ORGANIZATION OF THE NORTH KOREAN GOVERNMENT
Although a republic in name and nominally governed by a representative assembly, North Korea is actually ruled by the Communist party (known in Korea as the Korea Workers' party). According to the “Columbia Encyclopedia”: “North Korea is governed under the constitution of 1948, which has been extensively revised. The chairman of the National Defense Commission is the nation's "supreme leader" and de facto head of state because the title of president was reserved for Kim Il Sung after his death. The premier, who is the head of government, is elected, unopposed, by the Supreme People's Assembly. [Source: “Columbia Encyclopedia”, 6th ed., Columbia University Press]
The unicameral legislature consists of the 687-seat Supreme People's Assembly, whose members are popularly elected to five-year terms. Although nominally a republic governed by the Supreme People's Assembly, North Korea is actually ruled by the Korea Workers party, the North Korean Communist party. The ruling party approves a list of candidates who are generally elected without opposition. Administratively North Korea is divided into nine provinces and four municipalities.
“Until his death in 1994, all governmental institutions were controlled by Kim Il Sung (widely known as "The Great Leader" ), who had been premier and then president since the country's inception in 1948. A personality cult had glorified Kim. Increasingly, Kim's son, Kim Jong Il, had assumed the day-to-day management of the government and, at Kim Il Sung's death in 1994, the son took over leadership of the country and, like his father, became the object of a personality cult. He was named secretary of the Communist party in 1997 and consolidated his power with the title of National Defense Commission chairman in 1998.
Korean Worker’s Party (KWP)
The Korean Workers’ Party (KWP) is the ruling party of North Korea. Arguably the most important organization and most politically significant entity in North Korea, it is essentially a communist party, with some North Korean touches, and controls all government institutions. The leader of the KWP — the secretary general of the KWP — is Kim Jong Un. He runs the party with few formal meetings as his father Kim Jong Il and grandfather Kim Il Sung did before him. The KWP’s last full party congress — the 4th Party Conference — was in mid-April 2012. The one previous to that was in 1980. [Source: Library of Congress, July 2007]
The Korean Workers’ Party (KWP), also written as the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), was founded in 1949 with the merger of the North Korea Workers' Party and the hundreds Workers' Party. South Korea. The Workers' Party of North Korea was founded in August 1946 through a merger of the northern branch of the Communist Party of Korea and the New People's Party of Korea. See Below
Fyodor Tertitskiy wrote in NK News: “If you live in North Korea, the single most important factor that will determine the course of your life is whether or not you become a party member. The party’s name is usually translated as the Workers’ Party of Korea, but a more accurate translation would be the Korean Labour Party. The irony of this is that people join it so as not to become a worker – and, if they are fortunate, to avoid physical labour entirely. Rather than a normal political party, it is a huge bureaucratic structure which strives to oversee the country’s economy and society in its entirety. [Source: Fyodor Tertitskiy for NK News, part of the North Korea network, The Guardian, December 22, 2015]
See See Separate Article KOREAN WORKERS' PARTY (KWP): ITS HISTORY, ORGANIZATION AND MEMBERS
Domination of the Korean Workers' Party in North Korea
North Korea is a Communist state dominated by the Korean Workers' Party. The leader of the party wields unrivaled power. Kim Il Sung, leader of North Korea, from its creation in 1945 to his death 1994, was president of North Korea and general secretary of the Korean Workers' Party. Following his death, his son, Kim Jong Il inherited power. Kim Jong Il was named General Secretary of the Korean Workers' Party in October 1997, and in September 1998, he was recon-firmed Kim Jong Il as Chairman of the National Defense Commission, a position which was then declared "highest office of state."
Traditionally, the highest positions in the North Korea government has been general of secretary of the Workers Party of Korea. But these are now occupied by the deceased leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il as Eternal President and Eternal General Secretary respectively. Currently Kim Jong Un’s most important title seems to be Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army. The Korean People's Army is technically under the Korean Worker’s Party.
According to “Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies”: “The Korean Workers' Party (KWP) has dominated the North Korean political system since 1948. As a communist party opposed to free enterprise, it controls the economy with little room for private initiative. The state is the country's only economic actor, its only economic planner, and its sole employer. The suppression of any form of political dissent has not allowed opposition parties to advance an alternative economic model. [Source: “Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies”, The Gale Group Inc., 2002]
“The constitution, created in 1948 and revised in 1972, 1992, and 1998, calls for a single legislative body called the Supreme People's Assembly, with 687 seats. Though Assembly members are "elected," in fact the KWP supplies a single list of candidates who are elected without opposition. The Assembly members similarly elect the premier, but true executive power lies with the” supreme leader. “There is also a judicial branch whose members are selected by the Supreme People's Assembly.
