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Hero of Labor (Korean로력영웅; MRRoryŏk Yŏng'ung) is the highest title of honor of North Korea and the highest decoration of the country overall. The award was probably scheduled for establishment in the summer of 1950, but the Korean War postponed these plans. When the war had entered a phase of stalemate along the 38th parallel, the government had time to officially launch the decoration, originally under the name Korea Hero of Labor. 16 people were decorated Labor Heroes during the war and more since then. The decoration is based on its Soviet equivalent, Hero of Socialist Labour.

Hero of Labor
Labor Hero of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.svg
Awarded by North Korea
CountryNorth Korea
Established1950 (planned)
Total awarded335[citation needed]
EquivalentHero of the Republic[citation needed]
Next (lower)Order of Kim Il-sung, Order of Kim Jong-il
Hero of Labor
McCune–ReischauerRoryŏk Yŏng'ung



Hero of Labor is the highest title of honor of North Korea. It is also the highest decoration of the country overall. Immediately below it are the Order of Kim Il-sung and Kim Il-sung Prizes. Along with the title a gold medal is awarded. The medal features the hammer and sickle on a five-pointed star. It is awarded independently of the similar award of Order of Labor.[1]


Hero of Labor was probably scheduled to be established in the summer of 1950, but the breaking up of the Korean War halted the plans. Only when the war reached a stalemate along the 38th parallel did the government have time to concentrate on its awards system. Hero of Labor was promulgated and it became the highest civilian award of the country. The title is based on its Soviet equivalent, Hero of Socialist Labour.[1]

It was initially promulgated as Korea Hero of Labor, using the Korean word Chosun (조선). This set it apart from the related Order of Labor whose full name was "Korean People's Republic Order of Labor". This is likely because North Koreans copied every detail of the decorations of the Soviet Union, some of which featured the longer name of the country, "Soviet Union", and others simply "Soviet".[1]

During the war, 16 people were decorated Labor Heroes.[2] Once the war was over, surprisingly, Kim Il-sung was not awarded the title. He received one only on 7 September 1958, probably because he had consolidated his position in power following the 1956 attempted coup d'état known as the August Faction Incident. Kim Jong-il was never awarded one, leading observers to conclude that the prize did not have much political value at least at that time.[1]


