North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Ri Il Hwan

Ri Il Hwan reads a letter from KJU during the opening day of a workshop of party information and ideology workers in Pyongyang on 28 March 2022

updated and revised on 28 March 2022

Ri Il Hwan [Ri Il-hwan]  is Workers’ Party of Korea [WPK] Secretary for Propaganda (Publicity),  and Workers’ and Social Organizations.  He is also a member of the WPK Political Bureau, the WPK Central Committee and a deputy to the Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA].

Ri has worked as an instructor and propaganda guidance officer. He held a series of positions in the Kim Il Sung Youth League [KISYL] and rose to the position of 1st Secretary of the KISYL in January 1998
following the dismissal of Choe Ryong Hae. He was elected to the Supreme People’s Assembly in July 1998 and during the first session of the 10th Supreme People’s Assembly in September was elected a member of the SPA Presidium.

Ri led a KISYL delegation on a goodwill visit to China in March 2000 and met former PRC President Hu Jinato on March 20, 2000. Ri Il Hwan led the late ROK President Kim Dae Jung on a tour of the Mangyo’ngdae Scholchildren’s Palace during the latter’s visit to the DPRK. Ri oversaw the completion of the Pyongyang-Namp’o Youth Hero Motorway and took part as a speaker and leading official in events marking the highway’s opening during October 2000.

In March 2001, Ri led another KISYL delegation on visits to Thailand and Laos. Ri Il Hwan was removed from office as 1st Secretary of the KISYL in 2002 and was sent away for revolutionization. During 2004 to 2007, Ri was involved in authoring and disseminating essays, monographs and other cultural products venerating Ko Yong Hui [Ko Yo’ng-hu’i], fourth wife of late DPRK leader Kim Jong Il [Kim Cho’ng-il] and mother of Kim Jong Un [Kim Cho’ng-u’n]. Ri held a series of section chief and deputy director positions in the WPK Propaganda and Agitation Department [PAD] and the KPA General Propaganda Department. In 2008 was was working as a deputy director in PAD.

In 2012, Ri became the secretary (for publicity and information) on the Pyongyang WPK City Committee. In that position he participated in numerous mass rallies and other public events as both speaker and presiding official.  Ri Il Hwan was appointed director of the WPK Workers and Social Organizations Department around April 2014, replacing Ri Yong Su [Ri Yo’ng-su] who was demoted and assigned as a university dean because of his ties to Jang Song Thaek [Chang So’ng-t’aek] who had been dismissed and executed in December 2013.

Ri Il Hwan (2nd from R)

Ri Il Hwan speaks at an 15 October 2020 ceremony opening the hospital (Photo: KCNA).

In May 2016, at the 7th Party Congress,  Ri Il Hwan was elected to the Central Committee and reappointed director of the Workers’ and Social Organizations’ Department.  In December 2019, Ri was appointed PAD Director, replacing Pak Kwang Ho [Pak Kwang-ho], who retired due to ill health.

During the 8th Party Congress in January 2021, Ri was appointed to the WPK Secretariat, serving as the Secretary for Workers’ and Social Organizations.  He was replaced as PAD Director.  Around March 2021, Ri assumed the position as WPK Secretary for Propaganda (Publicity), concurrent to the Workers’ Organizations’ portfolio.

Ri Il Hwan with his wife in March 2022

Ri Il Hwan was born in 1960.  He is the grandson of Kim Myong Hwa, an anti-IJA partisan.  He attended Kim Il Sung University.  He is married with his wife appearing with him at an International Women’s Day event in March 2022.


Ri Il Hwan

WPK Central Committee Secretary

Member, WPK Political Bureau

Deputy, Supreme People’s Assembly


1998: (January) Elected, 1st Secretary, Kim Il Sung Youth League
Central Committee

(July) Elected, deputy, 10th Supreme People’s Assembly

(September) Elected, Presidium Member, Supreme People’s Assembly

1999: (September) Member, Ri Jong Ok Funeral Committee

2001: (March) Awarded, Labor Hero

2004 (ca.): section chief, WPK Propaganda and Agitation Department

2008: deputy director, WPK Propaganda Agitation Department

2011: Secretary, Pyongyang WPK City Commity

2014: (April) Director of the WPK Workers’ and Social Organizations Department

(July) Member, Jon Pyong Ho Funeral Committee

2015: (November) Member, Ri Ul Sol Funeral Committee

(December) Member, Kim Yang Gon Funeral Committee

2016: (May) Elected, Member, 7th WPK Central Committee

Appointed, Director of the WPK Workers’ and Social
Organizations Department

(May) Member, Kang Sok Ju Funeral Committee

2018: (December) Member, Kim Chol Man Funeral Committee

2019: (December) Elected, WPK Vice Chairman (Secretariat) and Executive Policy Bureau

Appointed, Director, WPK Propaganda and Agitation Department

2020: (January) Member, Hwang Sun Hui Funeral Committee

2021: (January) Elected, Member, 8th WPK Central Committee

Appointed, WPK Secretary for Workers’ and Social Organizations

Elected, Member, WPK Political Bureau

(March) Appointed, WPK Secretary for Propganda (concurrent to Workers’ Orgs)


“14th Meeting of Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League CC Held,” Korean Central News Agency, January 26, 1998; “SPA Presidium Elected,” Korean Central News Agency, September 5, 1998; “Hu Jintao Meets DPRK Guests, Comments on Relations,” Xinhua, March 30, 2000; “Kim Dae Jung Visits Mangyo’ngdae,” Korean Central News Agency, June 14, 2000; “Young Hero Motorway Opened to Traffic,” Korean Central News Agency, October 11, 2000; “North Korean Delegation Arrives in Thailand For Talks on Youth, Education Exchange,” The Nation and The Sunday Nation, March 6, 2001; Park, Hyeong Jung. The Demotion of Choe Ryong Hae: Background and Implications (Seoul: Korean Institute for National Unification, 2014); “Overhauling the Government Leagacy,” by Alexandre Y. Mansourov, 38 North, December 21, 2012; “State Funeral Committee for Ri Ul Sol,” Rodong Sinmun (in Korean), November 9, 2015; “State Funeral Committee for Kim Yang Gon,” Rodong Sinmun (in Korean), December 30, 2015; “Fourth and Final Day of the 7th Party Congress,” NK Leadership Watch, May 10, 2016; “WPK Central Committee and WPK Central Auditing Commission Meet,” NK Leadership Watch, May 10, 2016; “State Funeral Committee for Kang Sok Ju,” Rodong Sinmun (in Korean), May 21, 2016

An affiliate of 38 North