Head of the North Korean Government
North Korea has been led by three leaders: Kim Il Sung (1945-1994), Kim Jong Il (1994-2011) and Kim Jong Un (2011-). The current leader of North Korea — Kim Jong Un — has been Supreme Leader of North Korea since December 2011. His father Kim Jong Il died shortly before he took power. In pervious years, Kim Jong Il steadily gave Kim Jong Un various titles that made it clear he was the designated successor. The Korean Workers' Party continues to list deceased leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il as Eternal President and Eternal General Secretary respectively
Kim Jong Un was officially declared Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army in December 2011 which cemented his control over North Korea. He became the Chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea at a party congress in May 2016. Kim holds many titles and offices. Among his highest titles are General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. When he is mentioned in North Korean media and publications, he is most commonly referred to as "Respected Supreme Leader Comrade Kim Jong-un". [Source: Wikipedia]
North Korea is a classic example of the "rule of man." Overall, political management is highly personalized and is based on loyalty to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un and the Korean Workers' Party (KWP). The cult of personality, the nepotism of the Kim family, and the strong influence of former anti-Japanese partisan veterans and military leaders are unique features of North Korean politics. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1993 *]
In true dynastic fashion, Kim Jong Il groomed one of his sons — Kim Jong Un — as his successor. Signs of possible change in the leadership structure and succession scenario — or at least a reduction in Kim’s personality cult — emerged in the summer and fall of 2004, when reports were received that portraits of Kim Jong Il were being removed from public sites. The position of president ceased to exist with the elder Kim’s death in 1994. The premier has been head of government since April 2007
Executive Branch of North Korea
Executive branch: A) head of government: State Affairs Commission Chairman Kim Jong Un (since December 17, 2011). He functions as the commander-in-chief and chief executive. B) chief of state: Supreme People's Assembly President Choe Ryong Hae (since April 11. 2019). In this largely ceremonial position, he functions as the technical head of state and performs related duties, such as receiving ambassadors' credentials. C) The Cabinet or Naegak is comprised of members appointed by the Supreme People's Assembly except the Minister of People's Armed Forces. "The Cabinet is the administrative and executive body of the highest organ of State power and a general state management organ. The Cabinet consists of the Premier, vice premiers, chairmen of commissions, ministers and some other necessary members." D) Elections and appointments: The chief of state and premier are indirectly elected by the Supreme People's Assembly. The last election was held on March 10, 2019. Kim Jong Un was reelected unopposed. The next election is scheduled for March 2024). [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020]
North Korea is a communist state under the one-man leadership of the chairman of the National Defense Commission — the nation’s “highest administrative authority,” supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), and general secretary of the Korean Workers’ Party (KWP). Kim Jong Il was first appointed to the National Defense Commission by his father, President Kim Il Sung, in April 1993, and he was reelected to this position in 1998 and 2003. Despite the consolidation of party, state, and military structures under the leadership of one man, some analysts see these three power centers as rivals for power, with the military in the ascendant. [Source: Library of Congress, July 2007**]
The position of president ceased to exist with the elder Kim’s death in 1994. The premier (currently Kim Yong-il) is head of government (since April 2007) and is assisted by three vice premiers and a cabinet of 27 ministers, all of whom are appointed by the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA). A twenty-eighth minister, the minister of the People’s Armed Forces (Kim Il- ch’ol), is not subordinate to the cabinet but answers directly to Kim Jong Il. However, observers believe that Cho Myong-nok, first vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, is North Korea’s most powerful military figure. The SPA is a unicameral legislative body with 687 members who are elected by popular vote for five-year terms. The president of the SPA Presidium (Kim Yong-nam) is North Korea’s titular head of state. The KWP approves a list of SPA candidates who are elected without opposition, but some seats are held by approved minor parties. The constitution was adopted in 1948, completely revised in December 1972, and revised again in April 1992 and September 1998. **
Central People's Committee of the North Korean Government
The top executive decision-making body is the Central People's Committee (CPC) created under the 1972 constitution. Seven articles in the 1992 constitution relate to the CPC. The president of the DPRK is the head of the CPC; it is also composed of the vice presidents, the CPC secretary, and unspecified "members." The term is the same as that for the SPA. All CPC members are elected by the SPA and can be recalled by the assembly on presidential recommendation. Inasmuch as CPC members overlap with the top-ranking members of the party's Political Bureau, the CPC provides the highest visible institutional link between the government and the party and serves in effect as a de facto super-cabinet. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1993 *]
The CPC's formal powers are all-inclusive. Among its responsibilities are formulating domestic and foreign policies, directing the work of the State Administration Council and its local organs, directing the judiciary, ensuring the enforcement of the constitution and other laws, appointing or removing the vice premiers and cabinet members, establishing or changing administrative subdivisions or their boundaries, and ratifying or abolishing treaties signed with foreign countries. The CPC also may issue decrees, decisions, and instructions.*
