Mr. Kim’s rare combination of senior positions in the North’s highly stratified political and military apparatus makes him “one of the most powerful figures in North Korea,” it said.
He is also one of the longest serving senior officials of the Kim dynasty. Mr. Kim was involved in the 1990s in one of the earliest efforts to limit the North’s nuclear weapons. According to an account in “The Two Koreas,” by Don Oberdorfer and Robert Carlin, Mr. Kim was the toughest of negotiators on an accord that eventually failed in 1992.
At the time, Mr. Kim accused a South Korean diplomat of composing 90 percent of the language in the accord, it says. “This is your agreement, not our agreement,” Mr. Kim is quoted in the book as telling the South Korean diplomat.
In the mid-2000s, he was assigned as head of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, the North’s spy agency, and paid particular attention to operations against South Korea. When he was chief of the North’s intelligence service in 2010, South Korea accused Mr. Kim of being responsible for blowing up a South Korean Navy vessel, killing 46 sailors. Five months later, the United States Treasury put Mr. Kim on the sanctions list.
In February, Mr. Kim was sent to the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in South Korea. He appeared in photographs seated behind Ivanka Trump, a stern expression on his face.
Over the past few months, the United States and North Korea have come closer than ever to holding the first summit meeting of the country’s leaders. In March, Mr. Trump surprised many people when he accepted Kim Jong-un’s invitation to meet, which was relayed through South Korean envoys. But last Thursday in a letter to the North Korean leader, Mr. Trump abruptly canceled the meeting.
He then changed course again on Friday, saying that the meeting might take place as scheduled. Officials from the United States and North Korea have since started a whirlwind of working-level diplomacy to try to narrow a gap over how to denuclearize the North and salvage the planned meeting.