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Ri Ul-sol (리을설; 14 September 1921 – 7 November 2015) was a North Korean politician and military official. He played an important role in the administrations of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, achieving the rank of Marshal of the Korean People's Army. He was responsible for the safety of top North Korean leaders and their families as Commander of the Guard.


Ri Ul-sol
Ri Ul-sol portrait.jpg
Born14 September 1921
Seishin (Chongjin), North Hamgyong Province, Japanese-ruled Korea
Died7 November 2015(2015-11-07) (aged 94)
Allegiance North Korea
Service/branchKorean People's Army
Years of service1930s–2004
RankMarshal of KPA
Battles/warsWorld War II
Korean War
AwardsOrder of Kim Il-sung
Hero of Labour
Order of the National Flag (1st class)
Hero of the DPRK (twice)
Korean name
Revised RomanizationI Eulseol
McCune–ReischauerRi Ŭlsŏl

Early life and educationEdit

Ri Ul-sol was born in 1921 in Songjin, North Hamgyong Province.[1]

He may have been trained at the Okeanskaya Field School in Vladivostok or in the RKKA Military Academy in Khabarovsk, both in the Soviet Union.[1]

Military careerEdit

In the late 1930s Ri was a soldier in Kim Il-sung's United Army, which was a partisan unit.[1] He fought for Korea's independence from Japan alongside Kim Il-sung in World War II.[2] Ri served in the 88th Sniper Brigade with Kim Il-sung, Kim Chol-man and other first-generation North Korean politicians.[3] During the outbreak of the Korean War, Ri Ul-sol was responsible for the care of Kim Jong-il and Kim Kyong-hui, the children of Kim Il-sung.[4] It is said that Ri assumed the position of surrogate father to Kim Jong-il, the future North Korean leader.[1]

He was promoted through the North Korean military system, earning the following ranks:[1]

Rank/position Date promoted Unit
Regiment Commanding Officer August 1948 (unknown regiment)
Chief of Staff July 1950 4th Division, Korean People's Army
Commanding Officer April 1951 3rd Regiment, 15th Division, Korean People's Army
Major General March 1957 Korean People's Army
Division Commander March 1957 (unknown division)
Lieutenant General October 1962 Korean People's Army
Commanding Officer October 1962 5th Army Corps, Korean People's Army
Commanding Officer March 1968 1st Army Corps, Korean People's Army
Colonel General February 1972 Korean People's Army
General April 1985 Korean People's Army
Vice Marshal April 1992 Korean People's Army
Marshal October 1995 Korean People's Army
Commanding Officer February 1996 Guard Command, Korean People's Army

He was one of only a handful of North Korean Marshals (the others being or having been Kim Jong-il, O Jin-u, Choe Kwang and Kim Jong-un), the second highest North Korean military rank. His full title was Marshal of the Korean People's Army.[1][2][3][4] In his other major position, Commander of the Guard (1996–2003), he was responsible for guarding the top North Korean officials, including Kim Jong-il and his family.[5] The Guard Command is one of the few military positions which show little turnover, as Ri managed to hold onto his position from 1984–2003.[6] Furthermore, Ri Ul-sol became a member of the Central Military Commission of the WPK in October 1980, and a member of the National Defence Commission in May 1990.[1]

Political careerEdit

Ri was a deputy delegate to the 3rd, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th Supreme People's Assemblies. In the 10th SPA, he represented Electoral District 583, and in the 12th SPA, he represented Electoral District 1.[1] He was also a member of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in November 1970.[1]

He was part of the Funeral Committees for both Kim Il-sung and O Jin-u. The funeral committees are often seen as an indicator of de facto power.[7][8][1]

Politically, Ri Ul-sol was one of the last surviving members of the first generation of North Korean leadership. He was seen as an ultraconservative.[2] He retired from most of his positions in 2003 during a reshuffle and was subsequently not considered to be a major player in North Korean politics.[6][9]


Ri Ul-sol was the recipient of various awards, including the Order of Kim Il-sung, Hero of Labour and Order of the National Flag (1st class). He was twice awarded the title of the Hero of the DPRK.[1]


Ri Ul-sol died of lung cancer on 7 November 2015.[10] His funeral committee consisted of:[11]

