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Ri Yong-ho (Korean리용호; Korean pronunciation: [ɾi.joŋ.ɦo]; born 10 July 1956) is a North Korean politician and diplomat who has served as Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Korea since 2016.[1][2]

Ri Yong-ho
Ri Yong-ho.jpg
Ri in 2018
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Assumed office
13 May 2016
PremierPak Pong-ju
Preceded byRi Su-yong
Personal details
Born (1956-07-10) 10 July 1956 (age 63)
Alma materPyongyang Foreign Language University
Korean name
Revised RomanizationRi Yong-ho
McCune–ReischauerRi Yong-ho

Ri is known as a skillful negotiator with experience in negotiating with the United States on the North Korean nuclear program. In particular, he has headed North Korea's negotiators at the six-party talks. His diplomatic career spans more than 30 years, including posts in various embassies. Ri was ambassador to the United Kingdom between 2003 and 2007.

Ri is a full member of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea and its Politburo, and a deputy to the 14th Supreme People's Assembly.

Early life and educationEdit

Ri was born in 1956;[1] his father is Ri Myong-je, a close aide of the Kim dynasty and a former editor of the Korean Central News Agency.[3] Ri graduated from the elite Namsan High School in Pyongyang in 1973. He majored in English at the Pyongyang Foreign Language University.[4]


Ri with President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan in 2018
Ri meets US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in August 2018

Ri is a career diplomat,[5] with more than 30 years of service in foreign affairs.[6] Proficient in English,[7] he is described as "a skilled negotiator".[6] Ri has particularly extensive experience in negotiating with the U.S. on the issue of the North Korean nuclear program.[8]

Ri entered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1978. In 1979, he became a secretary at the North Korean embassy in Zimbabwe for four years. Between 1985 and 1988 he served as a secretary at the North Korean embassy to Sweden.[4]

After his post in Sweden, Ri returned to the foreign ministry in 1988, where he was leader, supervisor and vice director of the International Organizations Bureau of the ministry. This post allowed him to become involved in negotiations with the U.S. In 1995 he was promoted a counselor at the ministry. At the time, he was described as a close ally of Kang Sok-ju.[4] He took part in direct negotiations with the U.S. in the 1990s.[9] In October 2000, he was ambassador-at-large accompanying Jo Myong-rok to negotiations in Washington.[4] In the 2000s, he served as ambassador in Western European countries;[10] he was Ambassador to the United Kingdom between 2003 and 2007.[6] Ri was appointed as Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs on 23 September 2010,[10][11] serving for part of the time under Ri Su-yong.[5][12] Ri was North Korea's leading representative at the six-party talks in 2011.[8] Ri's team negotiated the "Leap day agreement" during the Six-party talks.[5] In 2011, Ri met with South Korean negotiators in Bali to broker a deal on continuing nuclear disarmament talks.[13]

Ri was appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs on 9 May 2016.[10][12] His promotion came after the 7th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea, which made him a full member of the Central Committee[14] and an alternate member of the Politburo.[5] Previously, since 28 September 2010, he had been an alternate member of the Central Committee.[10] Ri is also a deputy to the 14th Supreme People's Assembly,[15] representing the 371st Electoral District (Unha).[16]

In August 2017, amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Ri took part in a rare multilateral meeting with foreign ministers at a summit meeting in Manila, Philippines. Ri negotiated with his South Korean, Chinese, and Russian counterparts, making the meeting only two parties – the United States and Japan – short of the makeup of the six-party talks.[17] On 7 August, Ri said that his country will never negotiate away North Korea's nuclear weapons.[18]

On 23 September 2017, Ri attended the UN General Assembly and gave a speech in which he remarked that Donald Trump is "chastised even by the American people as 'Commander in Grief', 'Lying King', [and] 'President Evil'."[3] Subsequently, he was made a full member of the Politburo. According to Michael Madden of Johns Hopkins University, "Ri can now be safely identified as one of North Korea's top policy makers ... Even if he has informal or off the record meetings, Ri's interlocutors can be assured that whatever proposals they proffer will be taken directly to the top".[19]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c 주요인물: 리용호 [Key Figures: Ri Yong-ho] (in Korean). Ministry of Unification. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  2. ^ 北朝鮮、新外相に李容浩を任命 [Ri Yong-ho appointed as North Korea's Minister of Foreign Affairs]. JoongAng Ilbo (in Japanese). 18 May 2016. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Ri Yong who? Meet North Korea's foreign minister who called Trump 'Mr Evil President'". Straits Times. 23 September 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d North Korea Handbook. M.E. Sharpe. 2002. pp. 186–187. ISBN 978-0-7656-3523-5.
  5. ^ a b c d Hoe Sang-hun (18 May 2016). "North Korea Is Said to Appoint Career Envoy as Foreign Minister". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  6. ^ a b c Sridharan, Vasudevan (17 May 2016). "North Korea appoints Ri Yong Ho as new foreign minister". International Business Times UK. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  7. ^ "N. Korea taps Ri Yong-ho as top diplomat: source". Yonhap. 17 May 2016. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  8. ^ a b Grisafi, John G. (16 May 2016). "North Korea appoints new Foreign Minister: Pyongyang's leading man on Six Party Talks becomes chief of foreign affairs". NK News. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  9. ^ "North Korea names Ri Yong-ho as foreign minister". BBC News. 17 May 2016. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  10. ^ a b c d "Ri Yong Ho (Foreign Affairs)". North Korea Leadership Watch. 17 May 2016. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  11. ^ Lim, Andy (17 May 2016). "Impact Players: Ri Yong-ho". Center for Strategic & International Studies. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  12. ^ a b Munroe, Tony; Ju-min Park (17 May 2016). "New North Korean foreign minister was its disarmament negotiator". Reuters. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  13. ^ Hyung-jin Kim (17 May 2016). "North Korea names ex-nuclear envoy as new foreign minister". The Big Story. Associated Press. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  14. ^ Panda, Ankit (18 May 2016). "North Korea Has a New Foreign Minister". The Diplomat. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  15. ^ Zwirko, Colin (12 March 2019). "Kim Jong Un left off list of officials elected to 14th Supreme People's Assembly". NK News. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  16. ^ Jo Jung-hoon (12 March 2019). 북 김정은, 최고인민회의 대의원 처음 빠져: (추가) 북 언론, 687명 대의원 명단 발표...당 부위원장들 포함 (명단). Tongil News (in Korean). Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  17. ^ Harris, Gardiner (7 August 2017). "A Rare Round of Diplomacy From North Korea's Top Diplomat". Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  18. ^ The Express. 9 August 2017. p. 10. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  19. ^ "Kim Jong Un praises nuclear program, promotes sister to center of power". Reuters. 8 October 2017. Retrieved 8 October 2017.

External linksEdit