Grand marshal
Shoulder boards for the rank of taewŏnsu
Country North Korea
Service branch Korean People's Army
FormationApril 1992
Next higher rankNone
Next lower rankKonghwaguk Wonsu[a]
(Marshal of the Republic)
Revised RomanizationDaewonsu

Taewonsu (대원수, lit.'grand marshal') 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. It is often confused with Marshal of the Republic and Marshal of the Korean People's Army, but ranks above both.[1] The rank is senior to that of Wonsu. 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.[2][3]


80th birthday of Kim Il-sung (Day of the Sun), 15 April 1992.

The rank of taewonsu was created by a joint decision of the Central Committee and Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea, the National Defence Commission and the Central People's Committee in April 1992 to honor Kim Il-sung on his 80th birthday (Day of the Sun). In February 2012, his son and successor Kim Jong-il was awarded the title posthumously on the occasion of his official 70th birthday (Day of the Shining Star). [4][5]

The insignia for taewonsu is similar to wonsu but with an added crest worn beneath the shoulder board's large marshal star (and an added crest added to the parade uniform's marshal star worn below the collar), below the Emblem of North Korea. The rank insignia is based on the unofficial rank Generalissimus of the Soviet Union.

Rank comparison

According to rank comparison charts of the United States Forces Korea (USFK), taewonsu is equivalent to a "seven-star general", with the junior ranks of wonsu and chasu listed as six and five stars respectively.[6]

The South Korean armed forces have never made an attempt to declare an equivalent to the wonsu ranks of North Korea, and indeed often deride these ranks as having been created so as to "outrank" the military leaders of other nations, rather than for any necessary purpose of military administration. Even so, the holders of these ranks have commanded one of the largest military forces in the Pan-Asian theater therefore giving some credence to their existence.[7]

See also

Other pronunciations of the characters 大元帥


  1. ^ 공화국 원수; 共和國元帥


  1. ^ Yi, Wonju (28 April 2022). "S. Korea urges N. Korea to stop escalating tensions over Kim's pledge to bolster nuclear power". Yonhap News Agency. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
  2. ^ The People's Liberation Army as organization: reference volume v 1.0 - Volume 1 - Page 30 James C. Mulvenon, Andrew N. D. Yang, Center for Asia-Pacific Policy (Rand Corporation) - 2002 "Rank Categories - Ranks 1. Generalissimo (dayuanshuai) 2. Marshal (yuanshuai) 3. General Grade (jiangguan).. "
  3. ^ China this century - Page 169 Rafe De Crespigny - 1992 "In 1917 Sun Yatsen took for a time the title dayuanshuai, which basically means 'commander-in-chief ; though it is a general term rather than a military rank, it was translated as "
  4. ^ James Fleming Broken Border - Page 22 2009 "President Kim Jong Il is a man of many titles: Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army, Commander of the Armed Forces, Taewŏnsu (a seven–star general), Chairman of the National Defense Committee, General Secretary, ..."
  5. ^ Armstrong, Charles: "The Role and Influence of Ideology". In Kyung-Ae Park, Scott Snyder (ed.) North Korea in Transition: Politics, Economy, and Society 2012 "Kim Jong Il ... and on April 20th, 1992, he was named “Marshal” (Wonsu). Kim Il Sung had been named “Generalissimo” (Taewonsu) ..."
  6. ^ USFK Comparative Ranks Chart Publication (2006)
  7. ^ U.S. 7th Fleet Sharem Intelligence Brief, published 13 Dec 2007