The CPC oversees nine commissions: economic policy, foreign policy, internal policy, justice and security, legislative, national defense, parliamentary group, state inspection, and state price fixing. The members of these commissions are appointed by the CPC. The National Defense Commission's vice chairmen (an unspecified number) are elected by the SPA on the recommendation of the president, who also is chairman of the commission.*
State Administration Council of the North Korean Government
Since 1972 the highest administrative arm of the government has been the State Administration Council. From 1948 to 1972, the cabinet was the highest level of the executive branch. The 1972 constitution changed the name and role of the cabinet. The newly named State Administration Council has a similar function to that of the cabinet, but is directed by the president and the CPC. The State Administration Council is composed of the premier (chong-ri), vice premiers (bochong-ri), ministers (boojang), committee chairmen, and other cabinet-level members of central agencies. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1993 *]
Among its duties, the council is responsible for foreign affairs, national defense, public order and safety, economic and industrial affairs, general government operation, concluding treaties with foreign countries and conducting external affairs, and safeguarding the rights of the people. It also has the power to countermand decisions and directives issued by subordinate organs. The formulation of state economic development plans and measures for implementing them, the preparation of the state budget, and the handling of other monetary and fiscal matters also are under the council's jurisdiction.*
As of mid-1993, the State Administration Council, headed by Premier Kang Song-san since December 1992, had ten vice premiers. Vice premiers often concurrently are ministers or chairpersons of cabinet-level commissions. Under the premier and vice premiers, there are ministries, commissions, and other bodies of the State Administration Council. Governmental responsibilities that require coordination and a close working relationship among two or more ministries are generally placed under a commission, whose chairman usually holds the title of vice premier.*
High Level North Korean Government Organizations
The party congress, the highest KWP organ, meets infrequently. As of mid-1993, the most recently held congress was the Sixth Party Congress of October 1980. The official agent of the party congress is the Central Committee. As of July 1991, the Sixth Party Congress Central Committee had 329 members: 180 full members and 149 alternate members. Nearly 40 percent of these members, 131 members, are first-termers. Among the 329 members, the technocrats — economists, managers, and technicians — are the most numerous. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1993 *]
The Central Committee holds a plenum, or plenary session, at least once every six months to discuss major issues. The plenum also elects the general secretary, members of the Political Bureau (called the Political Committee until October 1980), and its Standing Committee, or Presidium, which was established in October 1980.*
In early 1981, the Political Bureau had thirty-four members: nineteen regular members and fifteen alternate members. This figure was substantial increase in membership from the Fifth Party Congress, when there were eleven regular members and five alternate members. As of 1992, however, the Political Bureau had only twenty-four members — fourteen regular members and ten alternate members — because a number of the members either had died or had stepped down. The inner circle of powerful leaders within the Political Bureau include the president, premier, vice premiers, and minister of the people's armed forces.*
Several central organizations are subordinate to the Political Bureau Presidium. One of the most important executive organs is the Secretariat of the Central Committee, led by General Secretary Kim Il Sung and eleven other secretaries as of mid-1992. Each secretary is in charge of one or more departmental party functions. Other key bodies include the Central Military Commission headed by Kim Il Sung; the Central Auditing Committee, the fiscal watchdog of the party; and the Central Inspection Committee, which enforces party discipline and acts as a trial and appeals board for disciplinary cases.*
The various departments of the Secretariat of the Central Committee depend for implementation of party policies and directives on the party committees in the provincial- and countylevel administrative divisions and in organizations where there are more than 100 party members — for example, major enterprises, factories, government offices, military units, and schools. In the countryside, village party committees are formed with a minimum of fifty party members. The basic party units are cells to which all party members belong and through which they participate in party organizational activities. Attendance at cell meetings and party study sessions, held at least once a week, is mandatory.*
Central Committee of the Korean Worker’s Party
The Central Committee of the Korean Worker’s Party (KWP or WPK) is the highest party body except when a national congress or meeting is taking place.According to KWP rules, the Central Committee is elected by the party congress and the party conference can be conferred the right to renew its membership composition. In practice, the Central Committee has the ability to dismiss and appoint new members without consulting with the wider party at its own plenary sessions. [Source: Wikipedia]
The country as whole is ruled by the Central Committee, which is presided over by 19-member the Politburo, which in turn is presided over by the five-member Presidium. The First Central Committee was elected at the First KWP Congress in 1946. It had 43 members. The numbers of Central Committee members have increased over time. A total of 235 Central Committee members were selected at 7th Congress in 2017. There are also non-voting alternate members.
