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

Revised RomanizationWonsu

North Korea

Generalissimo rank insignia (North Korea)
North Korean Generalissimo (tae wonsu) insignia
Marshal of the DPRK rank insignia
North Korean "Marshal of the Republic" (konghwaguk wonsu) insignia
Marshal of the KPA rank insignia
North Korean "Marshal of the People's Army" ( inmingun wonsu) insignia
Vice-Marshal rank insignia (North Korea)
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). 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.

South Korea

South Korean wonsu insignia

Wonsu, 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 South Korean rank insignia for wonsu is heavily influenced by United States military insignia, in that a five-star pentagon design is used very similar to the U.S. rank of General of the Army and General of the Air Force for Army and Air Force officers deserving to be given the rank. 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.


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).[2]

See also



  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. ^ Sohn 2006, p. 38


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

An admiral of the fleet or fleet admiral (sometimes also known as admiral of the navy or grand admiral) is a military naval officer of the highest rank. In many nations the rank is reserved for wartime or ceremonial appointments. It is usually a rank above admiral (which is now usually the highest rank in peacetime for officers in active service), and is often held by the most senior admiral of an entire naval service.

It is also a generic term for a senior admiral in command of a large group of ships, comprising a fleet or, in some cases, a group of fleets. If actually a rank, its name can vary depending on the country. In addition to "fleet admiral" and "admiral of the fleet", such rank names include "admiral of the navy" and "grand admiral".It ranks above vice admiral, rear admiral and usually full admiral, and is usually given to a senior admiral commanding multiple fleets as opposed to just one fleet. It is often classified in NATO nations as a five-star rank.Admiral of the fleet is equivalent to an army field marshal. It is also equivalent to a marshal of the air force which in many countries has a similar rank insignia to admiral of the fleet.

Baik Bong

Baik Bong (Korean: 백봉) is a North Korean author known for writing the official biography of Kim Il-sung.


Ch'asu (Korean: 차수; Hanja: 次帥) is a superior military rank of North Korea, often translated as vice-marshal. The rank is senior to that of daejang (general) and junior to that of wonsu (marshal). The rank is seldom bestowed upon the professional military, and appears to be rather a combined political-military position.

The insignia for a chasu is superimposing a North Korean national crest upon a marshal’s insignia star in the shoulder epaulette. Formerly, insignia for such rank holders was the emblem of North Korea until the present insignia was released in 1985.

The rank is often transliterated as ch'asu, showing the difference with the Korean word for embroidery, usually transliterated as chasu (wikt:자수).

Comparative military ranks of Korea

The Comparative military ranks of Korea are the military insignia used by the two nations on the Korean Peninsula, those being the Republic of Korea Armed Forces (South Korea) and the Korean People's Army of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea). The United States Forces Korea personnel wear the ranks and insignia used by other service personnel of the United States Armed Forces in the territories of the United States.

In the South Korean armed forces, ranks fall into one of four categories: commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer, and junior enlisted ("Byeong"), in decreasing order of authority. Commissioned officer ranks are subdivided into "Jangseong"-level (general) officers, "Yeonggwan"-level (field-grade) officers, and "Wigwan"-level (company-grade) officers. The ranks of all three branches (the Army, Navy, and Air Force) of the South Korean Armed Forces share the same titles in Hangul. Most ranks of South and North Korea are identical, with some exceptions such as the supreme North Korean ranks.

The following table lists the comparative ranks of the militaries in Korea, including their rank titles and insignia. In this table, the North Korean military rank insignia shown is that of their Army field uniform shoulder boards; their parade uniforms and uniforms of other branches use alternative color schemes with the same basic design. The South Korean likewise have subdued versions of their insignia in each of their branches.

Da yuan shuai

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During the early Republic of China, the rank of "grand marshal of the army and navy" (陸海軍大元帥 lù hǎijūn dàyuánshuài) was assumed by Yuan Shikai in 1913, Sun Yat-sen in 1917 and Zhang Zuolin in 1927.The rank was replaced by the Nationalist Government with the "general special class" or "generalissimo" (特級上將 Tèjí shàng jiàng) and awarded to Chiang Kai-shek in 1935.

The rank of "grand marshal of the People's Republic of China" (中華人民共和國大元帥 Zhōnghuá rénmín gònghéguó dàyuánshuài) was proposed after the establishment of the People's Republic (perhaps for Mao Zedong), but was never conferred.


