North Korea Government and Politics

Following the 1972 constitution, last revised in 1998, North Korea is a unified state democratic people ‘s republic.

The Constitution emphasizes the country’s revolutionary traditions. The ideological basis is the idea of Juche, self-sufficiency and independence, as it is targeted by the state-bearing party, the Korean Labor Party.

North Korea Country Flag

The state-carrying party

The Korean Labor Party, led by Kim Il Sung, came to power in the Soviet-occupied northern part of the Korean Peninsula in 1946. North Korea was proclaimed a separate state in 1948.

Kim Il Sung became prime minister in 1947 and president in 1972. He ruled until his death in 1994 and introduced a more personal and personalizing regime than any other communist head of state. As long as he lived, in all official contexts he was referred to as “the great leader” (widaehan suryong); According to a constitutional amendment in 1998, even after his death, he is “the eternal president of the republic” and is referred to as “the sun of mankind”.

After Kim Il Sung, the son took over Kim Jong Il, whose formal power base in the state apparatus was as prime minister and chairman of the national defense commission as well as the secretary general of the labor party; he is also referred to as “the sun of mankind.” Kim Jong-il died on December 17, 2011, and then his son Kim Jong-un took over.

People’s Assembly and Cabinet

Formally, the power lies with the working people, who exercise power through the upper general assembly and public assemblies at lower administrative levels. The supreme assembly has 687 members and is elected in the general election for five years. The voting age is 17 years. The Assembly has formal legislative and granting authority, and it elects the head of state and other key leaders, including members of the Assembly’s presidency, the head of the Cabinet (the prime minister) and the chief judges; most personal elections are made on the suggestion of the country’s leader Kim Jong-un.

The President of the Bureau of the Supreme People’s Assembly is also the country’s titular head of state, but has no real power. The authority of the assembly is more formal than real; it meets a few days a year and leaves most of the work to the presidency.

The executive power lies with the Cabinet, which is headed by the Prime Minister and acts as a government. The Cabinet is responsible for a number of commissions and ministries, and it is formally responsible to the Supreme Assembly. The prime minister presides over cabinet meetings and is also chairman of the national defense commission; he approves legislative decisions in the popular assembly and decisions made by the presidency of the assembly.

Through the “Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland,” the Korean Labor Party nominates candidates for all elections to the People’s Assembly. These are chosen without counter-candidates; turnout is officially close to 100 percent, and very few No votes are cast. The party’s supreme body is formally the party congress; it works through a central committee of its choice, and the committee again through a political agency of its choice. The Politburo chooses a presidency, and this is the most important body of power for the party and the state. The Secretary-General of the Central Committee is at the same time chairman of the Bureau of the Politburo and the real leader of the party. As tradition has been in communist countries, the party runs a number of mass organizations it uses to create support for the regime.


The country is divided into nine provinces (do), three special administrative regions (chibu) and two direct-managed cities (chikhalsi) – the capital Pyongyang and the border town of Rason, and these again into 190 cities (si) and counties (only). They have a system of governance similar to the national one, with elected public assemblies as the formally supreme bodies. In reality, the local units have little authority.


The central court directs the judiciary and oversees lower courts; its members are elected by the Supreme People’s Assembly. At lower levels there are provincial and local tribunals. All courts are composed of both legal judges and lay judges, so-called “people’s bishops”. Parallel to the courts, there is a separate solicitor system, with a general solicitor as the chief executive. The general procurator is elected by the Supreme People’s Assembly. Neither the courts nor the solicitors are independent of the political authorities.

North Korea Head of Government

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