Wonsu

Summary

Wonsu
Hangul
원수
Hanja
元帥
Revised RomanizationWonsu
McCune–ReischauerWŏnsu

Wonsu is the highest military rank in the armed forces of North Korea and South Korea.[1]

Historical

The title of Wonsu or its variations had been used as the title of high-ranking military commanders in Korean history since Goryeo Dynasty onward. For example, Gwon Yul, a famous general in 16th century who rose to the supreme command of Korean forces during Imjin War held the title of "Do-Wonsu", roughly translated as "high marshal".

North Korea

North Korean Generalissimo (tae wonsu) insignia
North Korean "Marshal of the Republic" (konghwaguk wonsu) insignia
North Korean "Marshal of the People's Army" (inmingun wonsu) insignia
North Korean Vice-Marshal (ch'asu) insignia

Wonsu is a rank in the Korean People's Army of North Korea, equivalent to marshal in other armies. This rank is held by all Supreme Leaders of the DPRK.

While he was the Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army, Kim Il-sung became North Korea's first marshal during the Korean War by the decision of the Supreme People's Assembly, the unicameral parliament of North Korea, on February 4, 1953. Period photographic evidence demonstrates that the early marshal shoulder board rank insignia was the same as that of the current vice marshal shoulder boards (a large star overlain with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea coat-of-arms).

The rank of vice marshal (chasu) is unique to the North Korean ranking system. Vice marshal was first conferred in February 1953 on Choe Yong-gon. Sources suggest that the shoulder board rank insignia for marshal and vice marshal then became a single large star without the state coat-of-arms (for marshals) and the state coat-of-arms without a star (for vice marshals).[citation needed] By the time the next conferral of rank to vice marshal was awarded (1985), the shoulder board rank insignia for marshal and vice marshal had taken on their current design.

The next change in the DPRK marshal ranks took place in 1992 when the rank of dae wonsu or grand marshal (full title grand marshal of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea) was created for Kim Il-sung. At this time the rank of marshal was divided into two ranks: the rank of marshal with the title "marshal of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea" (konghwaguk wonsu) was conferred upon Kim Il-sung's son Kim Jong-il, and the same rank but with the title "marshal of the Korean People's Army" was conferred upon O Jin-u. In 1995, two other military officers were conferred the rank of marshal with the title "marshals of the Korean People's Army", i.e. Choe Kwang and Ri Ul-sol. Insignia of rank of the two grades of marshal are different (with the insignia for marshal of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea being more like that of grand marshal—the grand marshal insignia has a larger wreath encompassing the marshal's star—but is smaller as it is below the star itself).

Also, in 1992 eight other generals were promoted to vice marshal at which time in North Korea there was one grand marshal, one marshal of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, one marshal of the Korean People's Army and eight vice marshals.

The rank (as marshal of the DPRK) was bestowed to Kim Jong-un in 2012.

On April 15, 2016, Kim Yong-chun and Hyon Chol-hae were promoted to the rank of Marshal of the Korean People's Army, the first promotions of active duty officers after 21 years.

List of Marshals of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

Marshal of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
조선민주주의인민공화국 원수
Marshal Date of promotion Notes
Kim Il-sung
김일성
1912–1994
7 February 1953 Promoted to Generalissimo of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea on 13 April 1992.
Kim Jong-il
김정일
1941-2011
20 April 1992 Posthumously promoted to Generalissimo of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea on 14 February 2012.
Kim Jong-un April 2019 crop.jpg Kim Jong-un
김정은
born 1984
18 July 2012 Promoted to Generalissimo of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea at some point prior to 7 January 2021. [2]

List of Marshals of the Korean People's Army

Marshal of the Korean People's Army
조선인민군 원수
Marshal Date of promotion Notes
O Jin-u
오진우
1917–1995
20 April 1992
Choe Kwang
최광
1918–1997
8 October 1995
Ri Ul-sol
리을설
1921–2015
8 October 1995
Kim Yong-chun
김영춘
1936–2018
14 April 2016
Hyon Chol-hae
현철해
born 1934
14 April 2016
Ri Pyong-chol
리병철
born 1948
5 October 2020
Pak Jong-chon
박정천
5 October 2020 Demoted to Vice Marshal of the Korean People's Army in June 2021.

South Korea

Wonsu
원수
SouthKorea-Army-OF-10.svg SouthKorea-Navy-OF-10.svg SouthKorea-AirForce-OF-10.svg
Insignia for the Army, Navy and Air Force
Country South Korea
Service branch Army
 Navy
 Air Force
Rank groupGeneral officer
RankFive-star rank
Next lower rankDaejang

Wonsu (Korean: 원수), known in English as "General of the Army of the Republic of Korea" or "Admiral of the Fleet of the Republic of Korea", is the highest military rank of the Republic of Korea (ROK) armed forces and is the combined equivalent of a field marshal, fleet admiral and marshal of the Air Force in other nations. The rank is senior to that of Daejang. Wonsu only exists on paper, and has never been held by an officer of the South Korean Armed Forces. According to the Armed Forces Personnel Act of National Defense Law of the Republic of Korea, the wonsu is appointed from the daejang who has distinguished achievements.

The rank insignia for wonsu is heavily influenced by United States military insignia of General of the Army and General of the Air Force for Army and Air Force.[3] While the rank insignia for the Navy remains the same the sleeve insignia for a naval officer promoted to the rank is the same sleeve insignia of Fleet admiral used in the United States Navy.

Homophone

Coincidentally, wonsu is also a word meaning "mortal enemy" (怨讐). The two words have different etymologies and hanja, but in South Korea are homophonous and so are written identically in hangul. In North Korea, the government has addressed the issue by changing the word for "enemy" to "wonssu" (원쑤).[4]

See also

References

Citations

  1. ^ Chung-in Moon, Understanding regime dynamics in North Korea International Political Science Association. World Congress - 1998 Page 105 "Kim Jong Il.. ... which places him at the top of the party hierarchy, he holds the titles of the chairman of the National Defense Commission and the supreme commander of the Korean People's Army (KPA). He is, moreover, one of the two marshals (wonsu) in the DPRK, the other being Li Ul Sol who heads the KPA unit that guards top officials (howi ch'ongguk)."
  2. ^ Image of Kim Jong-un in uniform of taewŏnsu
  3. ^ Katz, Rodney P. (1992). "National Security". In Savada, Andrea M.; Shaw, William (eds.). South Korea: a country study. Area Handbook (4th ed.). Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress. p. 291. LCCN 91039109. Retrieved 20 October 2021.
  4. ^ Sohn 2006, p. 38

Sources

  • Sohn, Ho-min (2006), Korean language in culture and society, University of Hawaii Press, ISBN 978-0-8248-2694-9