Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and elected a deputy to the Supreme People’s Assembly.  Kang was elected to candidate membership on the Party Central Committee (CC KWP) in 1988 and elected to full membership at the 19th plenum (6th Term/6th CC) in December 1991.  Kang delivered the DPRK’s acceptance speech on the country’s admission, along with the ROK, to the UN.  In the early 1990s Kang took on a central role in the DPRK’s negotiations and interactions with the US, including serving as its chief nuclear negotiator.

In 2007 Kang was appointed a councilor of the National Defense Commission, a high-level concurrent post to his other positions.  Kang accompanied Kim Jong Il to China in May and August of 2010.  On September 23, 2010, Kang Sok Ju was appointed DPRK Vice Premier and on 25 September he was identified as 1st Vice President of the DPRK Supreme Court.  On April 8, 2014 Kang was appointed WPK Secretary and Director of the International Affairs Department.

Kang Sok Ju experienced several health problems from the mid-2000s.  He died in May 2017 and was buried with a state funeral.

Kang Sok Ju

KWP Secretary of International Affairs and Director, KWP International Affairs Department

Councilor, National Defense Commission

Member, Party Central Committee (CC KWP)

1972: Cadre, CC KWP International Department

1981: Secretary, DPRK UNESCO Mission, Paris

1983: Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, State Administration Council (Cabinet)

1986: Deputy 8th SPA

1987: Senior Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs

1988: Elected, Candidate Member, CC KWP

1991: Elected, Member, CCKWP

1990: Deputy,9th SPA

1992: Awarded, Order of Kim Il-sung

1994: Member, Kim Il Sung Funeral Committee (#114)

1995: Member, O Jin-u Funeral Committee (#102)

1998: Deputy,10th SPA

Senior Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cabinet

2003: Deputy 11th SPA

2007: Councilor, National Defense Commission

2009: Deputy, 12th SPA

2010: DPRK Vice Premier

1st Vice President, DPRK Supreme (Central) Court

2014: (April) Deputy 13th SPA

WPK Secretary and Director of International Affairs



Chong, Bong-uk (editor).  A Handbook on North Korea (Seoul: Naewoe Press, November 1998) p. 88

“Narrative Biographies of DPRK Figures” Seoul Singdong-a (Seoul: January 1995) pp. 210-278

“North Korea Promoted Diplomats from Negotiating Team with US” Yonhap News Agency, 23 September 2010

Yonhap News Agency.  North Korea Handbook. (Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe, 2003) p.818

“The Death of a Diplomat: Kang Sok Ju,” by Michael Madden, 38 North US-Korea Institute at SAIS-Johns Hopkins University, June 3, 2016 <>

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