The party congress, the highest KWP organ, meets infrequently. This means the Central Committee is effectively the highest political body the rest of the time. Also, the official agent of the party congress is the Central Committee. As of July 1991, the Sixth Party Congress Central Committee had 180 full members and 149 alternate members. Nearly 40 percent of these members, 131 members, were first-termers. Among the 329 members, the technocrats — economists, managers, and technicians — are the most numerous. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1993 *]
See See Separate Article KOREAN WORKERS' PARTY (KWP): ITS HISTORY, ORGANIZATION AND MEMBERS
Politburo of North Korea
The Politburo of the North Korean government — officially the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), formerly the Political Committee (1946–61) — is the highest decision-making body in the Korean Worker’s Party, which governs North Korea. Article 25 of the Party Charter stipulates that "The Political Bureau of the Party Central Committee and its Standing Committee organize and direct all party work on behalf of the party Central Committee between plenary meetings. The Political Bureau of the Party Central Committee shall meet at least once every month." [Source: Wikipedia]
The Politburo is elected by the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea. Until April 1956, the Politburo was known as the Political Council. After Kim Il-sung's unitary ruling system was established in the 1960s, the Politburo was transformed from a decision-making body where policies could be discussed into a rubber stamp body. Leading members have disappeared without explanation; the last was Kim Tong-gyu, in 1977. Politburo members under Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il lacked a strong power base, and depended on the party leader for their position. Because of this, the Politburo became a loyal servant of the party leader.
The Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) of the Workers' Party of Korea was established in 1980. and became the highest WPK body when the Politburo and the Central Committee were not in session but now is largely dead. In early 1981, the Political Bureau had thirty-four members: nineteen regular members and fifteen alternate members. This figure was substantial increase in membership from the Fifth Party Congress, when there were eleven regular members and five alternate members. As of 1992, however, the Political Bureau had only twenty-four members — fourteen regular members and ten alternate members — because a number of the members either had died or had stepped down. The inner circle of powerful leaders within the Political Bureau include the president, premier, vice premiers, and minister of the people's armed forces. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1993 *]
Similar to the Central Committee, the Politburo was dormant during much of Kim Jong-il's rule. Members have typically been family members, relatives, or close loyal associates of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il or Kim Jong Un such as Kim Kyong-hui (Kim Jong-il's sister) and Jang Song-thaek (Kim Kyong-hui's husband), who Kim Jong Un later executed with an anti-aircraft gun for presumably for threatening Kim’s hold in power.
Officially, the Politburo is responsible for conducting its activities as well as deciding on important issues between two Central Committee plenums. Its members include important state and military leaders, as the Premier and the vice-chairmen of the State Affairs Commission. As of 10 January 2021, the Politburo is composed of 19 members and 11 alternate members. Members include 1) General Secretary Kim Jong-un; 2) Vice Chairman of the State Affairs Commission Choe Ryong-hae; and 3) Ri Pyong-chol, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission; 4) Kim Tok-hun, Premier of North Korea; and 5) Pak Jong-chon, Chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army.
Presidium of North Korea
Presidium (formerly the Standing Committee) is the inner body of The Politburo. It is elected by the Korean Worker’s Party (RWP or WPK) Central Committee and in charge of day-to-day party work. It is usually made up of the supreme leader and four other members. In practice, the Presidium is the highest body in both the party and the country, and its decisions de facto have the force of law.The presidium serves as the inner circle for the supreme leader,, advising on political decisions. [Source: Wikipedia]
The Presidium is official known as the Political Bureau of the Workers' Party of Korea. It was known as the Standing Committee from 1946 to 1961. Historically it has been composed of one to five members. Now it has five members. Technically it was set up to conduct policy discussions and make decisions on major issues when the Politburo is not in session and is supposed to reports to the Politburo, which in turn reports to the larger Central Committee. But in practice the Presidium is supreme these parent bodies and serves acts as the most powerful decision-making body in North Korea. The Politburo and Central Committee are expected to follow the directives of the Presidium. As North Korea is a one-party state, the Presidium's decisions have the de facto force of law. Its role is roughly the same as the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China.
The five members of the Presidium are:1) Kim Jong Un, Supreme Leader of North Korea; 2) Choe Ryong-hae, President of the Presidium; 3) Choe Yong-rim, Premier; 4) Vice Marshal Jo Myong-rok, Director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army; and 5) Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho, Chief of the General Staff).
In the 1990s and maybe today too several central organizations were subordinate to the Political Bureau Presidium. One of the most important executive organs was the Secretariat of the Central Committee, led by General Secretary Kim Il Sung and eleven other secretaries as of mid-1992. Each secretary was in charge of one or more departmental party functions. Other key bodies included the Central Military Commission headed by Kim Il Sung; the Central Auditing Committee, the fiscal watchdog of the party; and the Central Inspection Committee, which enforces party discipline and acts as a trial and appeals board for disciplinary cases. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1993 *]
Ruling Elite of North Korea
Influence and prestige within the party power structure are directly associated with the rank order in which the members of the Central Committee are listed. Key posts in party, government, and economic organs are assigned; higher-ranking Central Committee members also are found in the armed forces, educational and cultural institutions, and other social and mass organizations. Many leaders concurrently hold multiple positions within the party, the government, and the military. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1993 *]
Persons with at least one major position in leading party, government, and military organs are considered the ruling elite. This group includes all political leaders who are, at a given time, directly involved in the preparation of major policy decisions and who participate in the inner circle of policy making. The ruling elite include Political Bureau members and secretaries of the KWP, Central People's Committee members, members of the State Administration Council, and members of the Central Military Commission and the National Defense Commission. Because overlapping membership is common in public office, topranking office holders number less than 100. In any event, those having the most influential voice in policy formulation are members of the Political Bureau Presidium. *
Top leaders share a number of common social characteristics. They belong to the same generation; the average age of the party's top fifty leaders was about sixty-eight years in 1990. By the end of 1989, aging members of the anti-Japanese partisan group accounted for 24 percent of the Political Bureau's full members. There is no clear evidence of regional underrepresentation. Nonetheless, many Hamgyong natives are included in the inner circle — for example, O Chin-u, Pak Sngch 'l, Kim Yong-nam, and Kye Ung-t'ae. The latter is a member of the Secretariat of the Central Committee and secretary in charge of economics.*
Juche, instrumental in providing a consistent and unifying framework for commitment and action in the political arena, offers a foundation for the party's incessant demand for spartan austerity, sacrifice, discipline, and dedication. It has not yet been determined, however, whether juche is an asset or liability for Kim. Nonetheless, Kim is likely to continue to emphasize juche as the only satisfactory answer to all challenging questions in North Korea, particularly because he attributes the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and East European countries to their lack of juche ideology.*
Graduates of the first class of the Mangyongdae Revolutionary Institute, established in 1947, support Kim Jong Il's power base. Many of these graduates occupy key positions in government and the military. For example, O Guk-nyol and General Paek Hak-nim — the latter, the minister of public security — are members of the Central Military Commission, KWP Central Committee, and the SPA; Kim Hwan, the former minister of chemical industry and a vice premier as of mid-1993, is a member of both the KWP Central Committee and the SPA; and Kim Yong-sun, a candidate member of the Politburo, is the director of the International Affairs Department, KWP Central Committee.*
Supreme People's Assembly (SPA): the North Korean Legislature
Legislative branch of North Korea: The unicameral Supreme People's Assembly (Ch'oego Inmin Hoeui) has 687 seats. Members are directly elected by majority vote (in two rounds if needed) to serve five-year terms. The Korean Workers' Party selects all candidates. Elections were last held on March 10. 2019. next to be held March 2024). [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020 =]
Results of the 2019 Legislative Election: Seats by party — Korean Worker’s Party (KWP) — 607; KSDP — 50; Chondoist Chongu Party — 22; General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) — 5; religious associations 3; ruling party approves a list of candidates who are elected without opposition; composition — men 575, women 112, percent of women 16. 3 percent. KWP, KSDP, Chondoist Chongu Party, and Chongryon are under the KWP's control; a token number of seats reserved for minor parties. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020]
The North Korean constitution says that all the highest bodies of the North Korean government — the National Defense Commission, the Politburo, the Presidium and the Central Committee of the Korean Worker’s Party — are all under Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) and that SPA. is "the highest organ of state power" the opposite is true.
