Kim Yong-chol, the controversial military man and the first senior official in North Korea to visit the United States in almost two decades

Kim Yong-chol, the controversial military man and the first senior official in North Korea to visit the United States in almost two decades


Kim became the highest North Korean official to step on US soil since 2000.

It is the “right hand of Kim Jong-un” and it seems to be always present next to the North Korean leader.

He accompanied him on his two recent trips to China. He sat next to him during his historic meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and in recent weeks he has met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang to discuss the summit of his presidents planned for the June 12.

To continue with the preparations for the meeting of Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, Kim Yong-chol, one of the highest-ranking military in North Korea, traveled to New York where he had a meeting with Pompeo on Wednesday.

Kim Yong-chol, left, arrived at his hotel in New York on Wednesday before his meeting with Mike Pompeo
Copyright of the REUTERS image
Image caption Kim Yong-chol, left, arrived at his hotel in New York on Wednesday before his meeting with Mike Pompeo.
Kim Yong-chol (left) and Mike Pompeo in New York
Copyright of the AFP image
Image caption Pompeo (right) said he had held “a good work dinner” with Kim Yong-chol (left).

Before the meeting, Pompeo already expressed on Twitter the position of the United States and its firm commitment to achieve a “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

Thus, Kim Yong-chol became the highest North Korean official who steps on US soil since the year 2000 .

Chief of intelligence

The 72-year-old Kim Yong-chol was North Korea’s intelligence chief and is currently one of the highest-ranking military in the country with the position of vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Labor Party.

Born in 1945, this four-star general began his career in a police unit in the Demilitarized Zone, which, despite its name, is considered one of the most tense borders in the world.

Throughout his career he held various positions related to relations between the two Koreas and during the 1990s and 2000s he participated in several meetings between delegations from the north and south of the peninsula .

In South Korea, however, he is considered a controversial figure as he is accused of planning attacks against that country.

Soldiers from South Korea in the Demilitarized Zone of the border.
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption Kim Yong-chol began his career in a military police unit that operated on the border.

Before becoming “the right hand” of Kim Jong-un, Kim Yong-chol was already one of the recognizable faces of the North Korean army before the official press of his country and, also, in diplomatic relations.

Spies and attacks

For more than 20 years, Kim was a member of the North Korean intelligence community.

In the 1990s he was the first deputy director of the espionage office of the Ministry of Defense.

Then, in 2009, he was appointed director of the General Reconnaissance Bureau (RGB), equivalent to the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States (CIA), as indicated in a profile he was published by the North Korea Leadership Watch (NKLW), a follow-up project to the North Korean leadership of the US-Korea Institute of the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Kim Yong-chol and Kim Jong Un with President Moon Jae-in
Copyright of the REUTERS image
Image caption General Kim Yong-chol (left) appears constantly next to Kim Jong-un.

At the beginning of that same year, North Korea integrated its various intelligence agencies into the RGB.

In 2010, still under Kim’s leadership, the RGB was accused of having orchestrated a series of attacks in South Korea, including the sinking of the Cheonan Corvette , which occurred on March 26 of that year and which caused the death of 46 sailors. South Koreans

It was also at that time that two North Korean agents who had allegedly been sent to the southern neighbor on a mission to assassinate a high-ranking North Korean deserter told the authorities in that country that they had been sent by the RGB and that Kim I had personally assigned the work to them.

Next to power

But perhaps one of the elements that gives more importance to General Kim Yong-chol is his closeness to the ruling dynasty in North Korea.

Kim Jong-il.
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption General Kim Tong-chol was bodyguard of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

According to the NKLW, Kim was the bodyguard of the late President Kim Jong-il , who was the father of the current North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the son of the country’s founder Kim Il-sung.

In 2010, during the 3rd Labor Party (PT) Conference, Kim was sitting next to Kim Kyong Hui, Kim Jong-un’s aunt and PT secretary, as well as Deputy Defense Minister, VMar Hyon Chol Hae.

Last February, Kim was sent to the closing ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, where he sat near Ivanka Trump, the daughter and adviser to the US president.

Recently the influential general appears constantly next to Kim Jong-un and has been present at the high-ranking meetings of the North Korean leader.

Ivanka Trump and Kim Yong Chol
Copyright of the REUTERS image
Image caption Gen Kim (right), next to Ivanka Trump at the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

The details of the potential US-North Korea summit are still unclear, but it is believed that the discussions will include Pyongyang’s nuclear program and ways to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula.

As the experts point out, General Kim’s participation in the preparations for the Summit is important because it reflects North Korea’s desire to ensure that the talks take place.

And his visit to the United States, confirmed by Donald Trump himself on Tuesday, will make him the highest North Korean official to visit that country since 2000, when Deputy Marshal Jo Myong-rok traveled to Washington to meet with then President Bill Clinton. and went down in history as the first North Korean military man to enter the Pentagon.

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