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North Korea - GOVERNMENT

North Korea - GOVERNMENT

North Korea

THE DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF KOREA (DPRK, or North Korea) was liberated from Japanese colonial rule by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II (1939-45). When Kim Il Sung, born April 15, 1912, returned to North Korea from the Soviet Union where he and his guerrillas had been based from 1941-45, the Soviet occupation forces in the northern part of the country presented him to the North Korean people as a hero. In mid-1993 Kim Il Sung was general secretary of North Korea's ruling party and president of the state.

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 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.

Kim Il Sung's eldest son Kim Jong Il, born February 16, 1942, is a secretary of the KWP Central Committee Secretariat and chairman of the National Defense Commission. On December 24, 1991, Kim Jong Il succeeded his father as commander of the Korean People's Army.

In addition, as of mid-1993, Kim Il Sung's wife, Kim Song-ae, was a member of the KWP Central Committee, a member of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People's Assembly, a deputy to the assembly, and chairwoman of the Korean Democratic Women's Union Central Committee. Kim Il Sung's daughter, Kim Kyong-hui, was a member of the KWP Central Committee and deputy to the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), and his son-in-law, Chang Songtaek , was premier and a candidate member of the KWP Central Committee and deputy to the SPA. Kang Song-san, Kim Il Sung's cousin by marriage, was premier and a member of the KWP Central Committee and Political Bureau, deputy to the SPA, and member of the state Central People's Committee (CPC). The late Ho Tam, who died in 1991, was Kim Il Sung's brother-in-law, a member of the KWP Central Committee and Political Bureau, chairman of the SPA Foreign Affairs Committee, deputy to the SPA, and chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland.

Although the Korean communist party dates from the 1920s, North Korea claims that the KWP was founded by Kim Il Sung in 1945. Since that time, North Korea has been under the one-party rule of the KWP. The party is by far North Korea's most politically significant entity; its preeminence in all spheres of society places it beyond the reach of dissent or disagreement. Party membership is composed of the "advanced fighters" among North Korea's working people: workers, peasants, and working intellectuals who struggle devotedly for the success of the socialist and communist cause. The KWP claimed a membership of "over three million" people in 1988. The ruling elite considers KWP members the major mobilizing and developmental cadres. In principle, every worker, peasant, soldier, and revolutionary element can join the party. Among KWP members, however, the military has a major political role, and all key military leaders have prestigious positions in top party organs.

The political system originally was patterned after the Soviet model. The party is guided by the concept of chuch'e --"national self-reliance" in all activities. The essence of chuch'e is to apply creatively the general principles of Marxism and Leninism in the North Korean way (woorisik-dero salja). Chuch'e is a response to past political economic dependence. As historian DaeSook Suh has noted, chuch'e is "not the philosophical exposition of an abstract idea; rather it is firmly rooted in the North Korean people and Kim Il Sung."

In the decades since the departure of Soviet occupation forces in 1948, and as the party leadership gradually has grown more confident in its management of various problems, the system has been somewhat modified in response to specific domestic circumstances. In April 1992, North Korea promulgated an amended constitution that deleted Marxism and Leninism as principal national ideas and emphasized chuch'e. The constitutional revisions also granted supreme military power to the chairman of the National Defense Commission, Kim Il Sung.

Another salient feature of the country's political system is glorification of Kim Il Sung's authority and cult of personality. Kim uses the party and the government to consolidate his power. He is addressed by many honorary titles: the "great leader," the son of the nation, national hero, liberator, and the fatherly leader. According to the party, there can be no greater honor or duty than being loyal to him "absolutely and unconditionally." Kim's executive power is not checked by any constitutional provision. The party's principal concern is to ensure strict popular compliance with the policies of Kim Il Sung and the party; such compliance implants an appearance of institutional imprimatur on Kim's highly personalized and absolute rule. Politics as a function of competition for power by aspiring groups and promotion of the interests of special groups is not germane to the North Korean setting.

Personalism centers on Kim Il Sung, but he has been gradually preparing Kim Jong Il as heir apparent since 1971. Between 1971 and 1980, Kim Jong Il was given positions of increasing importance in the KWP hierarchy. Since the Sixth Party Congress in October 1980, Kim Jong Il's succession has been consolidated with his phased assumption of control over the civil administration, followed by his designation as supreme commander of the Korean People's Army in December 1991.


North Korea


North Korea

As of the early 1990s, the philosophy underlying the relationship between the government and the party had not changed since independence. Government organs are regarded as executors of the general line and policies of the party. They are expected to implement the policies and directives of the party by mobilizing the masses. All government officials or functionaries are exhorted to behave as servants of the people, rather than as overbearing "bureaucrats." The persistence in party literature of admonitory themes against formalism strongly suggests that authoritarian bureaucratic behavior remains a major source of concern to the party leadership. This concern may explain in part the party's intensified efforts since the early 1970s to wage an ideological struggle against the bureaucratic work style of officials. The general trend is toward tightened party control and supervision of all organs of administrative and economic policy implementation.

In January 1990, Kim Jong Il introduced the slogan "to serve the people" and directed party functionaries to mingle with the people and to devotedly work as faithful servants of the people. Kim said that the collapse of socialism in some countries is a stern lesson to North Korea and is related to failures in party building and party activity. He stressed the importance of reinforcing the party's ideological unity and cohesion, and elucidated tasks that would strengthen education in the principle of chuch'e, revolutionary traditional education, and socialist and patriotic education.

The party is the formulator of national purpose, priorities, and administrative hierarchy. It is the central coordinator of administrative and economic activities at the national and local levels. Through its own organizational channels, which permeate all government and economic agencies, the party continues to oversee administrative operations and enforce state discipline. Without exception, key government positions are filled by party loyalists, most of whom are trained in the North Korean system, which emphasizes ideology and practical expertise.

<>The Korean Workers' Party (KWP)
<>The Constitution

North Korea

North Korea - The Korean Workers' Party (KWP)

North Korea

The Korean Workers' Party (KWP) is North Korea's most politically significant entity. In theory, according to Article 21 of the Rules and Regulations of the Korean Workers' Party as revised in October 1980 (hereafter referred to as the party rules), the national party congress is the supreme party organ. The party congress approves reports of the party organs, adopts basic party policies and tactics, and elects members to the KWP Central Committee and the Central Auditing Committee. The election, however, is perfunctory because the members of these bodies are actually chosen by Kim Il Sung and his few trusted lieutenants. When the party congress is not in session, the Central Committee acts as the official agent of the party, according to Article 14 of the party rules. As of September 1992, the KWP had 160 Central Committee members and 143 Central Committee alternate (candidate) members. The Central Committee meets at least once every six months. Article 24 of the party rules stipulates that the Central Committee elects the general secretary of the party, members of the Political Bureau Presidium (or the Standing Committee), members of the Political Bureau (or Politburo), secretaries, members of the Central Military Commission, and members of the Central Inspection Committee. A party congress is supposed to be convened every five years, but as of 1993, one had not been held since the Sixth Party Congress of October 1980. Party congresses are attended by delegates elected by the members of provincial-level party assemblies at the ratio of one delegate for every 1,000 party members.