According to the “Columbia Encyclopedia”: Although nominally a republic governed by the Supreme People's Assembly, North Korea is actually ruled by the Korea Workers party, the North Korean Communist party. The ruling party approves a list of candidates who are generally elected without opposition. [Source: “Columbia Encyclopedia”, 6th ed., Columbia University Press]
According to Associated Press: On paper, the Supreme People’s Assembly is the highest organ of North Korea’s government. Because it’s an elected body, it puts the “D” in the DPRK. But in reality, it is not where the decisions are made. That is done by Kim and his coterie — the leaders of the military and the ruling party, Andrei Lankov, a professor at Kookmin University in South Korea, called the assembly “the purest manifestation of a rubber-stamp body.” “To the best of my knowledge,” he said, “not a single SPA member has ever voted against a bill or motion introduced by the government.” [Source: Associated Press, March 9, 2014]
Duties and Composition of the Supreme People's Assembly
The Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) convenes irregularly once or twice a year. It is a rubber stamp parliament that in name has the authority to write laws, select the Cabinet and approve and settle the government’s budget. Representatives are hand picked by the Korean Worker’s Party.
According to Associated Press: “The assembly is currently composed of 687 deputies ranging from the country’s most powerful leaders to exemplary farmers or labourers. They meet for a few days each year and ratify whatever is put before them. There are no opposition parties, though smaller groups in harmony with the status quo do have seats. [Source: Associated Press, March 9, 2014]
The SPA it is not influential and does not initiate legislation independently of other party and state organs. Invariably the legislative process is set in motion by executive bodies according to the predetermined policies of the party leadership. The assembly is not known to have ever criticized, modified, or rejected a bill or a measure placed before it, or to have proposed an alternative bill or measure. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1993 *]
Kim Jong Un has to be elected to the legislature like everyone else. SPA meetings are similar to party meetings in Beijing. There are long-winded speeches by high-level government and military officials, greeted by enthusiastic applause by the multitude of party members. The National budget is rubber stamped. Kim Jong Un is usually present. Sometimes Kim Jong Il went the entire meeting without publically saying anything. .
Supreme People's Assembly in the 1990s
The constitution provides for the SPA to be elected every five years by universal suffrage. Article 88 indicates that legislative power is exercised by the SPA and the Standing Committee of the SPA when the assembly is not in session. Elections to the Ninth Supreme People's Assembly were held in April 1990, with 687 deputies, or representatives, elected. The KWP approves a single list of candidates who stand for election without opposition. Deputies usually meet once a year in regular sessions in March or April, but since 1985 they have also met occasionally in extraordinary sessions in November or December. Sessions are convened by the assembly's Standing Committee, whose chairman as of 1992 was Yang Hyong-sop (also a full member of the KWP Central Committee and a vice chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland). Assembly members are elected by the deputies, as are the chairman and vice chairmen. The assembly also has five committees: Bills, Budget, Foreign Affairs, Qualifications Screening, and Reunification Policy Deliberation.*
Article 91 states that the assembly has the authority to adopt or amend the constitution, laws, and ordinances; formulate the basic principles of domestic and foreign policies; elect or recall the president of the state and other top officials of the government; approve the state economic plan and national budget; and decide whether to ratify or abrogate treaties and questions of war and peace. Matters deliberated are submitted by the president, the Central People's Committee, the assembly's Standing Committee, the State Administration Council (the cabinet), or individual deputies.*
Assembly decisions are made by a simple majority and signified by a show of hands. Deputies, each representing a constituency of approximately 30,000 persons, are guaranteed inviolability and immunity from arrest. Between assembly sessions, the Standing Committee does legislative work; this body may also interpret and amend the laws and ordinances in force, conduct the election of deputies to the SPA, organize the election of deputies to local legislative bodies, conduct election of deputies to the SPA, convene sessions of the SPA and people's assessors or lay judges, and elect or recall judges of the Central Court.*
Supreme People's Assembly Meetings in the 2010s