Name Occupation Date Notes Ref
Kim Rak-hui politician 1955 Awarded for leading post-war reconstruction of farms in Kaechon [3]
Kim Il-sung Premier of North Korea 7 September 1958 Awarded after the August Faction Incident (1956) [1]
Paek Sol-hui botanist 7 October 1979 Developer of a crop strain [4]
Ri Pyong-sam politician 19 October 2011 Political Director of the Korean People's Internal Security Forces [5]
Chang Jae-ryong manager October 2012 Manager of Osoksan Granite Mine, Ryonggang County, Nampho. Awarded "for his meritorious services, displaying bold and enterprising work style and practical ability." [6]
Hong Song-gwan sea captain 7 June 2016 Former captain of Fishing Boat 1728 of the Second Fleet of the Kamapho Fishery Station that overfulfilled the fishing plan on many years [7]
Kim Chun-hui weightlifting coach 2018 Weightlifting coach of the Kigwancha Sports Club [8]
300 workers Awarded following the 1974 70-Day Battle mass mobilization campaign [9]
Jo Myong-suk manager Manager of the Hadang Unha Clothing Factory, awarded "in high appreciation of her devoted services to the prosperity of the country and the improvement of the people's living standards." [10]
Jong Yong-man painter Awarded twice. Painter of over 600 works, 170 which are in the Korean Art Gallery [11]
Kim Kwang-min football coach Coach of the women of the April 25 Sports Team and the women's national team [12]
Kim Sang-ryon agronomist Developer of a rice strain [4]
Kim Sin-ung associate academician At the Pyongyang University of Mechanical Engineering [13]
Mun Kang-sun weaver Overfulfilling plans at the Kim Jong-suk Textile Mill [14]
O Tae-hyong sculptor Took part in sculpting the Chollima Statue, Monument to the Victorious Battle of Pochonbo, Mansu Hill Grand Monument, Wangjaesan Grand Monument and the Monument to Party Founding. [15]
Om Kil-son [ru] actor and director "[F]or his contribution to the development of the Juche-based film art" [16]
Pak Jong-ju film director Director at the Korean Film Studio [17]
Paek Jong-muk manager Manager of the Sogam Pharmaceutical Factory [18]
Ra Un-sim footballer Captain of the North Korea women's national football team [12]
Ri Ok-sang agriculturalist Developed stockbreeding technology [19]
Ri Song-gun painter Painter of the Korean Painting Production Unit of the Mansudae Art Studio [20]
Ri Sung-ik virologist Head of the Virus Research Institute of the Pyongyang Medical College of Kim Il-sung University [21]
Ro Ik-hwa sculptor Maker of many famous statues with the Merited Sculpture Production Company of the Mansudae Art Studio [22]
Jin Pong-jun manager Manager of Fishery Station No. 223 run by the Korean People's Army [23]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e Weiser, Martin (8 January 2016). "Chests Full of Brass: A DPRK Political History in Orders, Medals, Prizes, and Titles". Sino-NK. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
  2. ^ Album: Revolutionary Activities of Comrade Kim Il Sung. Pyongyang: Foreign Languages Publishing House. 1970. OCLC 176847360.
  3. ^ "Former DPRK Vice Premier Kim Rak Hui Dies (updated on 20 February)". North Korea Leadership Watch. 20 February 2013. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  4. ^ a b Lim 2008, p. 81.
  5. ^ "Col. Gen. Ri Pyong Sam | North Korea Leadership Watch". Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  6. ^ "Our Manager". Naenara. 23 April 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  7. ^ "State Commendations Awarded to Crewmen". Naenara. KCNA. September 2016. Archived from the original on 26 September 2016.
  8. ^ "Sportspersons full of confidence". The Pyongyang Times. KCNA. 8 January 2019. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  9. ^ Lim 2008, pp. 136–137.
  10. ^ "Enterprising Manageress". Naenara. 18 October 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  11. ^ Kim So Yeol (19 August 2011). "Mansudae Art Studio Back in the Limelight". Daily NK. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  12. ^ a b Choe Kwang-ho (May 2015). "Renowned Football Coach". Democratic People's Republic of Korea. No. 713. pp. 32–33. ISSN 1727-9208.
  13. ^ Won Kyong-ryong (January 2015). "Admirable Woman Scientist". Democratic People's Republic of Korea. No. 709. p. 32. ISSN 1727-9208.
  14. ^ Kang Su-yong (February 2015). "Hero Weaver". Democratic People's Republic of Korea. No. 710. pp. 31–32. ISSN 1727-9208.
  15. ^ "Talented Artists of DPRK". Naenara. 20 May 2014. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  16. ^ "Veteran Film Director Om Kil Son". Naenara. 20 May 2014. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  17. ^ "Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un Sends Wreath to Bier of Pak Jong Ju". KCNA. 3 October 2018. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  18. ^ Kim Thae-hyon (January 2015). "To Promote People's Health". Democratic People's Republic of Korea. No. 709. p. 28. ISSN 1727-9208.
  19. ^ Kim Thae-hyon (January 2014). "Who Will Be Next Hero? : Hero Kangso Senior Middle School". Democratic People's Republic of Korea. No. 697. p. 28. ISSN 1727-9208.
  20. ^ "Famous Artist of Figure Picture". Naenara. 21 August 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  21. ^ "Virologist Ri Sung Ik". Naenara. 16 March 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  22. ^ Kim Son-gyong (May 2015). "Sculptor Family". Democratic People's Republic of Korea. No. 713. pp. 26–27. ISSN 1727-9208.
  23. ^ "Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un Sends Wreath to Bier of Jin Pong Jun". DPRK Today. KCNA. 25 February 2019. Retrieved 28 February 2019.

Works citedEdit