Politics of North Korea

Template:Politics of North Korea North Korea's political system is built upon the principle of centralization. The government is highly controlling, and common freedoms in other nations, such as freedom of speech are severely restricted (see Human rights in North Korea). The ruling party is the Korean Workers Party (KWP), which allows some slight inner-party democracy (see Democratic centralism). Though the KWP has ruled since North Korea's political beginnings in 1948, two minor political parties, the Chondoist Chongu Party and the Social Democratic Party also have elected officials, though the parties are legally bound to accept the ruling role of the KWP. Kim Il Sung ruled North Korea from 1948 until his death in July 1994. Kim served both as General Secretary of the KWP and as President of North Korea. He was given the posthumous title of Eternal President, symbolizing that he forever holds the position of President, which is formally vacant. Most analysts believe the title a product of the cult of personality he cultivated during his life.


Executive power

, the reclusive, autocratic, chief executive of North Korea
Kim Jong-il, the reclusive, autocratic, chief executive of North Korea

Under Songun politics, the North Korean government's term for its political system, the National Defense Commission is the highest organ of the state. It manages the nation's military and international affairs. In theory, the Supreme People's Assembly is responsible for more civilian and domestic matters, though it is widely regarded as a rubberstamp assembly. Following the death of Kim Il Sung, his son—Kim Jong-il—was elected General Secretary of the Korean Workers' Party (in such a way that he was the only candidate) in October 1997. In September 1998, Kim Jong-il was elected as Chairman of the National Defense Commission (again, as the only candidate) and the Supreme People's Assembly declared that position as the "highest office of state", partly because the position of President was now held forever by the deceased Kim Il Sung. North Korea's current constitution (its fifth) was written in September 1998, replacing the previous 1972 edition, which had been last amended in 1992. The government is led by Kim Jong-il. His domestic policies have created a cult of personality around him, as well as continued that of his father. The Premier is Pak Pong-ju.

North Korea is widely considered a communist country in the Western world, but the government has formally replaced references to Marxism in its constitution with the locally developed concept of Juche, or self-reliance. On the basis of Juche, North Korea is one of the most isolationist states in the world, both diplomatically and economically (See Economy of North Korea).

Supreme People's Assembly

Constitutionally, the legislature, the Supreme People's Assembly, is the highest organ of state power. Its members are elected every 4 years. Usually only two meetings are held annually, each lasting a few days. A standing committee elected by the SPA performs legislative functions when the Assembly is not in session. The Assembly officially chooses between, compromisises upon, and ratifies the political positions on subjects put forward by the three represented parties. The president of the Supreme People's Assembly is Kim Yong Nam. External sources regard the SPA as a rubber stamp body.

According to the North Korean government:

"Representatives of the Supreme People's Assembly are elected by a free election. The Workers' Party selects an ardent party member with good background for each election district and nominates him or her as a single candidate. Other parties may have different methods. Then, voters select a candidate. Therefore, the Supreme People's Assembly, in its nature, is somewhat different from the legislature of a Western country."

In theory, North Korea's judiciary is accountable to the SPA and the president. The SPA's standing committee also appoints judges to the highest court for 4-year terms that are concurrent with those of the Assembly. In practice these decisions are made by the executive branch.

Political Developments

Missing image
Propaganda showing a soldier destroying the US Capitol

For most of its history, North Korean politics have been dominated by its foreign relations with South Korea. During the Cold War, North Korea aligned with the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. The North Korean government invested heavily in its military, hoping to develop the capability to reunify Korea by force if possible and also preparing to repel any attack by traditional enemies South Korea, Japan, or the United States. As relations with the PRC and the Soviet Union loosened towards the end of the Cold War, North Korea developed an ideology, Juche, based upon a high degree of economic independence and a mobilization of all the resources of the nation to defend against foreign powers seen as a threat to the country's sovereignty.

