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Politics of North Korea

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Propaganda showing a soldier destroying the US Capitol
Propaganda showing a soldier destroying the US Capitol

North Korea's political system is built upon the principle of Democratic Centralism (not to be confused with Democracy). The current ruling party is the Korean Workers Party (KWP). Though the KWP has ruled since North Korea's political beginnings in 1948, the Chondoist Chongu Party and the Social Democratic Party also have elected officials. 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.

Under Songun politics, the National Defence Commission is one of the highest organs of the state, not only managing the DPRK on a defence level, but also on an international level. The Supreme Peoples Assembly is responsible for more civilian and domestic matters. Following the death of Kim Il Sung, his son—Kim Jong-il—was elected General Secretary of the Korean Workers' Party in October 1997, and in September 1998, Kim Jong-il was elected as Chairman of the National Defense Commission and the Supreme People's Assembly declared that position as the "highest office of state." North Korea's 5th Constitution was written in September 1998, replacing the previous 1972 edition (last ammended 1992). The government is led by the Supreme People's Assembly. The president of the Supreme People's Assembly is Kim Yong Nam. The Premier is Hong Song-Nam. The Eternal Korean President is Kim Il Sung, a title given posthumously.

Although North Korea is widely considered a communist country in the Western world, this can be attributed to the historical conflation of "communism" with "socialism" in the West.

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. External sources regard this 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."

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.

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, Shinŭiju, 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

See also

Last updated: 05-02-2005 01:26:30