The long-delayed Sixth Party Congress, convened from October 10-14, 1980, was attended by 3,220 party delegates (3,062 full members and 158 alternate members) and 177 foreign delegates from 118 countries. Approximately 1,800 delegates attended the Fifth Party Congress in November 1970. The 1980 congress was convened by the KWP Central Committee to review, discuss, and endorse reports by the Central Committee, the Central Auditing Committee, and other central organs covering the activities of these bodies since the last congress.

The Sixth Party Congress reviewed and discussed the report on the work of the party in the ten years since the Fifth Party Congress. It also elected a new Central Committee. In his report to the congress, Kim Il Sung outlined a set of goals and policies for the 1980s. He proposed the establishment of a Democratic Confederal Republic of Kory as a reasonable way to achieve the independent and peaceful reunification of the country. Kim Il Sung also clarified a new ten-point policy for the unified state and stressed that North Korea and South Korea (the Republic of Korea, or ROK) should recognize and tolerate each other's ideas and social systems, that the unified central government should be represented by P'yongyang and Seoul on an equal footing, and that both sides should exercise regional autonomy with equal rights and duties. Specifically, the unified government should respect the social systems and the wishes of administrative organizations and of every party, every group, and every sector of people in the North and the South, and prevent one side from imposing its will on the other.

Kim Il Sung also emphasized the Three Revolutions, which were aimed at hastening the process of political and ideological transformation based on chuch'e ideology, improving the material and technical standards of the economy, and developing socialist national culture. According to Kim, these revolutions are the responsibility of the Three Revolution Team Movement--"a new method of guiding the revolution, which combined political and ideological guidance with scientific and technical guidance. This approach enabled the upper bodies to help the lower levels and rouse masses of the working people to accelerate the Three Revolutions." The teams perform their guidance work by sending their members to factories, enterprises, and cooperative farms. Their members are party cadres, including those from the KWP Central Committee, reliable officials of the government, persons from economic and mass organizations, scientists and technicians, and young intellectuals. Kim Il Sung left no question that the Three Revolution Team Movement had succeeded the Ch'llima Movement and would remain the principal vehicle through which the party pursued its political and economic objectives in the 1980s.

The linkage between party and economic work also was addressed by Kim Il Sung. In acknowledging the urgent task of economic construction, he stated that party work should be geared toward efficient economic construction and that success in party work should be measured by success in economic construction. Accordingly, party organizations were told to "push forward economic work actively, give prominence to economic officials, and help them well." Party officials were also advised to watch out for signs of independence on the part of technocrats.

The membership and organization of the KWP are specified in the party rules. There are two kinds of party members: regular and probationary. Membership is open to those eighteen years of age and older, but party membership is granted only to those who have demonstrated their qualifications; applications are submitted to a cell along with a proper endorsement from two party members of at least two years in good standing. The application is acted on by the plenary session of a cell; an affirmative decision is subject to ratification by a county-level party committee. A probationary period of one year is mandatory, but may be waived under certain unspecified "special circumstances." Recruitment is under the direction of the Organization and Guidance Department and its local branches. After the application is approved, an applicant must successfully complete a one-year probationary period before becoming a full party member.

North Korea

North Korea - The Constitution

North Korea

The constitutions of North Korea have been patterned after those of other communist states. The constitutional framework delineates a highly centralized governmental system and the relationship between the people and the state. On December 27, 1972, the Fifth Supreme People's Assembly ratified a new constitution to replace the first constitution, promulgated in 1948. Innovations of the 1972 constitution included the establishment of the positions of president and vice presidents and a super-cabinet called the Central People's Committee (CPC). The 1972 constitution was revised in April 1992, and ratified by the Sixth Supreme People's Assembly. The South Korean press published unofficial translations of the document in late 1992.

The revised constitution has 171 articles and seven chapters (twenty-two more and four less, respectively, than the 1972 constitution). Among the more significant changes are the elevation of chuch'e at the expense of Marxism-Leninism, the removal of references to the expulsion of foreign troops, and the addition of articles encouraging joint ventures, guaranteeing the "legitimate rights and interests of foreigners," and establishing a framework for expanded ties with capitalist countries. More important, the new constitution provides a legal framework for the 1991 appointment of Kim Jong Il as supreme commander of the armed forces by removing the military from the command of the president and by placing the military under the control of the National Defense Commission, of which he is chairman.

The eighteen articles of Chapter 1 deal with politics. Article 1 defines North Korea as an independent socialist state representing the interests of all the Korean people. Article 15 states that the DPRK defends the democratic, national rights of overseas Koreans and their legitimate rights under international law. Sovereignty emanates from four expressly mentioned social groups: workers, peasants, soldiers, and working intellectuals. State organs are organized on and operate on the principle of democratic centralism. In a change from the previous constitution, attaining "the complete victory of socialism in the northern half" was to be accomplished through the execution of the three revolutions of ideology, technology and culture, while struggling to realize unification of the fatherland by following the principles of independence, peaceful unification, and grand national unity. Previously socialism was to have been accomplished by driving out foreign forces on a countrywide scale and by reunifying the country peacefully on a democratic basis. Other articles in this chapter refer to the mass line, the Ch'ongsan-ni Method (or Ch'ongsan-ri) and spirit, and the Three Revolution Team Movement. The constitution states that foreign policy and foreign activities are based on the principles of independence, peace, and friendship. Diplomatic, political, economic, and cultural relations are to be established with all friendly countries based on the principles of complete equality, independence, mutual respect, noninterference in each other's internal affairs, and mutual benefit.

In Chapter 2, economic affairs are codified. The constitution declares that the means of production are owned by state and cooperative organizations. The text reiterates that natural resources, major factories and enterprises, harbors, banks, and transportation and telecommunications establishments are state owned and that land, draft animals, farm implements, fishing boats, buildings, and small- and medium-sized factories and enterprises may be owned by cooperative organizations. Article 24 defines personal property as that for personal use by the working people for the purpose of consumption and derived from the "socialist distribution according to work done and from additional benefits received from the state and society." Benefits derived from supplementary pursuits, such as the small garden plots of collectivized farmers, are considered personal property; such benefits are protected by the state as private property and are guaranteed by law as a right of inheritance. The planned, national economy is directed and managed through the Taean Work System.

Culture, education, and public health are covered in Chapter 3. Article 45 stipulates that the state develop a mandatory eleven-year education system, including one year of preschool education. Other articles state that education is provided at no cost and that scholarships are granted to students enrolled in colleges and professional schools. Education in nurseries and kindergartens is also at the state and society's expense. Article 56 notes that medical service is universal and free. Medical care and the right to education are also covered in Chapter 5 articles. Article 57 places environmental protection measures before production; this emphasis is in line with the attention given to preserving the natural environment and creating a "cultural and sanitary" living and working environment by preventing environmental pollution.

