N.Korean Hardliner to lead the KWP on S.Korea issues

According to the South Korean newspaper “Chosun Ilbo”, “Kim Yong-chol, an elderly North Korean hardliner behind the sinking of a South Korean Navy corvette in 2010 has apparently been appointed to lead the Workers Party office dealing with cross-border affairs“.

According to me, the appointment of Kim Yong-chol (his biosketch is available there) (70), formerly head of the General Bureau of Reconnaissance, a structure involved in spy activities against South Korea.

His nomination means that military hardliners are gaining the upper hand in internal powers struggles.

Kim Yong-chol replaces Kim Yang-gon, who died in a mysterious car accident late last year, according to government sources here Monday.

Born in Ryanggang Province in 1946, Kim Yong-chol graduated from Kim Il-sung Military Academy and rose to the position of chief of the General Bureau of Reconnaissance in February of 2009. Kim Yong-chol is a nervous offial, who is known for being fond of baths, when he wants to relax. 

He is believed to have orchestrated two deadly North Korean attacks against South Korea the following year — the sinking of the corvette Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, which together killed 50 South Koreans, including two civilians.

He is also believed to have been behind a box mine attack in the demilitarized zone last August that maimed two South Korean soldiers. He took part in talks to ease cross-border tensions shortly afterwards.

If Kim Yong-chol is now head of the United Front Department, we must assume that the dovish approach to the South taken by Kim Yang-gon has been abandoned,” said Cho Han-bum at the Korea Institute for National Unification. “He will probably neglect any dialogue role the department has and boost its espionage operations.

I also consider that Kim Chol, the son of Kim Yong-chol will have a relevant role in Inter-Korean relations. Kim Chol was already involved in businesses related to South Korea through his membership to the Ponghwa Group. According to some unnamed sources, Kim Chol has been in the past in South Korea under a false name.

Nicolas Levi

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