North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Pak Pong Ju

Pak (L) (Photo: Xinhua)

Pak Pong Ju (born 1939) is serving as the DPRK’s Premier for the second time. His first appointment to this position was from September 2003 until his formal dismissal at a plenum of the 11th SPA in April 2007 after a suspension in June 2006 for misappropriation of funds. His second appointment began again in 2013. He is also the Vice Chairman of the State Affairs Commission, member of the Workers’ Party of Korea [WPK] Political Bureau Presidium (standing committee), WPK Central Military Commission, a member of the WPK Central Committee and deputy of the Supreme People’s Assembly.


Pak Pong Ju inspects a farm in Such’o’n County, South P’yo’ngan Province during his second tenure as Premier (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).


Pak began his career as a manager of the Ryongchon Food Factory in Ryongchon County, North Pyongan. However, the big boom of his career began in the 1980’s where he served as a party manager of the DPRK’s chemical industries and was elected as an alternate (candidate) member of the WPK Central Committee during the 6th Party Congress in October 1980. He was appointed party secretary of the Namhu’ng Youth Chemical Complex in July 1983. He visited the former Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary in May 1987.



In the 1990’s, Pak’s career migrated from chemical industry to light industry starting in 1992/1993 when he became Kim Kyong Hui’s principal deputy at the CC KWP Light Industry Department. He then changed to her deputy director from 1994-1998 when the Light Industry was consolidated into the party’s Economic Policy Inspection Department. In 1998, he came back to the chemical industry when he was elected a deputy (delegate) to the 10th SPA and appointed Minister of Chemical Industry.

Pak was then elected to the 11th SPA and appointed Premier for his first tenure of service in September 2003.  As Premier, Pak was a key figure in the establishment of the July 2002 Decrees.  In April 2004, he and Kim Jong Il went to China. In March 2005, he lead a high level delegation to China. In October 2006, he made yet another trip to China with Kim Jong Il. He also fostered a group of innovative policy wonks involved in economic planning and policy.




Kim Kyong Hui (L) and Pak Pong Ju (R). From 1993 to 1997 Pak served as Madame Kim’s principal deputy when three KWP Central Committee economic departments were consolidated. (Photos: KCNA/Rodong Sinmun).


Following his official dismissal in April 2007, he was replaced by Kim Yong Il, a former Minister of Land and Marine Transport. Some sources also allege that Pak had fallen out of favor, or was undone, due to his support for new economic policies including an hourly wage system and the 2 July 2002 decree.  Pak’s status was not known following his ouster until he was identified as a factory manager when he appeared on DPRK television in 2008.  He most likely returned the power center in late 2009, with the increasing influence of Jang Song Taek and Kim Kyong Hui, particularly on economic matters.  On 15 August 2010 Mainichi Shimbun reported that Pak was working in the central party, due to his ties to Jang and Kim.  Pak was identified by his new deputy director’s title when KCBS aired a story on the 50th anniversary of the Okryu Restaurant in Pyongyang.  He was instrumental in formulating and executing new economic laws promulgated in the summer of 2010 involving labor rights and the protection of SOEs and JVs in the DPRK.

Pak Pong Ju was the department director of the WPK Light Industry Department from 2012-2013 before his second tenure of service as DPRK Premier.


Pak Pong Ju

DPRK Premier

State Affairs Commission Vice Chairman

Member, WPK Political Bureau Presidium

Member, WPK Central Military Commission

Member, WPK Central Committee

Deputy, 13th Supreme People’s Assembly

1962: Manager, Yongson Food Factory

1970s: Industrial manager, party cadre

1980: (October) Elected, Alternate Member, WPK Central Committee

1983: Secretary, Namhu’ng Youth Chemical Complex WPK Committee

1989: Chief Secretary, Namhu’ng Youth Chemical Complex, WPK Committee

1993: Deputy director, WPK Light Industry Department

1994: (March) Deputy director, WPK Economic Policy Inspection Department

(July) Member, Kim Il Sung Funeral Committee

1995: (February) Member, O Jin U Funeral

1998: (July) Elected, deputy, 10th Supreme People’s Assembly

(September) Appointed, Minister of Chemical Industry

2002: (March) Order of Kim Il Sung

2003: (August) Deputy, 11th Supreme People’s Assembly

(September) Appointed, DPRK Premier

2005: (October) Member, Yon Hyong Muk Funeral Committee

2007: (April) Removed from office, DPRK Premier

(May) Manager, Sunch’o’n Vinalon Factory

2009: (March) Deputy director, WPK Light Industry Department

2010: (September) Elected, Member, WPK Central Committee (6th CC)

