North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

VMAR Ri Yong Mu

Current and retired senior DPRK officials watch the parade commemorating the 70th anniversary of the KPA’s foundation. From L-R are: SPA Presidium Vice President Yang Hyong Sop, guerrilla fighter and former Second Economic Committee Chairman Kim Chol Man, Honorary SPA Presidium Vice President and immediate past DPRK Premier Choe Ryong Rim and VMar Ri Yong Mu (Photo: Korean Central Television).

updated February 25, 2018

Vice Marshal Ri Yong Mu is a retired senior Korean People’s Army [KPA] and senior DPRK Government official.

He is one of the DPRK’s elder elites and the husband of one of Kim Jong Il’s aunts (on his father’s side).  Vice Marshal Ri appears regularly at government and party functions and frequent rostrum member at report meetings and other official events.  He was elected a member of the Workers’ Party of Korea [WPK] Political Bureau at the 3rd Party Conference in September 2010.

Ri Yong Mu was born in 1925.  He joined the Central Guard Battalion in 1947.  He was a political commissar in the 1960s, part of Kim Il Sung’s campaign to put the Korean People’s Army under party control.  Ri was elected to full membership on the Party Central Committee at the 5th Party Congress in 1970.  He was elected a deputy to the 5th Supreme People’s Assembly in 1972.

In 1973, Ri was promoted to Colonel-General and appointed director of the KPA General Political Department.  He was the KPA’s primary political manager until 1977.  Ri Yong Mu was expelled from the WPK Central Committee and dismissed as chief of the GPD because of succession politics, and his ties to anti-KJI personalities.  Ri was disappeared from public life, and underwent several years of re-education.  He did not seem to hold an official position until 1985 when he was appointed Vice Chairman (for Administration) of the Ryanggang Provincial People’s Committee.

Ri Yong Mu (R) attends military exercises conducted by KPA Unit #567 held to commemorate the Day of the Sun (Photo: KCNA)

Ri Yong Mu was restored to the WPK Central Committee with election as a candidate member in 1988 and full membership in 1989.  He was appointed Chairman of the State Inspection Committee in 1989 and Chairman of the Transportation Commission 1991.

Ri was appointed Vice Chairman of the National Defense Commission at the 10th Supreme People’s Army, and promoted to Vice Marshal in September 1998.  He was elected to full membership on the WPK Political Bureau on 28 September 2010.  Ri Yong Mu was elected to the WPK Central Committee during the 7th Party Congress in May 2016.  However he was retired from senior political office during the party congress and with the abolition of the National Defense Commission in June 2016.

VMar Ri continues to make some limited public appearances as of early 2018.


Ri Yong Mu


1964: Lieutenant General and political commissar, KPA

1970: Elected Member, 5th WPK Central Committee

1972: Deputy, 5th Supreme People’s Assembly

1973: Promoted, Colonel General, KPA

Director, KPA General Political Department

1974: Elected, Member, Political Bureau (Politburo), WPK

1977: Removed, Director, KPA General Political Department

1985: Vice Chairman, Ryanggang Provincial People’s Committee

1988 Elected, Candidate Member, 6th WPK Central Committee

1989: Elected, Member 6th WPK Central Committee

Appointed Chair, Central Inspection Committee

1990: Deputy, 9th SPA

1991: Chair, Transportation Committee

1992:  Awarded, Order of Kim Il Sung

1994: Member, Kim Il Sung Funeral Committee (#55)

1995: Member, O Jin U Funeral Committee (#52)

1998:  Awarded, Labor Hero

Appointed, Vice Chairman, National Defense Commission

2003: Deputy, 11th SPA

2005: Member, Yon Hyong Muk Funeral Committee

2009: Deputy, 12th SPA

2010: Elected, Member, WPK Political Bureau

(November) Member, Jo Myong Rok Funeral Committee

2011: (December) Member, Kim Jong Il Funeral Committee

2013: (December) Member, Kim Kuk Thae Funeral Committee

2014: (April) Deputy, 13th SPA

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

Member, Kang Sok Ju Funeral Committee



Chong, Bong-uk (editor).  A Handbook on North Korea (Seoul: Naewoe Press, November 1998) p. 78

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

Yonhap News Agency.  North Korea Handbook (Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe, 2003) pp. 656; 905-6

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