|President of the Presidium of
the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea
5 September 1998
|Preceded by||Yang Hyong-sop|
|Born||(1928-02-04) 4 February 1928
Heijo, Japanese Korea
(now Pyongyang, North Korea)
|Political party||Workers’ Party of Korea|
Kim Yong-nam (Hangul: 김영남; Hanja: 金永南; ) is the President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea, a position he has held since 1998. Previously, he served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1983 to 1998. He was elected a member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) in 2010.
Life and career
He was born in the Central District, Heijo (now called Pyongyang), on February 4, 1928. After graduating from a 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. 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.
As chairman of the Presidium, Kim Yong-nam has been called the “nominal head of state” of North Korea. The deceased founding leader, Kim Il-sung, is designated in the North Korean constitution as the country’s “Eternal President”. However, Kim Yong-nam accepts the credentials of ambassadors, signs treaties, receives visiting heads of state and represents North Korea on all state visits — the functions normally performed by a head of state in other countries. He has held this office since 5 September 1998.
In theory, he, Premier Pak Pong-ju, and National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-un form a tripartite executive, each having powers equal to a third of a president’s in Presidential systems, controlling foreign relations, government and domestic affairs, and defense, respectively. The Chairman of the Presidium is sometimes considered the “number two official”.
Kim embarked on a two-week tour of Mongolia, Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Singapore on 20 July 2007. On 18 March 2008, he embarked on a goodwill tour of four African states. Arriving in Namibia on 20 March, he was present for the inauguration of a new presidential residence that was built by North Korea. He also held talks with Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba and signed an agreement on public health cooperation with Pohamba. He subsequently visited Angola, where he met with President José Eduardo Dos Santos on 24 March, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he met with President Joseph Kabila on 26 March, and Uganda, where he met with President Yoweri Museveni on 29 March. He returned to North Korea on 1 April.
Kim also attended the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony on 8 August 2008 as well as the 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony on 7 February 2014. On 14 July 2009, Kim Yong-nam met with Vietnamese president Nguyen Minh Triet on the sidelines of the 15th Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Egypt.
Kim represented North Korea at the 2015 Victory Day parade in Moscow on 9 May 2015, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.
He also visited Equatorial Guinea on 19 May 2016 to take part in the inaugural ceremony of the nation’s president and pay an official visit to it.
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.