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O, Jin-u

O Jin-u was a senior military figure in North Korea and a close companion of Kim Il Sung.


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O JIN-U (1917–1995). A senior military figure in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), close to Kim Il Sung. O was also believed to be a strong supporter of Kim’s son, Kim Jong Il. He was born in South Hamgyeong Province and received part of a middle school education before moving to Manchuria to join the anti-Japanese guerrilla forces. Like Kim Il Sung, he spent the years from about 1940 to 1945 in the Soviet Union, where he received training as an infantry officer. In later years, O was credited with being a good strategist and was the author of books on the anti-Japanese campaigns. He returned to Korea as a Soviet military officer in 1945 and was the commander of the Central Public Security Officers’ Training School, first at Anju and then in Pyongyang. One account says that he was also Kim Il Sung’s chief guard. During the Korean War, he commanded the 776th Unit. After the war, he was the commanding general of the Third Infantry Division.

He remained loyal to Kim Il Sung during the political struggles and purges of the 1950s, and thereafter began to advance rapidly in both party and military circles. He became an alternate member of the Korean Workers’ Party Central Committee in 1956, a full member in 1970, and a permanent member of the party’s Politburo and Central Military Commission in 1980. O was vice minister of public security in 1963, while still an army general. In 1969, he was chief of staff of the People’s Army and became a vice chair of the National Defense Committee (NDC) in 1972. In 1976, he was appointed minister for the armed forces. He held this position and his role on the NDC until his death. In 1985, he was promoted to vice marshal and became a full marshal in 1992. Among his honors were Hero of the Republic (1968), Order of Kim Il Sung (1982), and Double Hero (1992). He also served on Kim Il Sung’s funeral committee in 1994, shortly before he too died of cancer the following year, despite having been sent to France for treatment.

All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publisher. (Historical Dictionary of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, by James E. Hoare, published by RLPG Books, appears by permission of the author and publisher).