Chapter 5 extensively details the fundamental rights and duties of citizens. Citizens over the age of seventeen may exercise the right to vote and be elected to office regardless of gender, race, occupation, length of residency, property status, education, party affiliation, political views, and religion. Citizens in the armed forces may vote or to be elected; insane persons and those deprived by court decisions of the right to vote do not have the right to vote and be elected. According to Article 67, citizens have freedom of speech, publication, assembly, demonstration, and association. Citizens also have the right to work, and Article 70 stipulates that they work according to their ability and are remunerated according to the quantity and quality of work performed. Article 71 provides for a system of working hours, holidays, paid leave, sanitoriums, and rest homes funded by the state, as well as for cultural facilities. Article 76 accords women equal social status and rights. Women are also granted maternity leave and shortened working hours when they have large families. Marriage and the family are protected by the state.

Chapter 6, entitled "State Institutions," has eighty articles and eight sections--more sections than any other chapter. The chapter covers the Supreme People's Assembly, the president of the DPRK, the National Defense Commission, the Central People's Committee, the State Administration Council, the local people's assemblies and people's committees, the local administrative and economic committees, and the court and the procurator's office. Chapter 7, which covers the national emblem, the flag, and capital, describes the first two items, designates P'yongyang as the capital, and names the national anthem. In a change from the previous constitution, the 1992 revision mandates that "the sacred mountain of the revolution"--Paektu-san--be added to the national emblem. It is to stand above the existing symbols: a hydroelectric power plant, the beaming light of a five-pointed red star, ovally framed ears of rice bound with a red band, and the inscription "Democratic People's Republic of Korea."

North Korea


North Korea

The Supreme People's Assembly

Although under the constitution the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) is "the highest organ of state power," 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.

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.

The Executive Branch

The President and Vice Presidents

The president is the head of state and the head of government in his capacity as chairman of the Central People's Committee (CPC). The president is elected every four years by the SPA. The title "president" (chusk) was adopted in the 1972 constitution. Before 1972 an approximate equivalent of the presidency was the chairmanship of the Standing Committee of the SPA. The constitution has no provisions for removing, recalling, or impeaching the president, or for limiting the number of terms of service. On May 24, 1990, the SPA unanimously reelected Kim Il Sung to a fifth presidential term.

Presidential powers are stated only in generalities. The chief executive convenes and guides the State Administration Council as occasion demands. Under the 1972 constitution, he was also the supreme commander of the armed forces and chairman of the National Defense Commission--although Kim Il Sung appointed his son to the former position in December 1991 and to the latter position in April 1993. The president's prior assent is required for all laws, decrees, decisions, and directives. The president's edicts command the force of law more authoritatively than any other legislation. The president promulgates the laws and ordinances of the SPA; the decisions of the Standing Committee of the SPA; and the laws, ordinances, and decisions of the CPC. The president also grants pardons, ratifiers or abrogates treaties, and receives foreign envoys or requests their recall. No one serves in top government posts without the president's recommendation. Even the judiciary and the procurators are accountable to Kim Il Sung.

The constitution states that two vice presidents "assist" the president, but it does not elaborate a mode of succession. As of July 1992, Pak Sng-ch'l (elected in 1977) and Yi Chong-k (elected in 1984) were vice presidents of North Korea.

The Central People's Committee

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.

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.

The State Administration Council

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. 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.

The Judiciary

In the North Korean judicial process, both adjudicative and prosecuting bodies function as powerful weapons for the proletarian dictatorship. The constitution states that justice is administered by the central court, provincial- or special-city level courts, the people's court, or special courts.

The Central Court, the highest court of appeal, stands at the apex of the court system. As of July 1992, it had two associate chief judges, or vice presidents--Choe Yong-song and Hyon Hongsam . Pang Hak Se, who died in July 1992, had been chief judge, or president, since 1972. In the case of special cities directly under central authority, provincial or municipal courts serve as the courts of first instance for civil and criminal cases at the intermediate level. At the lowest level are the people's courts, established in ordinary cities, counties, and urban districts. Special courts exist for the armed forces and for railroad workers. The military courts have jurisdiction over all crimes committed by members of the armed forces or security organs of the Ministry of Public Security. The railroad courts have jurisdiction over criminal cases involving rail and water transport workers. In addition, the Korean Maritime Arbitration Committee adjudicates maritime legal affairs.

Judges and people's assessors, or lay judges, are elected by the organs of state power at their corresponding levels, those of the Central Court by the SPA's Standing Committee, and those of the lower courts by the provincial- and county-level people's assemblies. Neither legal education nor practical legal experience is required for judgeship. In addition to administering justice based on criminal and civil codes, the courts are in charge of political indoctrination through "reeducation." The issue of punishment is not expressly stated in the constitution or the criminal code.

The collective interests of the workers, peasants, soldiers, and working intellectuals are protected by a parallel hierarchy of organs controlled at the top by the Central Procurator's Office. This office acts as the state's prosecutor and checks on the activities of all public organs and citizens to ensure their compliance with the laws and their "active struggle against all lawbreakers." Its authority extends to the courts, the decisions of which (including those of the Central Court) are subject to routine scrutiny. A judgment of the Central Court may be appealed to the plenary session of the Central Court, of which the state's chief prosecutor is a statutory member.

The chief prosecutor, known as the procurator general, is appointed by and accountable in theory, though not in fact, to the SPA. As of mid-1993, the procurator general was Yi Yong-sp. There are three deputy procurators general.

Local Government

There are three levels of local government: province (do) and special province-level municipalities (chikalsi, or jikhalsi) (see Glossary); ordinary cities (si), urban districts (kuyk), and counties (gun, or kun); and traditional villages (ri, or ni). Towns and townships (myn) no longer functioned as administrative units in North Korea after the Korean War, but still exist in South Korea. At the village level, administrative and economic matters are the responsibility of the chairman of the cooperative farm management committee in each village.

As of mid-1993, there were nine provinces: Changang, North Hamgyng, and South Hamgyng, North Hwanghae and South Hwanghae, Kangwn, North P'yngan and South P'yngan, and Yanggang; three special provincial-level cities: Kaesng, Namp'o, and P'yongyang, municipalities under central authority; seventeen ordinary cities under provincial authority; thirty-six urban districts; over 200 counties; and some 4,000 villages. Among these divisions, the counties serve as the intermediate administrative link between provincial authorities and the grass-roots-level village organizations. Local organs at the county level provide other forms of guidance to such basic units as blocks and workers' districts (nodongja-ku).

Three types of local organs elect local officials to carry out centrally planned policies and programs: KWP local committees, local people's assemblies, and local administrative committees (such as local administration, economic guidance, and rural economic committees). These committees are local extensions of the three higher bodies at the national level: the Supreme People's Assembly, the Central People's Committee, and the State Administration Council.

