Daily NK has learned that Ri Yong Ho [alternate spelling: Lee Young Ho], the former Chosun People’s Army Chief-of-Staff who was purged in July last year, has been erased from the official funeral committee listing of Kim Jong Il. Ri had been behind then-Prime Minister Choi Young Rim in fourth place on the committee list, which, in its original form, serves as a key indicator of the relative power of officials at the time of Kim Jong Il’s death in December 2011.
Daily NK gathered news of the deletion from a recently obtained copy of a yearbook published by Chosun Central News Agency in December 2012.
This is not the first time that a purged official has been expunged from official documentation and images. Notably, Party planning and finance chief Pak Nam Gi, who was held responsible for North Korea’s failed November 2009 currency redenomination in order to shift blame away from other officials, was removed from state media content in a similar way. The practice is also relatively common in other authoritarian dictatorships, occurring regularly in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere.
Commenting on the story, one high-level defector told Daily NK today, “Funeral committees are responsible for events held upon the deaths of supreme leaders, and their content and order is analogous to the domestic North Korean power structure itself. Therefore, as far as the North Korean authorities are concerned, removing the names of persons who have been purged is an obvious thing to do. It looks like a political comeback will be difficult, too.”
However, the source noted, “The North Korean authorities only said of Ri Yong Ho that he had been ‘removed from all posts;’ they did not make clear what his crimes were. Given that fact, one might see it as extraordinary that the name of an elite cadre should be deleted in this way. North Koreans who find this out will harbor some doubts, wondering what the Upper (Kim Jong Eun and the Central Party) is hiding.”