In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, North Korea has faced a long period of economic crisis including severe agricultural and industrial shortages. North Korea's main political issue has been to find a way to sustain its economy without compromising the internal stability of its government or its ability to respond to perceived external threats. To date, North Korean efforts to improve relations with South Korea in order to increase trade and to receive development assistance have been mildly successful, but North Korea's determination to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles has prevented relations with Japan or the United States from improving. North Korea has also experimented with market economics in some sectors of its economy, but these have had limited impact. Some outside observers have suggested that Kim Jong-Il himself favors such reforms but that some parts of the party and the military resist any changes that might threaten stability.

Although there exist sporadic reports of opposition to the government, these appear to be relatively isolated, and there is no evidence of significant internal threats to the current government. Some foreign analysts have pointed to widespread starvation, increased emigration through China, and new sources of information about the outside world for ordinary North Koreans as factors pointing to an imminent collapse of the regime, but North Korea has remained stable in spite of more than a decade of such predictions.

Technical data

Country name:
conventional long form: Democratic People's Republic of Korea
conventional short form: North Korea
local long form: Choson-minjujuui-inmin-konghwaguk
local short form: none
note: the North Koreans generally use the term "Choson" to refer to their country
abbreviation: DPRK

Data code: KN

Government type: Socialist, Democratic Centralist

Capital: P'yŏngyang

Administrative divisions: (See Administrative divisions of North Korea for full details.) 1 Special City (P'yŏngyang), 1 Directly Governed City (Rasŏn), 3 special administrative regions (Kaesŏng, Sinŭiju, and Kŭmgang-san), and 9 provinces (Chagang, North and South Hamgyŏng, North and South Hwanghae, Kangwŏn, North and South P'yŏngan, and Ryanggang)

Independence: 9 September 1948, Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Foundation Day
note: 15 August 1945, date of independence from the Japanese and celebrated in North Korea as National Liberation Day

National holiday: Foundation Day, 9 September (1948)

Constitution: adopted 1948, completely revised 27 December 1972, revised again in April 1992 and September 1998

Legal system: based on German civil law system with Japanese influences and communist legal theory; no judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction. Practices a system of collective family culpability for crimes of one member where families are partly responsible.

Suffrage: 17 years of age; universal; those with criminal backgrounds can be prevented from voting.

Executive branch:
chief of state: Kim Jong-il (since NA July 1994); note - in September 1998, Kim Jong-il was reelected Chairman of the National Defence Commission, a position accorded the nation's "highest administrative authority"; Kim Young-nam was named President of the Supreme People's Assembly Presidium and given the responsibility of representing the state and receiving diplomatic credentials
head of government: Premier Hong Song-nam (since 5 September 1998)
cabinet: Cabinet (Naegak), members, except for the Minister of People's Armed Forces, are appointed by the Supreme People's Assembly
elections: premier elected by the Supreme People's Assembly; election last held 2003.
election results: Hong Song-nam elected premier; percent of Supreme People's Assembly vote

Legislative branch: Supreme People's Assembly or Ch'oego Inmin Hoeui (687 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 3 August 2003
election results: In order of popularity: Korean Workers Party, Chondoist Chongu Party, Social Democratic Party.

Judicial branch: Central Court, judges are elected by the Supreme People's Assembly

Political parties and leaders: Chondoist Chongu Party [Yu Mi-yong, chairwoman]; Korean Social Democratic Party [Kim Pyong-sik, chairman]; major party - Korean Workers' Party or KWP [[[Kim Jong-il]], General Secretary]

International organization participation: ARF, FAO, G-77, ICAO, ICRM, IFAD, IFRCS, IHO, IMO, IOC, ISO, ITU, NAM, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO

Diplomatic representation in the US: none; note - North Korea has a Permanent Mission to the UN in New York, headed by Yi Hyong-chol

Diplomatic representation from the US: none (Swedish Embassy in P'yongyang represents the USA as consular protecting power)

Flag description: three horizontal bands of blue (top), red (triple width), and blue; the red band is edged in white; on the hoist side of the red band is a white disk with a red five-pointed star

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