The local people's assemblies, established at all administrative levels, perform the same symbolic functions as the SPA. They provide a façade of popular support and involvement and serve as a vehicle through which loyal and meritorious local inhabitants are given visible recognition as deputies to the assemblies. The assemblies meet once or twice a year for only a few days at each session. Their duties are to approve the plan for local economic development and the local budget; to elect the officers of other local bodies, including the judges and people's assessors of the courts within their jurisdictions; and to review the decisions and directives issued by local organs at their corresponding and lower levels. The local people's assemblies have no standing committees. Between regular sessions, their duties are performed by the local people's committees, whose members are elected by assemblies at corresponding levels and are responsible both to the assemblies and to the local people's committees at higher levels.

The officers and members of the people's committees are influential locally as party functionaries and as senior administrative cadres. These committees can convene the people's assemblies; prepare for the election of deputies to the local assemblies; implement the decisions of the assemblies at the corresponding level and those of the people's committees at higher levels; and control and supervise the work of administrative bodies, enterprises, and social and cooperative organizations in their respective jurisdictions.

The day-to-day affairs of local communities are handled by the local administrative committees. The chairman, vice chairmen, secretary, and members of these bodies are elected by the local people's committees at the corresponding levels.

North Korea


North Korea

Chuch'e ideology is the basic cornerstone of party construction, party works, and government operations. Chuch'e is sanctified as the essence of what has been officially called Kim Il Sung Chuui (Kim Il Sung-ism) since April 1974. Chuch'e is also claimed as "the present-day MarxismLeninism ." North Korean leaders advocate chuch'e ideology as the only correct guiding ideology in their ongoing revolutionary movement.

Chuch'e also is referred to as "the unitary ideology" or as "the monolithic ideology of the Party." It is inseparable from and, for all intents and purposes, synonymous with Kim Il Sung's leadership and was said to have been "created" or "fathered" by the great leader as an original "encyclopedic thought which provides a complete answer to any question that arises in the struggle for national liberation and class emancipation, in the building of socialism and communism." Chuch'e is viewed as the embodiment of revealed truth attesting to the wisdom of Kim's leadership as exemplified in countless speeches and "on-the-spot guidance."

Chuch'e was proclaimed in December 1955, when Kim underlined the critical need for a Korea-centered revolution rather than one designed to benefit, in his words, "another country." Chuch'e is designed to inspire national pride and identity and mold national consciousness into a potentially powerful focus for internal solidarity centered on Kim and the KWP.

According to Kim, chuch'e means "the independent stance of rejecting dependence on others and of using one's own powers, believing in one's own strength and displaying the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance." Chuch'e is an ideology geared to address North Korea's contemporary goals--an independent foreign policy, a self-sufficient economy, and a self-reliant defense posture. Kim Il Sung's enunciation of chuch'e in 1955 was aimed at developing a monolithic and effective system of authority under his exclusive leadership. The invocation of chuch'e was a psychological tool with which to stigmatize the foreign-oriented dissenters and remove them from the center of power. Targeted for elimination were groups of pro-Soviet and pro-Chinese anti-Kim dissenters.

Chuch'e did not become a prominent ideology overnight. During the first ten years of North Korea's existence, MarxismLeninism was accepted unquestioningly as the only source of doctrinal authority. Nationalism was toned down in deference to the country's connections to the Soviet Union and China. In the mid-1950s, however, chuch'e was presented as a "creative" application of Marxism-Leninism. In his attempt to establish an interrelationship between Marxism-Leninism and chuch'e, Kim contended that although Marxism-Leninism was valid as the fundamental law of revolution, it needed an authoritative interpreter to define a new set of practical ideological guidelines appropriate to the revolutionary environment in North Korea.

Kim's practical ideology was given a test of relevancy throughout the mid-1960s. In the late 1950s, Kim was able to mobilize internal support when he purged pro-Soviet and proChinese dissenters from party ranks. During the first half of the 1960s, Kim faced an even more formidable challenge when he had to weather a series of tense situations that had potentially adverse implications for North Korea's economic development and national security. Among these were a sharp decrease in aid from the Soviet Union and China; discord between the Soviet Union and China and its disquieting implications for North Korea's confrontation with the United States and South Korea; P'yongyang's disagreements with Moscow and apprehensions about the reliability of the Soviet Union as an ally; and the rise of an authoritarian regime in Seoul under former General Park Chung Hee (1961-79).

These developments emphasized the need for self-reliance--the need to rely on domestic resources, heighten vigilance against possible external challenges, and strengthen domestic political solidarity. Sacrifice, austerity, unity, and patriotism became dominant themes in the party's efforts to instill in the people the importance of chuch'e and collective discipline. By the mid-1960s, however, North Korea could afford to relax somewhat; its strained relations with the Soviet Union had eased, as reflected in part by Moscow's decision to rush economic and military assistance to P'yongyang.

Beginning in mid-1965, chuch'e was presented as the essence of Kim Il Sung's leadership and of party lines and policies for every conceivable revolutionary situation. Kim's past leadership record was put forward as the "guide and compass" for the present and future and as a source of strength sufficient to propel the faithful through any adversity.

Nonetheless, the linkage of chuch'e to MarxismLeninism remains a creed of the party. The April 1972 issue of K lloja (The Worker) still referred to the KWP as "a Marxist-Leninist Party"; the journal pointed out that "the only valid policy for Korean Communists is Marxism-Leninism" and called for "its creative application to our realities."

Since 1974 it has become increasingly evident, however, that the emphasis is on the glorification of chuch'e as "the only scientific revolutionary thought representing our era of Juche and communist future and the most effective revolutionary theoretical structure that leads to the future of communist society along the surest shortcut." This new emphasis was based on the contention that a different historical era, with its unique sociopolitical circumstances, requires an appropriately unique revolutionary ideology. Accordingly, Marxism and Leninism were valid doctrines in their own times, but had outlived their usefulness in the era of chuch'e, which prophesies the downfall of imperialism and the worldwide victory of socialism and communism.

As the years have passed, references to Marxism-Leninism in party literature have steadily decreased. By 1980 the terms Marxism and Leninism had all but disappeared from the pages of K lloja. An unsigned article in the March 1980 K lloja proclaimed, "Within the Party none but the leader Kim Il Sung's revolutionary thought, the chuch'e ideology, prevails and there is no room for any hodgepodge thought contrary to it." The report Kim Il Sung presented to the Sixth Party Congress in October 1980 did not contain a single reference to Marxism-Leninism, in marked contrast to his report to the Fifth Party Congress in November 1970. In the 1980 report, Kim declared: "The whole party is rallied rock-firm around its Central Committee and knit together in ideology and purpose on the basis of the chuch'e idea. The Party has no room for any other idea than the chuch'e idea, and no force can ever break its unity and cohesion based on this idea."

Chuch'e is instrumental in providing a consistent and unifying framework for commitment and action in the North Korean political arena. It offers an underpinning for the party's incessant demand for spartan austerity, sacrifice, discipline, and dedication. Since the mid-1970s, however, it appears that chuch'e has become glorified as an end in itself.

