North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Ri Je Gang (1930-2010)

One of the last photos of Ri Je Gang (3rd R) at the monumental tower to the Battle of Pochonbo in May 2010 (Photo: KCNA)

Ri Je Gang was Senior Deputy Director of the CC KWP Organization Guidance Department, and an aide to Kim Jong Il.  Ri worked in the Organization Guidance Department for almost 40 years. From 2003 to 2007 he was responsible for the daily operational management of the State Security Department.  Ri was a zealous supporter of the succession of Kim Jong Un.

Ri Je Gang was born in 1930 to an impoverished family.  He became a member of the Korean Workers’ Party in 1951, and began his career as a local party cadre.  He attended Kim Il Sung University.

In 1973, Ri joined the CC KWP Organization Guidance Department as a cadre.  He was promoted to deputy (vice) director of OGD in 1975.  Ri Je Gang worked closely with Kim Jong Il, and assisted in formally establishing KJI’s Personal Secretariat.  Ri was responsible for managing human resources for Kim Jong Il’s administrative and domestic staff, including the Cadres’ 5th Section (women entertainers and hostesses).

In 2001, Ri Je Gang was promoted to Senior Deputy (Vice) Director of OGD.  He also assumed management over the State Security Department.  Ri became an early backer of a hereditary succession by one of Kim Jong Il’s sons with 4th common law wife, Ko Yong Hui, based on his close ties to Ko.  Ri was also believed to be responsible or involved in Jang Song Taek’s disappearance from political life from 2003 to 2006.  Ri Je Gang took a prominent place among KJI’s cohorts, but also had incidents of dropping off the radar.  Ri’s son-in-law became a high profile foreign currency earner for the regime around 2004, and a prominent member of Pyongyang society.

After KJI’s recovery from his August 2008 stroke, it is rumored that he suspended Ri Je Gang for his overzealous support of the succession of Kim Jong Un.  In 2009 and 2010 Ri was rumored to be one of Jong Un’s succession tutors.   Ri was observed along side Jong Un attending KJI’s guidance tours in 2009 and 2010.

Ri Je Gang’s final appearance was a June 2010 concert by KPA Unit 963 (which is part of the Guard Command).  He died in an automobile accident on 2 June 2010.  His obituary, issued by the CC KWP and SPA, intimated that Ri passed away on good terms with the regime:

Even though Comrade Ri Je Gang passed away, his meritorious deeds achieved before the party and the revolution will remain eternally.

An affiliate of 38 North