Hyon Yong-chol

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General of the Army
Hyon Yong-chol
Minister of Defence
In office
12 June 2014 – 12 May 2015
Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un
Preceded by Jang Jong-nam
Succeeded by Pak Yong-sik
Vice Chairman of the
Central Military Commission
In office
26 July 2012 – 24 May 2013
Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un
Preceded by Choe Ryong-hae &
Ri Yong-ho
Succeeded by Choe Ryong-hae
Chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army
In office
26 July 2012 – 24 May 2013
Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un
Preceded by Ri Yong-ho
Succeeded by Kim Kyok-sik
Defence Minister Kim Jong-gak
Kim Kyok-sik
Jang Jong-nam
Personal details
Born Hyon Yong-chol
11 January 1949
Kyŏngsŏng County (modern Ŏrang County), North Hamgyong Province, North Korea
Died ± May 2015
North Korea
Military service
Allegiance  North Korea
Service/branch Flag of the Korean People's Army Ground Force.svg Korean People's Army

General of the Army rank insignia (North Korea).svg General

Vice-Marshal rank insignia (North Korea).svg Vice Marshal (promoted July 2012, demoted November 2012)

General Hyon Yong-chol (Chosŏn'gŭl현영철; MRHyŏn Yŏngch'ŏl; 11 January 1949 - ± May 2015[1][2]) was a senior North Korean military officer and Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) politician who served as Minister of Defence from 2014 to 2015. He was removed from his post and reportedly executed in 2015.[3][4]

Personal life and career

North Korean media have stated that Hyon was born in January 1949 and joined the military in 1966. Having served as a battalion commander, he was elected a delegate to the Supreme People's Assembly in 2009.[4] Hyon was promoted to the rank of four-star general (대장) alongside Kim Jong-un, Kim Kyong-hui, Kim Kyong-ok, Choe Ryong-hae, and Choe Pu-il in September 2010.[5] He was on the national funeral committee in the wake of Kim Jong-il's death in December 2011. Hyon was named as a member of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea at the third party conference.[4] In February 2012, Hyon received the Order of Kim Jong-il.[6]

Hyon was promoted to the rank of Vice Marshal (차수) of the KPA in July 2012, two days after Chief of the General Staff Ri Yong-ho was relieved of his duties. It was initially unclear if Hyon would replace Ri as Chief of the General Staff,[7][8][9] but this was confirmed a few days later.[10] He was also identified as vice-chairman of the WPK Central Military Commission on 26 July 2012.[11]

Hyon was reportedly demoted to General in November 2012.[12][13] On 31 March 2013, Hyon was made a Politburo alternate member, though he didn't take Ri Yong-ho's former seat on the Politburo Presidium.[14] He was transferred to command the 5th Army Corps in May 2013.[15] He was called back to Pyongyang in June 2014 to serve as minister of the People's Armed Forces.

Ouster and reported execution

South Korea's National Intelligence Service initially reported on May 12, 2015, that Hyon was purged and publicly executed near the end of April 2015 at Kanggon Military Training Area near Pyongyang.[16] It was reported that he was executed – with a four-barrelled light anti-aircraft gun – for insubordination and sleeping during formal military rallies, in particular during an event in late April 2015 attended by Kim Jong-un in which Hyon was captured on video napping.[16] A report by CNN indicated that Hyon was accused of treason after he failed to carry out an order by Kim Jong-un, though the nature of this order was not specified. A top official stated that while executions take place for crimes of treason or subversion, Hyon was not among the executed. According to analysts interviewed by BBC News, while reassigning officials was commonplace in North Korea, the execution of a figure as close to Kim Jong-un as Hyon was surprising, and could give cause to concern for the country's stability.[17][18][19]

