Jang Sung-taek

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Jang Sung-taek
Vice Chairman of the National Defence Commission of North Korea
Assumed office
7 June 2010
Serving with Kim Yong-Chun
Ri Yong-mu, O Kuk-ryol
Leader Kim Jong-il
Kim Jong-un
Chief of the Central Administrative Department of Workers' Party of Korea
Assumed office
October 2007
Leader Kim Jong-il
Kim Jong-un
Preceded by New position
Personal details
Born 2 February 1946 (1946-02-02) (age 74)
Kangwon-do, North Korea
Spouse(s) Kim Kyong-hui
Relations Kim Jong-il (brother-in-law)
Kim Jong-un (uncle by marriage)
Jang Sung-taek
Chosŏn'gŭl 장성택
McCune–Reischauer Chang Sŏngt'aek
Revised Romanization Jang Seong-taek

Jang Sung-taek, (born 2 February 1946; alternatively Jang Song-thaek or Chang Sung-taek) is a North Korean politician and the uncle of Kim Jong-un, the Supreme Leader of North Korea.[1][2] He is a leading figure in the North Korean government. South Korean government officials and academic North Korea watchers suggested that he may have taken on de facto leadership over North Korea due to Kim Jong-il's ailing health, and later death.[3] Jang is currently Vice-Chairman of the National Defence Commission, a position considered second only to that of the Supreme Leader.[4] He is a four star general and is thought to have been promoted to that position around the time of Kim Jong-il's death as his first appearance in uniform was while visiting Kim lying in state.[5]

Personal life

Jang was born in Kangwon-do. He graduated from the Kim Il-sung Senior High School before leaving for Moscow, where he studied between 1968 and 1972. Upon his return, he married Kim Kyong-hui, the younger sister of Kim Jong-il.[1] The couple had a daughter, Jang Kum-song (1977–2006), who lived overseas in Paris as an international student; she refused an order to return to Pyongyang and then committed suicide in September 2006, reportedly due to Jang and his wife Kim's opposition to her relationship with her boyfriend.[6]


Early career

Jang was formerly an instructor to the Pyongyang Party Committee, and later the vice director of the Workers' Party of Korea's Organisation and Guidance Department since 1982, being first assigned to youth policies and then to capital city construction. In 1989 he was co-opted in the WPK Central Committee as an alternate member, and promoted to full member in 1992, when he was also appointed first deputy director of the Organization and Guidance Department, with responsibility over security activities.

Jang had been identified by outside analysts as well as North Korean defector Hwang Jang-yop as a possible successor to Kim Jong-il; however, on 25 November 2004, South Korea's National Assembly heard testimony that he had been purged from his position.[7]


Jang re-emerged in March 2006, accompanying Kim Jong-il on an official visit to China.[1] In October 2007, the Korean Central News Agency confirmed that Jang had been promoted to the newly recreated post of first vice-director of the Workers' Party of Korea, with oversight responsibility for the police, judiciary, and other areas of internal security; Jang attended South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun's luncheon during the latter's visit to the North.[2] It was later revealed that Jang had been actually appointed director of the Administration Department, an old agency of the Workers' Party abolished in 1990 and re-created by splitting the Organization Department.

Jang was elected to the powerful National Defence Commission in April 2009, and one of its vice-chairmen in June 2010. The NDC is North Korea's de facto supreme decision making body. Thus Jang's promotion amounts to something of a executive deputy role, second only to Kim Jong-Il. It is speculated that the move was part of posturing to make Kim Jong-Il's son Kim Jong-un the next leader of North Korea.[8] Jang's position in North Korean politics was also ostensibly boosted by the death of Ri Je-gang, a senior leader who was tipped by Kim Jong-il as a crucial overseer of the succession campaign.[4]

Later, at the WPK Conference held in September 2010, he was appointed alternate member of the Politburo and confirmed Administration Department director at the first meeting of the Party Central Committee after 17 years.

Under Kim Jong-un

On 25 December 2011, North Korean television Sunday showed Jang in the uniform of a general. A Seoul official familiar with North Korea affairs said it was the first time Jang has been shown on state television in a military uniform. His appearance suggested that Jang has secured a key role in the North's powerful military, which has pledged its allegiance to Kim Jong-un.[9] Jang's importance in the new regime continued to be demonstrated during his 2012 visit to China: various aspects of the visit echoed protocol which had only ever been followed in the past for Kim Jong-il, including half of his entourage arriving ahead of time as an "advance party", and even Chinese ambassador to North Korea Liu Hongcai returning to China beforehand to greet Jang upon his arrival.[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 장성택(張成澤). Information Center on North Korea, Ministry of Unification, Republic of Korea. URL accessed on 2007-08-20.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "North Korean media confirms promotion of Jang Song-thaek to senior post", Yonhap News, 13 December 2007. Retrieved on 2008-01-03. 
  3. Webster, Ben. "North Korea 'is being run by Kim Jong Il's brother-in-law'", The Times, 8 November 2008. Retrieved on 2008-11-08. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Choe, Sang-hun. "N. Korea Reshuffle Seen as Part of Succession Plan", New York Times, 7 June 2010. 
  5. "Kim Jong-il funeral: Kim Jong-un steps up as nation mourns", 28 December 2011. Retrieved on 28 December 2011. 
  6. Yi, Yeong-jong. "파리의 김정일 조카 장금송 비운의 러브스토리 (Unlucky love story of Kim Jong-il's niece in Paris)", JoongAng Ilbo, 18 September 2006. Retrieved on 2007-05-30. (in Korean) 
  7. Demick, Barbara. "Kim Jong Il purges relative from power, paving way for sons", The Seattle Times, 4 December 2004. Retrieved on 2007-08-20. 
  8. Kim, Sam N. Korean leader shows up at parliament, shakes up posts: report. Yonhap News Agency. URL accessed on 2010-06-07.
  9. "North Korean power-behind-throne emerges as neighbors meet", Reuters, 25 December 2011. 
  10. "China Rolls Out Red Carpet for N.Korea's Jang Song-taek", The Chosun Ilbo, 2012-08-17, http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2012/08/16/2012081601187.html, retrieved 2012-08-17 

External links and further reading

Party political offices
New title Chief of the Workers' Party of Korea Central Administration Department
2007 – present


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