The rubberstamp Supreme People's Assembly meets annually to adopt formally the state budget, and to approve important appointments and legal amendments, but is also used to make formal announcements of decisions by the state leadership. Describing a rare second session of parliament five months after holding the first meeting under then new leader, Kim Jong-un, the official North Korean KCNA news agency said: "The Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People's Assembly Monday made public a decision on convening a session of the Supreme People's Assembly. According to the decision, the 6th Session of the 12th SPA is to be held in Pyongyang on September 25" it said, referring to the reclusive North's official name of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. [Source: Reuters, September 5, 2012]
According to Reuters: “The statement did not say what was on the session's agenda” but was largely seen as a forum for plans to repair its broken economy. The parliament last met in April, on the day the North unsuccessfully tried to launch a rocket, seen as a long-range missile test in disguise, and was largely overshadowed by international warnings over the launch. North Korea, under the untested leadership of young ruler Kim, has been signalling plans to introduce changes to the way it runs its economy and agriculture, which have not been able to support its 24 million population.
“Kim, who took over in December, has projected a sharply different image from his reclusive late father, but there have been no firm signs of any fundamental switch in policy. Drought and widespread flooding this year are believed to have hit the North's farm production hard, possibly cutting grain output by as much as 13 percent. North Korea announced new investment laws this year for its special economic zones on the border with China, where it is seeking investment from Chinese companies. However experts said the new regulations fall short of offering secure and attractive incentives for investment from China, its sole major ally to reform its economy.
On an SPA meeting in 2017, Associated Press reported: “North Korea's parliament has convened, with the country's leader, Kim Jong Un, taking the center seat. The Supreme People's Assembly normally meets once or twice a year at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in central Pyongyang. The parliament consists of approximately 600 deputies from around the country. Its meetings usually confirm new domestic policies, changes to the constitution, budget decisions, laws and official appointments. Foreign media are not allowed to attend, and the account of the meeting is based only on North Korean state media reports. [Source: April 11, 2017 Associated Press]
Judicial Branch and Central Court of North Korea
The judicial branch consists of the Central Court. or Supreme Court — the highest court in the land. It consists of one judge and two "People's Assessors" or, for some cases, three judges. Judges are elected by the Supreme People's Assembly for 5-year terms. The subordinate courts are the lower provincial courts as determined by the Supreme People's Assembly [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020]
Under the guidance of the Justice and Security Commission of the Central People's Committee, the two main components of the post- 1945 judicial system are the Central Court and Central Procurator systems. These organizations perform their functions as "powerful weapons of the proletariat dictatorship, which execute the judicial policies of the Korean Workers' Party." [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1993 *]
The Central Court is the final court of appeal for criminal and civil cases and has initial jurisdiction for grievous crimes against the state. According to the constitution, the Central Court is accountable to the SPA (the North Korean legislature) and the SPA has the power to elect and recall the president of the Central Court and to appoint or remove the president of the Central Procurator's Office (Article 91, items 12-13). The Standing Committee of the Supreme People's Assembly interprets the laws and ordinances in force and elects and recalls judges and people's assessors of the Central Court (Article 101, items 3, 9).
The Central Court supervises all lower courts and the training of judges. It does not exercise the power of judicial review over the constitutionality of executive or legislative actions nor does it have an activist role in protecting the constitutionally guaranteed rights of individuals against state actions. The Central Court is staffed by a chief judge or president, two associate chief judges or vice presidents, and an unknown number of regular judges. The Central Court also arbitrates matters involving the nonfulfillment of contracts between state enterprises and cases involving injuries and compensation demands. These administrative decisions always reflect party policies.*
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons.
Text Sources: UNESCO, Wikipedia, Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook, World Bank, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Chunghee Sarah Soh in “Countries and Their Cultures”, “Columbia Encyclopedia”, Korea Times, Korea Herald, The Hankyoreh, JoongAng Daily, Radio Free Asia, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, Daily NK, NK News, BBC, AFP, The Atlantic, Yomiuri Shimbun, The Guardian and various books and other publications.
Updated in July 2021