(November) Member, VMar Jo Myong Rok Funeral Committee

2011: Senior deputy director, WPK Light Industry Department

(December) Member, Kim Jong Il Funeral Committee

2012: (April) Elected, Director, WPK Light Industry Department

2013: (March) Elected, Member, WPK Political Bureau

(April) Appointed, DPRK Premier\

(December) Member, Kim Kuk Thae Funeral Committee

2014: (March) Elected, deputy, 13th Supreme People’s Assembly

(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, Presidium Member, WPK Political Bureau

Elected, Member, WPK Central Military Commission

Elected, Member, 7th WPK Central Committee

(May) Member, Kang Sok Ju Funeral Committee

(June) Elected, Vice Chairman, State Affairs Commission

North Korea Handbook (Armonk, NY: 2003) pp. 870-71; “Central Committee, Auditing Commission Members Elected,” Korean Central News Agency, October 14, 1980; “Intellectuals’ Meeting Continues,” Korean Central News Agency, December 12, 1992;“Report of the Central Election Committee on the Results of the elections of deputies for the 11th Supreme People’s Assembly,” Korean Central Broadcasting Station (in Korean), August 5, 2003; “Members of DPRK Cabinet Appointed,” Korean Central News Agency, September 4, 2003;  “Great Leader Comrade Kim Jong Il visited the Embassy of the Russian Federation,” Korean Central Broadcasting Station (in Korean), March 8, 2005; “Chronicle of North Korean Premiers’ Visits to China,” by Cho’ng Yo’n-sik, Yonhap News Agency (in Korean), March 15, 2005; “China, DPRK Vow to Further Ties,” Xinhua, March 22, 2005; “DPRK Radio Reports on Meetings of Premiers, DPRK Cabinet, PRC State Council,” Korean Central Broadcasting Station (in Korean), March 22, 2005; “How has the North Korean Cabinet Changed?” by Kim Tu-hwan, Yonhap News Agency(in Korean) June 3, 2005; “Kim Jong Il Inspects Farm Under KPA Unit 534,” Korean Central Broadcasting Station (in Korean), August 31, 2005; “FBIS Analysis: DPRK Media Portray Regime as More Engaged in Agricultural Production,” Foreign Broadcast Information Service September 2, 2005; “North Korean Leader Orders Expansion of Russia in ‘Every Area,’” ITAR-TASS, October 10, 2005; “Completion Ceremony Held for North Korea’s Taean Friendship Glassworks Built with Chinese Aid,” by Zhao Jiaming, Renmin Ribao (in Chinese), October 10, 2005; “Committee Members for Yon Hyong Muk’s State Funeral,” Korean Central Broadcasting Station (in Korean), October 22, 2005; “Talks Were Held Between Comrade Kim Cho’ng-il and Comrade Hu Jintao,” Korean Central Broadcasting Station (in Korean), October 28, 2005; “Report on Kim Jong Il’s Unofficial 10-18 January Visit to China,” Korean Central Broadcasting Station (in Korean), January 18, 2006; “Kim Jong-il’s Closest Aides,” Dong-A Ilbo (in Korean), January 23, 2006; “Kim Jong Il, Pak Pong Ju Mark Spring Festival With Chinese Nationals in DPRK,” by Ren Libo and Gao Haorong, Xinhua Domestic Service (in Chinese), January 28, 2006; “Military-related Events Account for 70 Percent of Kim Jong Il’s Public Activities in First Half of This Year,” by Kim Tu-hwan, Yonhap News Agency (in Korean), July 8, 2006; “Fifth Session of 11th SPA Held,” Korean Central Broadcasting Station (in Korean), April 11, 2007; “North Korea’s High-ranking Officials Who Disappeared After Calling for Opening–Premier Pak Pong-chu Dismissed in April to ‘Vinalon Factory, Once-Powerful Vice Premier Kim Tal=-hyo’n Suddenly Purged, Commits Suicide,” by Kang Ch’o’l-hwan, Chosun Ilbo (in Korean), May 18, 2007; “Field Functionaries Selected as Chiefs of Key Economic Offices in North: replacing ministers of Metal, Electricity, Railways, Trade and Forestry,” by Chang Yong-hun, Yonhap Online (in Korean), January 3, 2009; “N. Korean Ex-PM Pak Pong-ju Appears to Be Back in Power,” Yonhap News Agency, August 21, 2010; “Members, Alternate Members, WPK CC,” Korean Central News Agency, September 28, 2010; “Report of the Central Election Committee on the Election Results of deputies to the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly,” Korean Central News Agency (in Korean), March 11, 2014; “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