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General of the army is a military rank used to denote a senior military leader, usually a general in command of a nation's army.

Highest military ranks

In many nations the highest military ranks are classed as being equivalent to, or are officially described as, five-star ranks. However, a number of nations have used or proposed ranks such as generalissimo which are senior to their five-star equivalent ranks. This article summarises those ranks.

Index of Korea-related articles (W)

This is a partial list of Korea-related topics beginning with W.

Korean People's Army Air and Anti-Air Force

The Korean People's Army Air and Anti-Air Force (KPAAF or KPAF; Chosŏn'gŭl: 조선인민군 항공 및 반항공군; Chosŏn inmin'gun hangkong mit banhangkonggun; Hanja: 朝鮮人民軍 航空 및 反航空軍) is the unified military aviation force of North Korea. It is the second largest branch of the Korean People's Army comprising an estimated 110,000 members. It possesses 940 aircraft of different types, mostly of old Soviet and Chinese origin. Its primary task is to defend North Korean airspace.

Korean People's Navy

The Korean People's Navy (KPN), officially the Korean People's Army Naval Force (Chosŏn'gŭl: 조선인민군 해군; Hanja: 朝鮮人民軍 海軍, Chosŏn-inmingun Haegun, lit. "Korean People's Military Navy"), is the naval service branch of the Korean People's Army, which contains each branch of the North Korean armed forces.

There are some 780 vessels including 70 midget submarines (including the Yono-class submarine and Sang-O-class submarine), 20 Romeo-class submarines, and about 140 air cushioned landing craft.The North Korean navy is considered a brown water navy and operates mainly within the 50 kilometer exclusion zone. The fleet consists of east and west coast squadrons, which cannot support each other in the event of war with South Korea. The limited range of most of the antiquated and derelict vessels means that, even in peacetime, it is virtually impossible for a ship on one coast to visit the other coast.

Military Foundation Day

Military Foundation Day is an annual public holiday in North Korea falling on 8 February. It was previously celebrated on 25 April.

Sin Saimdang

Shin Saimdang (申師任堂, December 5, 1504 – June 20, 1551) was a Korean artist, writer, calligraphist, and poet. She was born in Gangwondo Gangneungbu jugheonli bugpyeongchon (강원도 강릉부 죽헌리 북평촌) on 29 October 1504. Her birth home, Ojukheon, which is also her mother's side home, is well-preserved to this day. She was the mother of the Korean Confucian scholar Yi I. Often held up as a model of Confucian ideals, her respectful nickname was Eojin Eomeoni (어진 어머니; "Wise Mother"). Her real name was Shin In Seon(신인선). Her pen names were Saim, Saimdang, Inimdang, and Imsajae. She was a contemporary of the poet Heo Nansseolheon, and the two women were considered rivals.

Sweet Enemy

Sweet Enemy (Korean: 달콤한 원수; RR: Dalkomhan Wonsu) is a 2017 South Korean television series starring Park Eun-hye, Yoo Gun, Lee Jae-woo, and Park Tae-in. The series airs daily on SBS from 8:30 a.m. to 9:10 a.m. (KST).


Taewŏnsu (literally grand marshal, usually translated as generalissimo) is the highest possible military rank of North Korea and is intended to be an honorific title for Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. The rank is senior to that of wonsu (marshal). The title also exists in Chinese military history as dàyuánshuài (same Sino-Korean characters 大元帥), and was briefly taken by Sun Yat-Sen.


Wonsa is the Second highest enlisted South Korean military rank, equivalent to a Master Sergeant in most other countries. The rank of Wonsa is derived from the supreme officer rank of Wonsu and wears as its insignia three chevrons with a star centered above.

The rank of Wonsa is greatly respected in the South Korean military with many of its holders approaching between 25 and 30 years of military service. Those holding the rank of Wonsa are eligible to be promoted to Junwi, considered the only Warrant Officer rank of the South Korean armed forces.

Yuan shuai

Yuan Shuai (元帥) was a Chinese military rank that corresponds to a marshal in other nations. It was given to distinguished generals during China's dynastic and republican periods. A higher level rank of da yuan shuai (大元帥), which corresponds to generalissimo, also existed.

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