Ri Yong-ho (general)

Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho (Korean리영호; 5 October 1942 – c. July 2012) was a North Korean military officer who was Chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army from 2009 to 2012, as well as a member of the Presidium of the Workers' Party of Korea from September 2010 to July 2012.

Ri Yong-ho
Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho.jpg
Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho
Chief of General Staff of the Korean People's Army
Born(1942-10-05)5 October 1942
Tongchon, Kangwon, Japanese Korea
Diedc. July 2012 (aged 69)
Allegiance North Korea
Service/branch Korean People's Army Ground Force
Years of service1959-2012
RankVice-Marshal of the DPRK rank insignia.jpg Ch'asu (Vice Marshal)
Korean name
Revised RomanizationRi Yeong-ho
McCune–ReischauerRi Yŏng-ho

Early life and educationEdit

Born in Tongchon County, Kangwon Province on 5 October 1942, Ri Yong-ho joined the Korean People's Army in August 1959. He graduated from the Kim Il-sung Military University.[citation needed]


After graduation, Ri Yong-ho worked as chief of staff of a division, director of the operations department of an army corps, head of a training center, vice-director of the operations department of the general staff, its deputy chief and head of a training center of the KPA. He was promoted to lieutenant general in 2002,[1] and served as commander of the Pyongyang Defense Command from 2003-09. He became a rising star in 2003 as a result of his appointment as the head of the military unit guarding the capital city and the Kim family.[2]

He was appointed Chief of the General Staff of the KPA in February 2009.[3] He was elected a member of the Presidium of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea as well as vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission at the Party Conference held on 28 September 2010. He was also promoted to Vice Marshal immediately before the Conference. Afterwards, he appeared jointly with Kim Jong-il on several occasions, and he gave the keynote speech during the military parade in October celebrating the WPK's 65th anniversary. In December 2011, he and leader Kim Jong-un led the funeral procession through the streets of Pyongyang after the death of Kim Jong-il. Ri led a parade on 25 April 2012, marking the 80th anniversary of the foundation of the North Korean military.

Dismissal and possible deathEdit

On 16 July 2012, North Korean state media reported Ri Yong-ho had been relieved of all his Party duties, namely his Presidium Committee membership, Politburo membership, and Party Central Military Commission vice-chairmanship, stating this move was due to unspecified illness.[4][5] A spokesman for the South Korean Ministry of Unification said the move was "very unusual".[4] The meeting at which his removal was announced was attended by the entire Presidium, Politburo members and candidate members, making ill health seem implausibly minor.

Ri was replaced by Hyon Yong-chol in the role of the Chief of the General Staff.[6] On 20 July 2012, unconfirmed reports from North Korea alleged that Ri had died or been injured in a firefight with Political Bureau troops.[7][8] In November 2012, the South Korean media reported that Ri was believed to be under house arrest.[9] A 2015 report stated that Ri Yong-ho had been executed in 2012.[10] Some reports suggest that this may mark a shift in power between the political leadership and the armed forces, with the political leadership in the ascendant.[8][11][12]


  1. ^ Ramstad, Evan (16 July 2012). "Korean General's Departure Seen as a Purge". The Wall Street Journal.
  2. ^ Ramstad, Evan (17 July 2012). "Pyongyang Repositions Military". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
  3. ^ "Profiles of Presidium and Members of Political Bureau" Archived 2013-09-26 at the Wayback Machine, KCNA, 29 September 2010.
  4. ^ a b "North Korea military head Ri Yong-ho 'relieved of post'". BBC News. 16 July 2012.
  5. ^ Sangwon Yoon (17 July 2012). "North Korea Promotes General After Kim Jong Un Fires Army Chief". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  6. ^ KCNA: North Korea names Hyon Yong Chol as new military chief
  7. ^ "The Chosun Ilbo (English Edition): Daily News from Korea - N.Korean Army Chief 'Refused to Go Quietly'". chosun.com. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  8. ^ a b "Kim Jong-Un May Have Just Suppressed a Coup". The Atlantic Wire. 20 July 2012. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  9. ^ "Top 4 N.Korean Military Officials Fall Victim to Shakeup". Chosun Ilbo. 30 November 2012. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  10. ^ "Kim Jong-un's reign of terror continues". Korea Times. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  11. ^ "Exclusive: Kim plans economic change in North Korea". Reuters. 20 July 2012. Archived from the original on July 20, 2012. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  12. ^ Ryall, Julian (24 October 2012). "North Korean army minister 'executed with mortar round'". London, UK: the Telegraph. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
Military offices
Preceded by
Kim Kyok-sik
Chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army
2009 – 2012
Succeeded by
Hyon Yong-chol
Party political offices
New title Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea
2010 – 2012
Served alongside: Kim Jong-un (2010–2012)
Choe Ryong-hae (2012)
Succeeded by
Choe Ryong-hae
Hyon Yong-chol