In his annual New Year's message on January 1, 1992, Kim Il Sung emphasized the invincibility of chuch'e ideology: "I take great pride in and highly appreciate the fact that our people have overcome the ordeals of history and displayed to the full the heroic mettle of the revolutionary people and the indomitable spirit of chuch'e Korea, firmly united behind the party . . . . No difficulty is insurmountable nor is any fortress impregnable for us when our party leads the people with the ever-victorious chuch'e-oriented strategy and tactics and when all the people turn out as one under the party's leadership."

North Korea


North Korea

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.

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.

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.

Party Members

The KWP claimed a membership of more than 3 million persons as of 1988, a significant increase from the 2 million members announced in 1976. This increase may have been a result of the active mobilization drive for the Three Revolution Team Movement.

The Korean Workers' Party has three constituencies: industrial workers, peasants, and intellectuals, that is, office workers. Since 1948 industrial workers have constituted the largest percentage of party members, followed by peasants and intellectuals. Beginning in the 1970s, when North Korea's population reached the 50 percent urban mark, the composition of the groups belonging to the party changed. More people working in state-owned enterprises became party members and the number of members working in agricultural cooperatives decreased.

Party Cadres

The recruitment and training of party cadres (kanbu) has long been the primary concern of party leadership. Party cadres are those officials placed in key positions in party organizations, ranging the Political Bureau to the village party committees; in government agencies; in economic enterprises; in military and internal security units; in educational institutions; and in mass organizations. The duties of cadres are to educate and lead party and nonparty members of society and to ensure that party policies and directives are carried out faithfully. The party penetrates all aspects of life. Associations and guidance committees exist at all levels of society, with a local party cadre serving as a key member of each committee.

Some cadres are concerned principally with ideological matters, whereas others are expected both to be ideologically prepared and to give guidance to the technical or managerial activities of the state. Regardless of specialization, all party cadres are expected to devote two hours a day to the study of chuch'e ideology and Kim Il Sung's policies and instruction.

The party has a number of schools for cadre training. At the national level, the most prestigious school is the Kim Il Sung Higher Party School, directly under the Central Committee. Below the national level are communist colleges established in each province for the education of county-level cadres. Village-level cadres are sent to county training schools.

The rules governing cadre selection have undergone subtle changes in emphasis. Through the early 1970s, "good class origin," individual ability, and ideological posture were given more or less equal consideration in the appointment of cadres. Since the mid-1970s, however, the doctrinally ordained "class principle" has been downgraded on the assumption that the actual social or class status of people should not be judged on the basis of their past family backgrounds but on their "present class preparation and mental attitudes." The party increasingly stresses individual merit and "absolute" loyalty as the criteria for acceptance into the elite status of cadre. Merit and competence have come to mean "a knowledge of the economy and technology." Such knowledge is considered crucial because, as Kim Il Sung stressed in July 1974, "Party organizational work should be intimately linked to economic work and intraparty work should be conducted to ensure success in socialist construction and backup economic work."

An equally important, if not more important criterion for cadre selection is political loyalty inasmuch as not all cadres of correct class origin nor all highly competent cadres are expected to pass the rigorous tests of party life. These tests entail absolute loyalty to Kim Il Sung and the party, thorough familiarity with chuch'e ideology, refusal to temporize in the face of adversity, and a readiness to respond to the party's call under any conditions and at all times.

Although information on the composition of cadre membership was limited as of mid-1993, the number of cadres of nonworker and nonpeasant origin has steadily increased. These cadres generally are classified as "working intellectuals" engaged in occupations ranging from party and government activities to educational, technical, and artistic pursuits. Another notable trend is the infusion of younger, better educated cadres into the party ranks. An accent on youth and innovation was very much in evidence after 1973 when Kim Jong Il assumed the leading role in the Three Revolution Team Movement.

The Ruling Elite

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 Hamgyng 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.

North Korea


North Korea

Beginning in the fall of 1975, North Koreans used the term party center to refer to Kim Jong Il. Kim Jong Il is reported to have concentrated a great deal of effort on the performing arts, and many artists began to use the term when referring to Kim in articles in K lloja. However, for a few years after its initial introduction the term was used only infrequently because Kim Il Sung's efforts to promote his son met some resistance. Many of Kim Jong Il's opponents have been purged by Kim Il Sung, however, and neither Kim faces any active opposition any longer.

Kim Il Sung was awarded the rank of generalissimo (taewnsu) on April 13, 1992. On April 20, 1992, Kim Jong Il, as supreme commander of the armed forces, was given the title marshal (wnsu) of the DPRK. Kim Il Sung was the president and chairman of the National Defense Commission with command and control of the armed forces until Kim Jong Il assumed the latter position in April 1993. O Chin-u also became a marshal.

There are many scenarios for leadership succession. Some of the prospects are based on a common postulation that Kim Il Sung's succession scheme will take at least a few years because of the decades-long preparation of a succession plan. South Korean scholar Yang Sung-Chul labels this "positive skepticism" and calls short-term failure, such as a coup d'état or a revolution, "negative skepticism." "Negative skepticism" is not to be dismissed, however, because of Kim Jong Il's weaknesses-- his lack of charisma, poor international recognition, and unknown governing skills--as well as the sagging domestic economy and external factors such as inter-Korean, Japan-DPRK, and United States-DPRK relations.

Kim Jong Il's appointment as commander of the Korean People's Army suggests that the succession issue finally has been solved because the military was once considered Kim's weak point; he already has full control of the state and the economic administration. Kim Jong Il also manages political affairs and KWP businesses as a primary authority and handles symbolic roles such as meeting with foreign leaders and appearing at national celebrations.

In addition, Kim Jong Il plays a prominent role in the KWP propaganda machine--mass media, literature, and art. Many literary and art works--including films, operas, and dramas--are produced under the revolutionary tradition of the KWP and Kim's guidance. Kim uses popular culture to broaden his public image and gain popular support.

Kim Jong Il has tried to expedite economic growth and productivity using the Three Revolution Team Movement and the Three Revolution Red Flag Movement. Both movements are designed to inspire the broad masses into actively participating in the Three Revolutions. At the Fifth Party Congress, Kim Il Sung emphasized the necessity of pressing ahead more vigorously with the three revolutions to consolidate the socialist system. In response, Kim Jong Il developed the follow-up slogan, "Let us meet the requirements of the chuch'e in ideology, technology and culture." Most units forged ahead with "ideological education" to teach the party members and other workers to become revolutionaries of the chuch'e idea. In many spheres of the national economy, productivity also is expected to increase as a result of the technology emphasis of the campaigns. In addition, the "cultural revolution" addresses promoting literacy and cultural identity.

Chuch'e, 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 chuch'e is an asset or liability for Kim. Nonetheless, Kim is likely to continue to emphasize chuch'e 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 chuch'e ideology.

Graduates of the first class of the Mangyngdae 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.

North Korea


North Korea

All mass organizations are guided and controlled by the party. A number of political and social organizations appear concerned with the promotion of special interest groups but actually serve as auxiliaries to the party. Many of these organizations were founded in the early years of the KWP to serve as vehicles for the party's efforts to penetrate a broader cross section of the population.