  1. Kim Jong-un (chairman)
  2. Kim Yong-nam
  3. Hwang Pyong-so
  4. Pak Pong-ju
  5. Kim Ki-nam
  6. Choe Tae-bok
  7. Pak Yong-sik
  8. Ri Yong-gil
  9. Yang Hyong-sop
  10. Kang Sok-ju
  11. Ri Yong-mu
  12. O Kuk-ryol
  13. Kim Won-hong
  14. Kim Yang-gon
  15. Kwak Pom-gi
  16. O Su-yong
  17. Kim Pyong-hae
  18. Choe Pu-il
  19. Ro Tu-chol
  20. Jo Yon-jun
  21. Im Chol-ung
  22. Kim Tok-hun
  23. Kim Yong-jin
  24. Ri Mu-yong
  25. Ri Chol-man
  26. Kim Yong-dae
  27. Ryu Mi-yong
  28. Hwang Sun-hui
  29. Kim Chol-man
  30. Kim Ok-sun
  31. Pak Kyong-suk
  32. Ri Yong-suk
  33. Ri Il-Hwan
  34. Kim Chun-sop
  35. Kim Man-song
  36. Ri Yong-rae
  37. Kim Jong-im
  38. Kim Jung-hyop
  39. Hong In-born
  40. Kim Kyong-ok
  41. Choe Hwi
  42. Kim Chung-il
  43. Ri Pyong-chol
  44. Jon M-chun
  45. Kim Yong-su
  46. Jong Myong-hak
  47. Kim Hi-taek
  48. Jong Yong-nam
  49. Kim Yong-chun
  50. Hyon Chol-hae
  51. Kim Jong-gak
  52. Ri Ha-il
  53. So Hong-chan
  54. Rim Kwang-il
  55. No Kwang-chol
  56. Jo Nam-jin
  57. Ryom Chol-song
  58. Jo Kyong-chol
  59. Yun Tong-hyon
  60. Kim Hyong-ryong
  61. Yun Jong-rin
  62. Kim Myong-guk
  63. Rye Chun-sok
  64. Ri Myong-su
  65. Choe Kyong-song
  66. Ri Tae-chol
  67. Jong Myong-do
  68. Kang Tong-yun
  69. Jon Chang-bok
  70. Kim Yun-sim
  71. Kim Ki-son
  72. Pak Jae-gyong
  73. Son Chong-nam
  74. Jon Tae-ryong
  75. Ri Yong-ju
  76. Choe Yong-ho
  77. Kim Rak-gyom
  78. Kim Yong-chol
  79. O Kum-chol
  80. Kim Jong-gwan
  81. Kim Song-dok
  82. Ri Chang-han
  83. Tong Yong-il
  84. Ri Mun-kuk
  85. Han Kwang-sang
  86. Ri Kyu-man
  87. Kim Taek-gu
  88. Ri Dong-chun
  89. Jong Yong-hak
  90. Kim Sang-gap
  91. Kim Su-hak
  92. Pang Kwan-bok
  93. An Ji-yong
  94. Yun Pyong-gwon
  95. Kim Myong-gyun
  96. Ju Dong-chol
  97. Choe Jae-bok
  98. Pang Tu-sop
  99. Ri Song-guk
  100. Jang Jong-nam
  101. Kim Myong-nam
  102. Kim Yong-bok
  103. Ri Pong-juk
  104. Choe Du-yong
  105. Han Chang-sun
  106. Pak Su-il
  107. Kim Sang-ryong
  108. Kim Kum-chol
  109. Ri Bong-chun
  110. Song Sok-won
  111. Kang Son-nam
  112. Song Yong-gon
  113. Ri Tae-sop
  114. Kim Song-chol
  115. Kim Kwang-su
  116. Ho Song-il
  117. Ri Chol
  118. Ri Yong-chol
  119. Kim Kwang-hyok
  120. Ri Guk-jun
  121. Jong Kyong-taek
  122. Kim Jun-sik
  123. Kim Yong-il
  124. Ho Young-chun
  125. Son Chol-ju
  126. Pak Young-rae
  127. Kim Guk-chang
  128. Ju Dong-chol
  129. Ri Yong-chol
  130. Jang Tong-un
  131. Kim Do-un
  132. Ro Heung-se
  133. Ri Jong-rae
  134. Yun Hui-hwan
  135. Sin Ki-chol
  136. Kim Kyong-ryong
  137. Han Phyo-sop
  138. Ri Yong-nam
  139. Han Myong-son
  140. Ri Ho-chol
  141. Kim Jong-chol
  142. Jo Ki-bok
  143. Ju Song-nam
  144. Kwon Yong-jin
  145. Ko Won-nam
  146. Ju Jae-uk
  147. Jang Yong-gil
  148. Kim Tong-chol
  149. Jin Kwang-chol
  150. Pak Il-su
  151. Tae Jong-su
  152. Kim Su-gil
  153. Pak Tae-song
  154. Ri Man-gon
  155. Pak Yong-ho
  156. Pak Tae-dok
  157. Kim Jae-ryong
  158. Pak Jong-nam
  159. Jon Sung-hun
  160. Ri Sang-won
  161. Kang Yong-mo
  162. Rim Kyong-min
  163. Choe Yong-rim
  164. Hong Son-ok
  165. Jo Chun-ryong
  166. Jon Yong-nam
  167. Ju Yong-gil
  168. Rim Yong-il
  169. Kim Jong-sun


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Ri Ul-sol" (PDF). North Korean Leadership Watch. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  2. ^ a b c "Ri Ul-sol". Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Kim Kyong-hui an SPA No-show". North Korean Leadership Watch. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Kim Family". North Korea Leadership Watch. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  5. ^ Moon, Chung-in (1998). "Understanding regime dynamics in North Korea". International Political Science Association: 105.
  6. ^ a b Haggard, Stephan. "Purges and Appointments I: What's Going On?". Peterson Institute for International Economics. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  7. ^ Hakoda, Tetsuya (27 December 2011). "All eyes set on Kim Jong Il's funeral committee list". Asahi Shimbun. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 30 December 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  8. ^ "Clues from Kim Jong-il Funeral List". Chosun Ilbo. 20 December 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  9. ^ "N.Korea Purges Party, Military". Chosun Ilbo. 5 February 2010. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  10. ^ "Ri Ul Sol Dies". KCNA. 8 November 2015. Archived from the original on 30 June 2018.
  11. ^ "Ri Ul Sol Funeral Committee: Who's On, Who's Not". North Korea Leadership Watch. 9 November 2015. Retrieved 31 August 2018.