Daily NK has learned that Kim Jae Ryong was named the head of the Organization and Guidance Department for his superior personnel management skills and Oh Il Jong was named the head of the Military Government Guidance Department because he comes from a symbolically important family of anti-Japanese guerillas.

A high-ranking North Korean source familiar with the internal situation of the country’s ruling party shared with Daily NK on Friday the background to the appointments of Kim and Oh and the inside story to Jo Yong Won’s meteoric rise, as well as the mood within the party as a result of those developments.

First, regarding Kim’s appointment to head the Organization and Guidance Department, the source recalled how when Kim went to Gangwon Province last year, he reportedly carried out personnel management with no concern for family backgrounds, spending “all night” reviewing materials on what candidates did to realize party policy in the province, what their achievements were and how they went about their duties.

“Accordingly, the Supreme Leader [North Korean leader Kim Jong Un] evaluated him highly as a person who faithfully carried out personnel management based on the essence of party ideology and teachings,” the source said. 

This means Kim was appointed to the head of the Organization and Guidance Department because he is considered somebody who can manage party personnel in an optimal way to realize party policies by comprehensively reviewing the quality, professionalism and ideological commitment of party officials.

According to an analysis paper on the organization and personnel decisions made by the Eighth Party Congress and first plenary session of the Central Committee published by South Korea’s Institute for National Security Strategy on Jan. 11, the “inspection role” of the Organization and Guidance Department – which “had exercised the greatest authority of the party’s departments” – could diminish as it focuses on personnel management.

According to the source, within the Workers’ Party they say Kim Jae Ryong chooses “proper” officials with no regard for their backgrounds or connections, telling people that “you can tell a person’s commitment to the Party by the way they work.” The source said because of this, he is one of the most respected and trusted high-ranking cadres among party members.

Kim Yo Jong at the Eighth Party Congress / Image: Yonhap

Regarding Oh’s selection to head the Military Government Guidance Department, the source pointed to the symbolism of Oh being the son of anti-Japanese guerilla fighter Oh Jin U. He said that within the party, they believe the appointment of such a symbolic figure was meant to “lend strength” to a department that has appeared listless.

Oh’s father contributed greatly to the establishment of the party’s “monolithic ideology system,” calling on members to “defend to the death” late leader Kim Il Sung’s control of the Central Committee.

According to the source, there is talk that Oh was appointed to continue his father’s legacy and carry out the role and mission of creating a military responsible for “defending to the death” Kim Jong Un’s control of the Central Committee in the face of all threats and unforeseen circumstances by exercising proper party control over the military.

“The Supreme Leader manages personnel by looking at professionalism and loyalty, so when people look at him selecting Oh, who has no accomplishments, they wonder if he intentionally chose a symbolic person to head the Military Government Guidance Department, which has had less influence on the military than the General Political Bureau, Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces [now the Ministry of Defense] or Military Security Command,” he said. “In the Party, they view the move as one that suggests that through the son of Comrade Oh Jin U, a loyalist of the Great Leader [Kim Il Sung], the party guidance of the Military Government Guidance Department will be the highest guidance [have the greatest control over] the military.”


Meanwhile, the source also shared what people are saying within the party about Jo Yong Won’s big promotion and Kim Yo Jong’s step backwards during the party congress. In fact, Jo’s authority grew when he was elected to the Presidium of the Political Bureau and named a Central Committee secretary and member of the Central Military Commission during the first plenary meeting of the Eighth Central Committee during the party congress. On the other hand, Kim Yo Jong – Kim Jong Un’s sister – was excluded from even the General Political Bureau and failed to ascend to any major positions. 

According to the source, Jo rose to his position for his recognized contributions to securing the party’s unitary leadership system. Now he has been handed the role of overseeing not only party guidance over party headquarters and the party in total, but also over party guidance and personnel management of departments in the military, defense and administration economy sectors, predicated on ratifications by Kim Jong Un.

“Jo, who has worked to build a base to inherit the roots of completing the feats of the Juche revolution, is enjoying confidence due to loyalty that could earn the trust of the Supreme Leader and Comrade Kim Yo Jong,” said the source. “Within the party, they now believe the Supreme Leader’s personnel management direction is, first, younger leaders; secondly, multifaceted expertise; and thirdly, the capacity and realism to carry out projects according to the ideology and intentions of the party. And they say Jo fulfills all three criteria.”

In regards to Kim Yo Jong, the source said she might “officially” lack party authority, but he believes that as a member of the so-called “Mt. Baekdu bloodline,” she can scrutinize all facets of party projects and policy along with Jo. “Not one person thinks Comrade Kim’s standing has been reduced,” he added. 

“Kim isn’t somebody who operates and hands out or takes responsibility based on her job title like an ordinary party worker,” he continued, adding, “Having piled up experience and accomplishments, she has risen to a position to send out messages domestically and internationally as a symbolic figure hailing from the ranks of the Mt. Baekdu bloodline.”

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.
Read in Korean
Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.