Mass organizations have another important function: to create the impression that there are noncommunist social, political, cultural, and professional groups that can work with their South Korean counterparts toward national reunification. Most of these organizations were established to develop a unified strategy in dealing with the ruling establishment of South Korea and other foreign countries and organizations. As of July 1992, these included the Korean Social Democratic Party headed by Yi Kyepaek ; the Chondoist Chongu Party headed by Chong Sin-hyok, the Socialist Working Youth League (SWYL) headed by Ch'oe Yong- hae; the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland headed by Yun Ki-pok; the Korean Democratic Women's Union headed by Kim Il Sung's wife, Kim Song-ae; the Korean National Peace Committee headed by Chong Chun-ki; the Korean Students Committee headed by Mun Kyong-tok; the General Federation of Trade Unions headed by Han Ki-chang; and many others. In the early 1990s, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland was actively involved in the two Koreas' reconciliation talks.

Among auxiliary organizations, one frequently covered in the media is the SWYL. Directly under the party Central Committee, it is the only mass organization expressly mentioned in the charter of the KWP. The league is the party's most important ideological and organizational training ground, with branches and cells wherever there are regular party organizations. Youth league cells exist in the army, factories, cooperative farms, schools, cultural institutions, and government agencies. The organization is hailed as a "militant reserve" of the party; its members are described as heirs to the revolution, reliable reserves, and active assistants of the party. Youths between the ages of fifteen and twenty-six are eligible to join the league regardless of other organizational affiliations, provided they meet requirements similar to those for party membership. The junior version of the youth league is the Young Pioneer Corps, open to children between the ages of nine and fifteen. The Students' and Children's Palace in P'yongyang is maintained by the SWYL for the extracurricular activities of Young Pioneer Corps members; these activities include study sessions in chuch'e ideology as well as other subjects taught in the primary and secondary schools.

The principal vehicle for P'yongyang's united front strategy in dealing with South Korea and foreign counterparts is the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland (DFRF), popularly known as the Fatherland Front. The Fatherland Front actually is an umbrella for various other organizations and thus ostensibly is a nonpolitical, nongovernmental organization.

Choch'ongryn (General Association of Korean Residents in Japan), is one of the best known of the foreign auxiliary organizations. Its mission is to enlist the allegiance of the more than 600,000 Korean residents in Japan. At least a third of these residents, who also are assiduously courted by Seoul, are considered supporters of P'yongyang. The remaining two-thirds of the members are divided into South Korean loyalists and neutralists. Those who are friendly toward North Korea are regarded by P'yongyang as its citizens and are educated at Korean schools in Japan that are financially subsidized by North Korea. These Koreans are expected to work for the North Korean cause either in Japan or as returnees to North Korea.

The activities of these mass organizations are occasionally reported in the news. However, it is difficult to ascertain what these organizations actually do. Organizations such as the Korean Social Democratic Party and the Chondoist Chongu Party publicize only the officially published names of their leaders and do not report anything about their membership or activities.

North Korea

North Korea - THE MEDIA

North Korea

Although Article 53 of the constitution states that North Korean citizens have freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and demonstration, such activities are permitted only in support of government and KWP objectives. Other articles of the constitution require citizens to follow the socialist norms of life; for example, a collective spirit takes precedence over individual political or civil liberties.

Domestic media censorship is strictly enforced, and deviation from the official government line is not tolerated. The regime prohibits listening to foreign media broadcasts, and violators are reportedly subject to severe punishment. Senior party cadres, however, have good access to the foreign media. No external media are allowed free access to North Korea, but an agreement to share in Japan's telecommunications satellites was reached in September 1990.

Newspapers, broadcasting, and other mass media are major vehicles for information dissemination and political propaganda. Although most urban households have radios and some have television sets, neither radios nor televisions can be tuned to anything other than official programming. Only some 10 percent of the radios and 30 percent of the televisions are in private households. Government control extends to artistic and academic circles, and visitors report that the primary function of plays, movies, books, and the performing arts is to contribute to the cult of personality surrounding Kim Il Sung.

The media is government controlled. As of mid-1993, there were eleven television stations, approximately two dozen AM stations, ten FM stations, eight domestic shortwave stations, and a powerful international shortwave station. The latter broadcast in English, French, Spanish, German, and several Asian languages. Korean Central Broadcasting Station and P'yongyang Broadcasting Station (Radio P'yongyang) are the central radio stations; there are also several local stations and stations for overseas broadcasts.

A number of newspapers are published. Nodong simmun (Workers' Daily), the organ of the party Central Committee, claimed a circulation of approximately 1.5 million as of 1988. K lloja (The Worker), the theoretical organ of the party Central Committee, claimed a circulation of about 300,000 readers. Minju Chosn (Democratic Korea) is the government newspaper, and Nodong chngnyn (Working Youth) is the newspaper of the SWYL. There also are specialized newspapers for teachers, the army, and railway workers.

The Korean Central News Agency (Chosn Chungyang Tngsinsa-- KCNA) is the primary agency for gathering and disseminating news. KCNA publishes the daily paper Korean Central News (Chosn Chungyang T'ongsin), Photographic News (Sajin T'ongsin), and the Korean Central Yearbook (Chosn Chungyang Ynbo). KCNA issues daily press releases in English, Russian, French, and Spanish; newscasts in these languages are beamed overseas. The Foreign Languages Press Group issues the monthly magazine Korea Today and the weekly newspaper the P'yongyang Times published in English, Spanish, and French.

North Korea


North Korea

North Korea's foreign relations are shaped by a mixture of historical, nationalistic, ideological, and pragmatic considerations. The territorial division of the peninsula looms large in the political thinking of North Korean leaders and is a driving force in their management of internal and external affairs. Over the centuries, unequal relations, foreign depredation, dependence on foreigners for assorted favors, and the emulation of foreign cultures and institutions are less the exception than the rule in Korea's relationship with the outside world. These patterns give rise to the widely shared assumption among Koreans that their capacity to control their national destiny is limited by geopolitical constraints.

Inter-Korean Affairs

The reunification of the two Koreas is seen as a difficult goal. Although P'yongyang and Seoul agreed in principle in 1972 that unification should be achieved peacefully and without foreign interference, they continued to differ substantially on the practical methods of attaining reunification; this area of disagreement has not narrowed in subsequent years.

North Korea's goal of unification remains constant, but tactics have changed depending on the perception of opportunities and limitations implicit in shifting domestic and external situations. From the beginning, North Korea has insisted that an inter-Korean political formula should be based on parity or coequality, rather than population. Because South Korea has more than twice the population of North Korea, a supreme Korean council set up according to a one-person, one-vote formula will give South Korea a commanding position in that type of relationship. Another constant is P'yongyang's insistence that the Korean question be settled as an internal Korean affair without foreign interference.

