North Korea: Political structure

Content Type
Country Data and Maps
Economist Intelligence Unit
No abstract is available.
Politics, Summary, Political structure
Political Geography
North Korea

Official name

Democratic People's Republic of Korea

Form of government

One-party rule, based on the ideology of juche (self-reliance) and songun (military-first)

The executive

On the death of Kim Jong-il in late 2011, his son, Kim Jong-un, was hailed as the new supreme leader. Kim Jong-un was formally appointed to the highest state and party positions as first secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), first chairman of the State Affairs Commission (SAC) and supreme commander of the Korean People's Army (KPA). Under the constitution, the SAC is the highest state body, although it is nominally under the control of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA, the legislature)

Head of state

The president of the SPA presidium performs the formal duties of the head of state, but ultimate executive power lies with the chairman of the SAC

National legislature

The unicameral 687-member SPA usually meets for only one day each year during its five-year term. Its presidium (formally, the standing committee of the SPA) substitutes for the legislature when the SPA is not in session

Regional legislatures

Each province, city, county and district elects people's assemblies or committees. These committees elect local officials to carry out centrally decided policies

National elections

The 14th SPA was elected in 2019. North Korea has communist-style elections, with a single list of candidates, and a claimed turnout and "yes" votes approaching 100%

National government

The WPK, under the leadership of Kim Jong-un, controls all arms of the state. Military figures grew in influence following the death of North Korea's founder, Kim Il-sung, in 1994, but this tendency is now waning

Main political parties

The WPK is nominally in coalition with the Social Democratic Party and the Chondoist Chongu Party

Occupants of key state and party positions

SAC first chairman, supreme commander of the KPA & WPK first secretary: Kim Jong-un

SAC vice-chairmen:

Choe Ryong-hae

Park Pong-ju

Hwang Pyong-so

SPA presidium president: Kim Yong-nam

SPA chairman: Choe Thae-bok

SPA secretary-general: Hong Son-ok

Premier: Pak Pong-ju

Minister of foreign affairs: Ri Son-gwon

Minister of the People's Armed Forces: No Kwang-chol

KPA general politburo director: Hwang Pyong-so

Minister of state security: Jong Kyong-thaek

Minister of people's security: Choe Pu-il

Notable WPK politburo members:

Ri Su-yong

Kim Yong-chol

Ri Yong-ho

Yang Hyong-sop

Ri Myong-su

Kim Yo-jong

Central bank president

Kim Chon-gyun

Data provided by: