Hyon Chol Hae was born August 13, 1934 in
Kyongsong County, North Hamgyong, North Korea. According to North Korean media, which announced his death, he lived abroad during his youth, but migrated back to Korea, where he fought in the Korean War.
During the Korean War, Hyon served as Kim Il-sung’s bodyguard, a role which gave him “a place in North Korea’s revolutionary history”. He was director of the General Logistics Department of the Korean People’s Army from 1986 to 1995, when he was appointed deputy director of the General Political Department, becoming one of the senior most members of the North Korean military and political leadership. He has been described as being in “close proximity” to Kim Jong-il, and as reporting directly to him. It had been suggested that, following the death of Kim Jong-il, he may have taken part in a military council leadership of the country. Hewas transferred to director of the Standing Bureau of the National Defence Commission. He has been a member of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea since 1992.
In his state media published abituary, it is alluded to that he was a grooming authority for Kim Jong-il:
At a time of significant historical turning point in the succession of the revolutionary cause of Juche, Comrade Hyon Chol Hae made sure that Comrade Kim Jong-un, who was faithful to his important duties and respected important responsibilities in the supreme leadership organs of the armed forces of the republic, took root in the entire army, and that the People’s Army was faithful to the revolutionary cause of the leader. As an army that knew only one successor, Comrade Kim Jong-un, and was led only by Comrade Kim Jong-un, he devoted all his wisdom and energy to glorify the honorable service of the Workers’ Party of Korea with the faithful revolutionary armed force of the Workers’ Party of Korea.
On April 15, 2016, Hyon Chol-hae became the fifth person to be promoted to the rank of Marshal of the Korean People’s Army, being one of the first two promotions of active duty officers after 21 years.
North Korean state media announced moments ago that Hyon Chol-Hae had passed away due to multiple organ failure, but did not specify the ailment. It is not out of the realm of possibility that the current COVID-19 Omicron outbreak in North Korea could be at play here.
The official state funeral will occur on May 22nd.