P'yongyang's position that unification should be achieved by peaceful means was belied by circumstances surrounding the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 and by subsequent infiltrations, the digging of tunnels, and other incidents. North Korea's contention that the conflict was started by South Korea and the United States failed to impress South Korea's population. The war, in effect, reinforced the obvious ideological and systemic incompatibilities that were in place at the time of the division of the peninsula in 1945. At the Geneva Conference in mid-1954, North Korea proposed the formation of an all-Korean commission and a single Korean legislature through elections; the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the Korean Peninsula; and the formal declaration by outside powers of the need for peaceful development and unification in Korea. P'yongyang also proposed that the armies of both countries be reduced to 100,000 persons each within a year, that neither side enter into any military alliance, and that measures be taken to facilitate economic and cultural exchanges. Kim Il Sung urged a mutual reduction of armed forces and a sharp cutback in the "heavy burden of military expenditure in South Korea," recognizing that any arms buildup could lead to a renewed arms race on the Korean Peninsula. Kim also called on "South Korean authorities, political parties, social organizations, and individual personages" to have their representatives meet their northern counterparts in P'yongyang, Seoul, or P'anmunjm to start negotiations on all "burning issues awaiting urgent solution."

In mid-1969 Kim signaled the resumption of peaceful gestures to South Korea. In October 1969, P'yongyang announced that the policy of peaceful unification would be renewed, adding that this option had not been stressed "in the last few years" because of alleged war policies being pursued by the United States and South Korea. Beginning in August 1970, Seoul proposed that the two Koreas open "a bona fide competition" to see which side could better satisfy the various needs of the Korean people. This development ended P'yongyang's previous monopoly on the rhetoric of neighborly intentions and peaceful unification.

Inter-Korean affairs became more complex in 1970 and 1971, in part because of the United States decision to withdraw some of its troops from South Korea and because of moves by the United States and China to improve their relations. In August 1971, amid signs of a thaw in the Cold War and an uncertain international environment, the Red Cross societies of Seoul and P'yongyang agreed to open talks aimed at the eventual reunion of dispersed families. These high-level talks--between Kim Il Sung's brother and the chief of the South Korean Central Intelligence Agency, were held alternately in the two capitals and paralleled behind- the-scenes contacts to initiate political negotiations, reportedly at South Korea's suggestion. The talks continued to evolve and resulted in a joint communiqué issued on July 4, 1972, in which the two countries agreed to abide by three principles of unification. As such, the two Koreas agreed to work towards reunifying the country independently and without foreign interference; transcending differences in ideology and political systems; and unifying the country peacefully without the use of armed force.

The communiqué also contained an accord designed to ease tensions and foster mutual trust by instructing the two countries to refrain from slandering and defaming each other, expediting the Red Cross talks, installing a hot line between P'yongyang and Seoul, and establishing a South-North Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as the machinery for substantive negotiations and for implementing the points of the agreement. The SNCC met three times. The first and third meetings were held in Seoul from November 30 to December 2, 1972, and June 12-14, 1973, respectively; the second meeting was held in P'yongyang March 14- 16, 1973. At the second meeting, the committee agreed to set up five subcommittees--political, military, foreign, economic, and cultural affairs--under joint direction. It was stipulated however, that subcommittees would be formed only when progress had been made vis-à-vis SNCC dialogue.

By June 1973, inter-Korean dialogue had become deadlocked. The fourth meeting was scheduled for August 28, 1973, in P'yongyang, but North Korea declined to convene it, making it official that it was no longer interested in participating in SNCC meetings. No significant agreement has been reached through the SNCC mechanism.

It quickly became obvious to both sides that they have fundamentally divergent approaches. North Korea's position focuses on three major themes: that the inter-Korean armed confrontation must first be ended; that North Korea's transitional scheme of coexistence called "confederation" be recognized as a practical necessity; and that a one-Korea policy should be pursued under all circumstances. P'yongyang seeks to settle military questions first, proposing cessation of the military buildup and the withdrawal of all foreign troops from South Korea. South Korea's position is one of peaceful coexistence based on "peace first, unification later." Seoul seeks recognition of the political systems of the two Koreas, noninterference in each side's internal affairs, and the promotion of mutual economic cooperation. South Korean president Park Chung Hee stressed the importance of preserving peace at all costs, specifying that each side refrain from invading the other or interfering in the other's affairs.

The contrast in positions is especially evident in international relations. South Korea suggested that both Koreas become members of the United Nations (UN) if it were the wish of the majority of UN members and if membership would not impede unification. In reaffirming peace and good-neighborliness as the basis of its foreign policy, Seoul declared its readiness to establish formal relations even with those countries whose ideologies and social institutions were different from South Korea's. In an obvious allusion to communist states, Seoul called on these countries to reciprocate by opening their doors.

North Korea began to urge the United States to refrain from obstructing the dialogue and from giving military aid to South Korea. In March 1974, P'yongyang proposed direct negotiations to Washington on the question of replacing the "outdated" Korean armistice agreement with a peace agreement. Relations between North Korea and South Korea had, by 1975, become increasingly complicated because of the ripple effect created by the fall of the government in Saigon. Following Vietnam's reunification in mid-1975, the Nixon administration reduced the United States troop level in South Korea by about one-third. This move, in conjunction with Nixon's opening to China, worried South Korea.

Leaders in both P'yongyang and Seoul talked increasingly about the dangers of renewed military conflict on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea called on South Koreans to overthrow President Park's government and reiterated its support for what it called a "massive popular struggle for independence and democracy" in South Korea. In South Korea, the cry of "threat from the North" became more shrill after Vietnam's reunification. In August 1976, against the backdrop of escalating tensions along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the telephone hot line that had linked P'yongyang and Seoul ceased operations and remained unused until February 1980.

In the late 1970s, North Korea and South Korea attempted to revive their dialogue. In January 1979, North Korea agreed to South Korea's proposal to resume talks unconditionally, but preliminary talks held in February and March failed to narrow the differences. North Korea maintained that the talks should be within the framework of a "whole-nation congress" composed of political and social groups from both sides. South Korea countered that the talks should be on a government-to-government basis without participation of nongovernmental mass organizations.

In February 1980, preparatory talks got under way at P'anmunjm in the DMZ. Through August 1980, the two sides met ten times and agreed on several minor procedural and technical points, even though they were unable to decide on an agenda for the premiers' conference or on an interpretation of such terms as "collaboration," "unity," and "peaceful reunification." Another impediment was disagreement on whether the premiers' talks should be treated as part of broader North-South contacts involving various mass organizations--as North Korea contends--or whether the talks should be on a more manageable government-to-government basis--as South Korea demands. On September 24, 1980, two days before the eleventh scheduled meeting, North Korea suspended the talks, citing "the South Korean military fascist" policy of seeking confrontation and division. On September 25, P'yongyang also once again suspended operation of the telephone hot line. In October 1980, at the Sixth Party Congress, Kim Il Sung proposed the establishment of the Democratic Confederal Republic of Kory, a system of unification based on mutual convenience and toleration. According to the proposal, a single unified state would be founded on the principle of coexistence, leaving the two systems intact and federating the two governments. The Democratic Confederal Republic of Kory, so named after a unified state that previously existed in Korea (918-1392), is viewed by North Korea as "the most realistic way of national reunification." A supreme national assembly with an equal number of representatives from north and south and an appropriate number of representatives of overseas Koreans would be formed, with a confederal standing committee to "guide the regional government of the north and the south and to administer all the affairs of the confederal state." The regional governments of the north and south would have independent policies--within limits--consistent with the fundamental interests and demands of the whole nation and strive to narrow their differences in all areas.

