North Korean Socialist Military Ranks

North Korean Military Veterans!

(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)

Li Yixue (李乙雪) is a Veteran of the Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army. He became a very loyal follower of Kim Il Sung (金日成 – Jin Ri Cheng). Due to his loyal and dedicated association with Kim Il Sung, Li Yixue became the military expert responsible for the security of all senior (national) leaders. This is a very important and vital post for the preservation of Socialism in North Korea.

Li Yixue was promoted to the rank of Marshal in October 1995, whilst in February 1996, he served as Commander of the Central Guard Command of the Workers’ Party. Later, due to his advanced age, he retired from the front line and enjoyed the Comradely-care of the Founding Revolutionary Patriarch. As a trusted General in the People ’s Army, Li Yixue also possessed a considerable say in the National Defense Commission of North Korea. However, as his motivation was in preserving and serving the Socialist Revolution in North Korea, he had no interest in personal promotion or self-aggrandisement. This explains why he did not hold the highest military rank in the North Korean military. Due to the confidential nature of his work, he has never been considered a ‘mainstream’ military General as the risk to security would be too high.

Although Li Yixue holds a rank of ‘General’ comparable to any high-ranked military person in the world, this is not the case in North Korea. According to the informal ranking list of members of the Kim Jong Il National Mourning Committee announced late last year, he ranks only 31st in the military structure. He is ranked below Li Yinghao (李英浩), Jin Yongchun (金永春), Wu Kelie (吳克烈) and other Marshals.

List of North Korean Marshals

Grand Marshal of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Kim Il Sung (金日成): (1912-1994), awarded on April 13, 1992.

Kim Jong-il (金正日): (1942-2011), posthumously awarded on February 14, 2012.

Marshal of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Wu Zhenyu (吳振宇): (1917-1995), promoted on April 20, 1992.

Cui Guang (崔光): (1917-1997), promoted on October 8, 1995.

Li Yixue (李乙雪): (1921-), promoted on October 8, 1995.

Kim Jong-un (金正恩): (1983-), promoted on July 18, 2012.

China Ratings Agency, Hong Kong, July 18th / According to the Korea Central News Agency on the 18th, Kim Jong Un, the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army, was awarded the title of Marshal. Previously, he was a general.

After being awarded the rank of Marshal, Kim Jong-un became the highest rank among the generals alive. In addition to him, the rank of marshal is only veteran general Li Yixue, but he is now 91 years old and has long been retired from front-line positions.

North Korea Military Rank: World’s Most Ranked Military

The Korean People’s Army has implemented the rank system since the beginning of its establishment on February 8, 1948. At that time, between 5 and 18 levels were established. The first rank of the People’s Army was similar to the Soviet Red Army at that time, except that it had a “two bars and four stars” Colonel. The Korean War broke out in 1950. When the Socialist country was in crisis, the Korean Workers’ Party and Government recommended Comrade Kim Il-sung as the Prime Minister of the Cabinet (equivalent to the Premier of the State Council, who assumed this post in 1948) and the Supreme Commander of the People’s Army, whilst being awarded the rank of General. The title “General Kim Il Sung” came from this. On February 7, 1953, the Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea issued a decree, adding senior military ranks such as the Grand Marshal of Korea and the Marshal of Korea (customarily called the Marshal of the People’s Army). In 1958, the rank of Warrant Officer was changed to the rank of Special Sergeant. The highest military rank of North Korea was established in 1992, and when Kim Il Sung was 80 years old, he was awarded the highest rank. Kim Jong Il was awarded the rank of Grand Marshal on February 14, 2012.

The characteristics of the Korean military rank: 1. Grand Marshal is divided into 3 levels, officers are divided into 4 levels and 15 ranks, with these ranks being the highest in the world. Even in the Soviet Union, officers are only divided into 3 levels and 14 ranks; 2. The second-rank of the DPRK People’s Army is the only example in the world. The status is equivalent to the Commander-in-Arms of the Soviet Union, higher than that of General which has 4 levels, which are lower than the Marshals of other countries; 3. Colonel rank, the first for North Korea, is a deputy post of an officer; 4. The rank of Second Lieutenant is used as a “Reserve Rank”, similar to the internship of the People’s Liberation Army (with the officer’s uniform and a badge of the trainee), and only the Reserve Officer who has graduated from Military School, who is one year later Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.

Only one Marshal – other than Kim Jong-un – is alive.

Before Kim Jong-un, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea only appeared to possess five Marshals (of which Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il were awarded Grand Marshal), and currently only Li Yixue is alive. Currently he is 91 years old.

Chinese Language Reference:

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