Hours after the initial report, South Korea's National Intelligence Service revised its statement, saying that although it has intelligence information suggesting that Hyon was executed, it had not been able to verify that. Doubts were raised because footage of Hyon was still being shown on North Korean television.[20] He was also mentioned in the North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun the day he was supposed to have been executed. This would imply that he had been arrested and executed on the same day, which is unlikely.[21] On June 16, 2015, confirmation was reported from North Korean diplomatic sources.[22] In July, official North Korea media named Pak Yong-sik as the armed forces minister, but did not report Hyon's removal.[23] A South Korean spokesman said that reports of Hyon's execution should be taken as rumors until there was definitive evidence.[24]


  1. ^ "북, 군 서열 2위 현영철 고사총으로 공개 처형" (in Korean). 2015-05-13. Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  2. ^ "국정원 "현영철 처형 이유는 졸고 지시 불이행한 탓"" (in Korean). 2015-05-13. Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  3. ^ "North Korea officially confirmed Hyon Yong Chol's execution". United Press International. 15 June 2015. Retrieved 15 June 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c "Hyon Yong-chol, the general who rose out of obscurity". BBC News. 13 May 2015. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  5. ^ "Hyon Yong-chol named vice marshal of N. Korean military". Yoanhap News Agency. 17 July 2012. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  6. ^ Gause, Ken E. (March 2014). "North Korean Leadership Dynamics and Decision-making under Kim Jong-un : A Second Year Assessment" (PDF). CNA. p. 21. Retrieved 11 October 2015. 
  7. ^ Yang, Lina, ed. (17 July 2012). "N Korea names new vice-marshal in military reshuffle". BBC News. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  8. ^ "DPRK awards Hyon Yong Chol title of KPA vice marshal". Xinhuanet. 17 July 2012. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  9. ^ "North Korea promotes military official to key rank after removing army chief". CNN. 17 July 2012. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  10. ^ "DPRK appoints new chief of army general staff". China.org.cn. 19 July 2012. Retrieved 19 July 2012. 
  11. ^ "Kim Jong Un Attends Performance by KPISF, Visits Health Complex & Outdoor Ice Rink", North Korea Leadership Watch, 27 July 2012.
  12. ^ North Korea Reshuffles 1/3 of Its Military Leadership: Source, Arirang News, 16 November 2012.
  13. ^ "N.Korean Army Chief Demoted After Defections". The Chosun Ilbo. 11 October 2012. 
  14. ^ Report on Plenary Meeting of WPK Central Committee , KCNA, 31 March 2013.
  15. ^ N.Korea's Military Reshuffles Are a Dangerous Sign, The Chosun Ilbo, 24 May 2013.
  16. ^ a b "North Korea Defence Chief Hyon Yong-chol 'executed'". BBC News. 13 May 2015. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  17. ^ "Kim Jong Un Purges Defense Chief for Napping, Lawmaker Says". Bloomberg. Retrieved 12 May 2015. 
  18. ^ Kwon, KJ; Whiteman, Hilary (13 May 2015). "Reports: North Korea publicly executes defense chief". CNN. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  19. ^ "North Korea Defence Chief Hyon Yong-chol 'executed'". BBC. Retrieved 12 May 2015. 
  20. ^ "North Korea defense chief was purged, maybe not executed, says Seoul's spy agency". 13 May 2015. 
  21. ^ Choe Sang-hun (13 May 2015). "Some Doubt That North Korea Executed a Top General". New York Times. 
  22. ^ "North Korea officially confirms Hyon Yong Chol's execution". UPI. Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  23. ^ "Seoul: North Korea media confirms purging of defense chief". Yahoo News, AP. Retrieved 13 July 2015. 
  24. ^ "Defense chief Hyon Yong Chol replaced, confirms Pyongyang". North Korea Times. 14 July 2015. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Jang Jong-nam
Minister of People's Armed Forces
Succeeded by
Pak Yong-sik
Party political offices
Preceded by
Choe Ryong-hae
Ri Yong-ho
Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission
Served alongside: Choe Ryong-hae
Succeeded by
Choe Ryong-hae
Military offices
Preceded by
Ri Yong-ho
Chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army
Succeeded by
Kim Kyok-sik
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