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Ri, Sang-jo

In 1956, Ri Sang-jo encouraged the Soviets to intervene in North Korean politics.


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Ri Sang-jo (리상조), also Romanized as Yi Sang Jo, established the “Joseon Youth Vanguard (조선 청년 선봉대)” in an effort to coordinate military activism against the Japanese forces in Korea and in China with the Chinese Communist forces. By 1937, Ri’s group became officially associated with the Chinese Communists, through which Ri was appointed to the post of Political Commissar within the Chinese First detachment force (제1지대 정치책임자). The group, as well as other militant groups, later joined the “Korean Liberation League (조선 독립연맹)” in 1942. By December 1942, the central leadership of the League dispatched Ri to Korea to conduct political agitation as well as perform intelligence gathering on Japanese military activities. In 1944 Ri returned to Manchuria to command the 3rd Detachment of the League (독립동맹 제3지대 지대장).
In 1946, Ri and the Liberation League to enter Korea. Until 1950, Ri first worked at the KWP Central Committee Organization Department as the Deputy Director (당중앙조직부 부부장), and later promoted to head the Department of the Central Party Cabinet (당중앙 간부부장). In 1950 Ri was appointed as the Vice-Chair of the Office of the KPA Chief of Staff in charge of reconnaissance and clandestine operations (인민군 총참모부 정찰사업전담한 부참모장). In 1953 Ri represented the DPRK in the armistice negotiations.

Following the War, he was appointed as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the DPRK to the Soviet Union. Ri was a central figure in promoting changes to the North Korean post-war development strategy to improve the livelihood of the North Korean masses and in ending the emerging cult of personality surrounding Kim Il Sung. Ri met with Soviet officials in Moscow to encourage Soviet intervention in North Korean policies. Ri was removed from his post and recalled to Pyongyang in September 1956. Ri petitioned for political asylum to the Soviet Union and never returned to North Korea.

Popular Documents

October 5, 1956

Letter from Ri Sang-jo to the Central Committee of the Korean Workers Party

Letter from Ri Sang-jo to CPSU Central Committee in which Ri writes about his disagreement with the decisions made at Korean Workers' Party Central Committee Plenum in August 1956.

September 3, 1956

Letter from Ri Sang-jo to N.S. Khrushchev

Ri Sang-jo urges Khrushchev to send a Sino-Soviet delegation to intervene in the aftermath of the August KWP CC Plenum.

October 22, 1956

Letter from DPRK Ambassador to the USSR Ri Sang-jo to Kim Il Sung

Ri expresses strong disapproval of the accusations brought against certain party members, including himself. He asks that he be removed from the Korean Workers' Party and presents his own accusations against Kim of embezzling state funds.

October 12, 1956

Letter from Ri Sang-jo to the Korean Workers' Party Central Committee

Ri Sang-jo seeks to redress the issue of aid from the Soviet Union by reminding party members of the CPSU's friendship and assistance to the North Korean people both before and after the Korean War. Ri discloses Soviet criticism of Kim Il Sung's economic policies and the cult of personality during meetings held in Moscow in the summer of 1956 and insists that the DPRK learn from the experiences of the fraternal communist parties in economic planning and in their struggles against cults of personality.

September 5, 1956

Report by N.T. Fedorenko on a Conversation with Ri Sang-jo, Ambassador of the DPRK to the USSR

The Ambassador of the DPRK to the Soviet Union reports on the mishandling of critics during the August and September Plenums, and testifies "to the existence of the most negative consequences of the cult of personality in the DPRK."