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Kim Yong-nam

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Kim Yong-nam
Kim in 2014
President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly
In office
5 September 1998 – 11 April 2019
Preceded byYang Hyong-sop
Succeeded byChoe Ryong-hae
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
1 December 1983 – 5 September 1998
PremierHong Song-nam
Kang Song-san
Yon Hyong-muk
Ri Kun-mo
Kang Song-san
Ri Jong-ok
Preceded byHo Dam
Succeeded byPaek Nam-sun
Personal details
Born (1928-02-04) 4 February 1928 (age 96)[1]
Heijō, Heian’nan-dō, Korea, Empire of Japan
(today Pyongyang, North Korea)
Political partyWorkers' Party of Korea
Alma materTomsk State University
Rostov State University[2][3]
Korean name
Revised RomanizationGim Yeong-nam
McCune–ReischauerKim Yŏng-nam

Kim Yong-nam (Korean김영남; born 4 February 1928) is a North Korean retired politician who served as the President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea, from 1998 until 2019.[4] Previously, he served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1983 to 1998.[5] He was elected a member of the Presidium of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in 2010.

Life and career[edit]

Accounts of Kim's early life vary. According to Fyodor Tertitskiy of NK News, he was born Kim Myong-sam to a Korean-Chinese family in the village of Dapu Shihe in Manchuria, in what is now the Liaoning province of China, in 1928.[6] He came to North Korea with the Chinese People's Volunteer Army during the Korean War and chose to stay.[6] Shortly before the end of the war in 1953, he went to the USSR to study. His experience with the USSR (including many years of study at Russian Universities) and China propelled his career in foreign affairs.[6] In 1956, he became a section chief at the Foreign Department of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea and was a vice-minister for foreign affairs by 1962.[6]

According to his official biography, Kim was born in Heijō, Chōsen (now Pyongyang, North Korea).[6] After graduating from university, he worked as a teacher at the Central Party School, vice-department director of the WPK Central Committee, vice-minister of foreign affairs, and first vice-department director, department director and secretary of the WPK Central Committee, vice-premier of the administration council and concurrently Minister of Foreign Affairs.[7] His elevation to Minister of Foreign Affairs is believed to have occurred as part of a reorganization of the diplomatic bureaucracy after the Rangoon bombing in October 1983.[8] In 1988, he was responsible for the arrangement of unofficial diplomatic contacts with the United States through their respective embassies in Beijing.[9]

As chairman of the Presidium, Kim Yong-nam was sometimes called the "nominal head of state" of North Korea.[8] He held this office from September 5, 1998 to April 11, 2019. The President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly is sometimes considered the "number two official".[10] The journalist and academic Don Oberdorfer described Kim as enigmatic, rigid in his official role, personally pleasant, highly intelligent, and an important figure behind the scenes in Pyongyang.[8] He has been assessed as having high-level political and diplomatic skills.[6]

Diplomatic activity[edit]

Kim Yong-nam in 2012

Kim embarked on a two-week tour of Mongolia, Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Singapore on July 20, 2007. On March 18, 2008, he embarked on a goodwill tour of four African states.[11] Arriving in Namibia on March 20, he was present for the official completion of a new presidential residence that was built by North Korea.[12] He also held talks with Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba and signed an agreement on public health cooperation with Pohamba.[11][12] He subsequently visited Angola, where he met President José Eduardo dos Santos on March 24, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he met President Joseph Kabila on March 26, and Uganda, where he met President Yoweri Museveni on March 29. He returned to North Korea on April 1.[11]

Kim also attended the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony on August 8, 2008, 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony on February 7, 2014, 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony on February 9, 2018, and the 2018 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony on June 14, 2018. On July 14, 2009, Kim met Vietnamese president Nguyen Minh Triet on the sidelines of the 15th Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Egypt.[13] Kim represented North Korea at the 2015 Victory Day parade in Moscow on May 9, 2015, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.[14] He also paid an official visit to Equatorial Guinea on May 19, 2016 to attend the presidential inauguration of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

As representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, he attended the investiture ceremony of Andrés Manuel López Obrador as president of Mexico on December 1, 2018.


He retired on April 11, 2019 in a government reshuffle, aged 91, after almost 21 years as President of the SPA Presidium and roughly four decades as Party Politburo member (having first been elected to the body in August 1978).[6] During the 2022 celebration of the Day of the Foundation of the Republic, he participated in the central concert and banquet which took place in the yard of the Mansudae Assembly Hall.[15]


  • Kim Yong-nam (1985). "Interview with Yong-Nam Kim, Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister of the Democratic Peoples's Republic of Korea". Journal of Northeast Asian Studies. 4 (3): 66–75. doi:10.1007/BF03025039. S2CID 198509640.
  • — (September 1988). "The International Prestige and Influence of the DPRK Are Increasing Daily" (PDF). Kulloja. OCLC 9516938. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 5, 2022. Retrieved June 2, 2022.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ East, Roger; Thomas, Richard J. (2014). Profiles of People in Power: The World's Government Leaders. Routledge. p. 278. ISBN 978-1317639404. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
  2. ^ "КИМ ЁН НАМ.ЭНЦИКЛОПЕДИЯ.Всемирная история". Archived from the original on January 16, 2021. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  3. ^ "Ким Ён Нам – 5-й Министр иностранных дел КНДР – Революция в Северной Корее". ir.spb.ru. Archived from the original on April 16, 2021. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  4. ^ "Blessings, condolences". The Pyongyang Times. January 6, 2007. p. 1.
  5. ^ Dae-woong, Jin (October 4, 2007). "Who's who in North Korea's power elite". The Korea Herald. Retrieved October 5, 2007.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Tertitskiy, Fyodor (April 12, 2019). "The great survivor: after 21 years at the top, Kim Yong Nam steps down". NK News. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
  7. ^ "Profiles of Presidium and Members of Political Bureau" Archived September 26, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, KCNA, September 29, 2010.
  8. ^ a b c Oberdorfer, Don; Carlin, Robert (2014). The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History. Basic Books. pp. 184–185, 465. ISBN 978-0465031238.
  9. ^ Cha, Victor D. (2013). The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future. Internet Archive. New York: Ecco. p. 280. ISBN 978-0061998508. LCCN 2012009517. OCLC 1244862785.
  10. ^ "Jimmy Carter lands in North Korea to bring home jailed Boston man". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on August 28, 2010. He later sat down for talks with the No. 2 official, Kim Yong Nam, APTN said.
  11. ^ a b c "N Korean leader returns after visiting four African countries", Yonhap (AsiaPulse via COMTEX), April 2, 2008.
  12. ^ a b "Namibia, NKorea hail friendship", Sapa (IOL), March 21, 2008.
  13. ^ "Politics". Thanh Nien Daily. October 6, 2022. Archived from the original on August 3, 2009. Retrieved July 18, 2009.
  14. ^ Kaise, Akihiko (May 11, 2015). "Pyongyang plays up closer ties with Russia despite absence of Kim Jong Un in Moscow". The Asahi Shimbun. Archived from the original on May 19, 2015.
  15. ^ Zwirko, Colin (September 9, 2022). "Mysterious new aide to Kim Jong Un reappears at massive concert, banquet". NK News. Retrieved February 13, 2023.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly
Succeeded by