Exclusive: Kim’s rocket stars – The trio behind North Korea’s rocket program

Express News Global

By Ju-min Park and James Pearson|SEOUL/ Updated: May 26, 2017

Exclusive: Kim's rocket stars - The trio behind North Korea's rocket program
Exclusive: Kim’s rocket stars – The trio behind North Korea’s rocket program

SEOUL: After effective rocket launches, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un typically exchanges smiles and hugs with the exact same 3 guys and shares a celebratory smoke with them.

The 3, revealed with Kim in pictures and TELEVISION video footage in North Korean media, are of excellent interest to Western security and intelligence firms given that they are the leading individuals in the deceptive nation’s quickly speeding up rocket program.

They consist of Ri Pyong Chol, a previous leading flying force basic; Kim Jong Sik, a veteran rocket researcher; and Jang Chang Ha, the head of a weapons advancement and procurement center.

The photos and TELEVISION video reveal that the 3 are plainly Kim’s favorites. Their habits with him is dramatically at difference with the obsequiousness of other senior assistants, the majority of whom bow and hold their turn over their mouths when talking to the young leader.

Unlike a lot of other authorities, 2 of them have actually flown with Kim in his personal aircraft Goshawk-1, called after North Korea’s nationwide bird, state TELEVISION has actually revealed.

With their judgment Workers Party, clinical and military qualifications, the trio is vital to North Korea’s quickly establishing weapons programs – the separated country has actually carried out 2 nuclear tests and lots of rocket launches given that the start of in 2015, all in infraction of U.N. resolutions.

” Rather than going through bureaucrats, Kim Jong Un is keeping these technocrats right by his side, so that he can call them straight and prompt them to move quick. It shows his seriousness about rocket advancement,” stated An Chan-il, a previous North Korean military officer who has actually defected to the South and runs a think tank in Seoul.

Kim Jong Sik and Jang are not from elite households, unlike lots of other senior figures in North Korea’s gentility, North Korean management professionals state. They stated Ri, the previous flying force leader, has actually been to among the better-regarded schools in North Korea, however he and the other 2 were carefully picked by Kim Jong Un.

” Kim Jong Un is raising a brand-new generation of individuals different from his dad’s essential assistants,” stated a South Korean authorities with understanding of the matter, describing Kim Jong Il, who passed away in late 2011 leaving the more youthful Kim in charge.

The main asked for privacy due to the level of sensitivity of the matter.


The most popular of the 3 is Ri, inning accordance with management specialists.

Constantly revealed smiling in photos, he is now deputy director of the Workers’ Party Munitions Industry Department, which supervises the advancement of North Korea’s ballistic rocket program, inning accordance with the South Korean federal government and U.S. Treasury.

The department was blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury in 2010 and Ri was called by the South Korean federal government in 2015 for activities associated with the nation’s weapons programs.

” The huge potato because trio of individuals is Ri Pyong Chol,” stated Michael Madden, a professional on the North Korean management. “He’s been around given that prior to Kim Jong Un was even discussed with any severity”.

Born in 1948, Ri was partially informed in Russia and promoted when Kim Jong Un began to increase through the ranks in the late 2000s, Madden and the South Korean federal government authorities stated.

When and Russia two times, Ri has actually gone to China. He fulfilled China’s defense minister in 2008 as the flying force leader and accompanied Kim Jong Il on a check out to a Russian fighter jet factory in 2011, inning accordance with state media.

” Ri appears like the celebration’s man in the rocket program,” stated Kim Jin-moo, a professional on North Korea’s elite and previous federal government think tank expert in Seoul.


The rocket researcher in the trio is Kim Jong Sik.

He began his profession as a civilian aeronautics specialist, and now uses the uniform of a military basic at the Munitions Industry Department, inning accordance with professionals and the South Korean federal government.

However it was his function in the North Korea’s very first effective launch of a rocket in 2012 which actually assisted him make acknowledgment, Madden stated.

” When that thing went off and participated in a lower earth orbit, he got credit for that,” stated Madden. “The nuclear and rocket men under Kim Jong Un are getting their tasks based upon benefit”.

In 2015, Kim Jong Sik was at the National Aerospace Development Administration or “NADA”, North Korea’s main area company, where he accompanied Kim Jong Un through the objective control space ahead of an effective long-range rocket launch in February.


Of the 3 males, the least is learnt about Jang Chang Ha, president of the Academy of the National Defence Science, formerly called the Second Academy of Natural Sciences.

The body supervises of the deceptive nation’s research study and advancement of its sophisticated weapons systems, “consisting of rockets and most likely nuclear weapons”, the United States Treasury stated in 2010 in its choice to blacklist the group.

The company acquires innovation, devices, and info from abroad for usage in weapons programs, the Treasury stated. Jang was contributed to the Treasury blacklist in December 2016.

Under Jang’s management, the academy has around 15,000 personnel, consisting of some 3,000 rocket engineers, inning accordance with South Korean media reports, mentioning unnamed sources.

North Korea’s prohibited weapons program started in the early 2000s with a comparable trio of guys near the management who concentrated on procurement, science and military affairs.

Of them, logistician Jon Pyong Ho has actually passed away. The others – researcher So Sang Guk and military planner O Kuk Ryol – are senior and not in the public eye.

Their location, Madden stated, has actually been taken by Kim Jong Un’s carefully picked guys.

“These are the males bringing North Korea’s rocket program into the 21st Century.” he stated.