The proposal provided that the supreme national confederal assembly and the confederal standing committee--its permanent organ and the de facto central government--would be the unified government of the confederal state and, as such, would be responsible for discussing and deciding domestic and foreign affairs, matters of national defense, and other matters of common concern related to the interests of the whole country and nation. Further, the coordinated development of the country and nation should be promoted. The confederal government would be neutral and nonaligned. South Korea rejected the confederation as another propaganda ploy.

No significant dialogue occurred between the two countries until the middle of 1984, when South Korea suffered a devastating flood. North Korea proposed to send relief goods to flood victims in South Korea; the offer was accepted. This occasion provided the momentum for both sides to resume their suspended dialogue. In 1985 the two countries exchanged performing arts groups, and ninety-two members of separated families met. In January 1986, however, North Korea once again suddenly cut off all talks with South Korea, blaming "Team Spirit," the annual United States- South Korean joint military exercise.

After the inauguration of South Korean president Roh Tae Woo in 1988, a more vigorous dialogue commenced between Seoul and P'yongyang. Nordpolitik, South Korea's efforts since 1984 to expand ties with the former communist bloc, and the slowing pace of North Korea's economic development have contributed to a basic change in P'yongyang's strategy toward Seoul. Further encouraging this shift were the political upheaval and demise of communism in Eastern Europe and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, one of North Korea's key allies.

Subsequently, North Korea lost its guaranteed access to the market once provided by the Soviet Union and its satellites. At the same time, South Korea established commercial and diplomatic relations with many East European countries. Next, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council approved the simultaneous entry of both Koreas into the UN in September 1991.

Five rounds of meetings were held alternately in Seoul and P'yongyang before the Agreement on Reconciliation, Nonaggression, Exchanges, and Cooperation between the South and the North was signed on December 13, 1991. The agreement called for reconciliation and nonaggression on the Korean Peninsula. Then North Korean premier Yon Hyong-muk called the agreement "the most valuable achievement ever made between the South and North Korean authorities." It was agreed that further meetings would be held to resolve such issues as creating a nuclear-free Korea, uniting divided families, and discussing economic cooperation.

For the first time, North Korea "officially recognized" the existence of South Korea. The accord called for North Korea and South Korea to formally end the Korean War. Among the terms of the accord are agreements to issue a joint declaration of nonaggression, advance warning of troop movements and exercises, and the installation of a hot line between top military commanders. The Agreement on Reconciliation, Nonaggression, Exchanges, and Cooperation has led to the establishment of several joint North-South Korea subcommittees that are to work out the specifics for implementing the general terms of the accord. These subcommittees report to the committees that met in conjunction with the prime ministerial level talks that had began in September 1990. There are subcommittees on economic cooperation affairs (concerning South Korea's commercial investments in North Korea) and on trade and the opening of lines of travel and communication (including telephonic) between the two Koreas; cultural exchange, concerning the exchange of entertainment and athletic groups and the joint sponsorship of single teams to represent both Koreas in international sports competitions; political affairs, on working to eliminate mutual slander in their respective mass media and to abrogate laws detrimental to improving understanding and cooperation; and military affairs, on devising ways and means to reduce tensions and exchange notice of military exercises. Separate from the prime ministerial dialogue, yet closely associated with it, are talks held between the North and South Korean Red Cross organizations about reunification of families.

The two Koreas also agree that their peninsula should be "free of nuclear weapons." The joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula calls for the establishment of a Joint Nuclear Control Committee (JNCC) to negotiate a credible and effective bilateral nuclear inspection regime as called for in the declaration. Although negotiations in all these areas produced substantive progress toward the drafting of detailed accords for the terms of implementing the Agreement on Reconciliation, Nonaggression, Exchanges and Cooperation, nothing has been implemented as of mid-1993. As for negotiation of a bilateral inspection regime, these talks also had not achieved any significant progress by mid-1993.

Foreign Relations with
<>China and the Soviet Union
<> Japan
<> The United States

North Korea

North Korea - China and the Soviet Union

North Korea

North Korea owes its survival as a separate political entity to China and the Soviet Union. Both countries provided critical military assistance--soldiers and matériel--during the Korean War. From that time and until the early 1990s, China and the Soviet Union both provided North Korea with its most important markets and were its major suppliers of oil and other basic necessities. In turn, China and the Soviet Union were reliable pillars of diplomatic support. The demise of the Soviet Union and the former communist bloc in Eastern Europe, combined with the gradually warming relationship between Beijing and Seoul--which resulted in the establishment of diplomatic relations in August 1992--significantly altered P'yongyang's ties with Beijing and Moscow.

More out of economic necessity than ideological compatibility, North Korea sought to maintain good relations with China, despite the latter's increasingly close economic and diplomatic ties with South Korea. In October 1991, Kim Il Sung visited China for ten days, reportedly to ask for economic and military assistance, and to persuade Beijing not to establish diplomatic ties with Seoul. Predictably, North Korea and China reaffirmed their commitment to socialism, but at the time China did not express clear signals for North Korea's other agenda.

Close Sino-North Korean ties continue, but Beijing is striving to maintain a balance in its relationship with the two Koreas, a far cry from its previous four decades of dealing solely with P'yongyang. China welcomed the Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, making clear its preference for a non-nuclear Korea. Beijing also urged P'yongyang to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Although China remains a crucial trade partner for North Korea, Beijing's former willingness to assist P'yongyang economically by extending easy credit is increasingly giving way to no assistance and less and less extension of credit.

The Soviet Union stunned North Korea in September 1990 when it established diplomatic relations with South Korea. Since that time and since the collapse of the Soviet Union in August 1991, North Korea has worked to build a relationship with Russia's new political leaders. North Korea's efforts to recapture some of the previous closeness and economic benefits of its relationship with the former Soviet Union are seriously hampered, however, by Russia's preoccupation with its own political and economic woes. Trade between the two nations has dropped dramatically since 1990. North Korea cannot compete with the quality of goods South Korea can offer. Whereas the Soviet Union had extended credit without problems to North Korea, Russia has demanded hard currency for whatever North Korea purchases. Russia also has signalled North Korea that it intends to revise the 1961 defense treaty between North Korea and the Soviet Union. The revision will most likely mean Russia will not be obligated to militarily assist North Korea except in the event that North Korea is invaded.

North Korea was diplomatically, politically, and economically far more isolated in mid-1993 than at any time since 1945. Although a member of the UN since 1991, North Korea's relations with its two closest allies--China and the former Soviet Union-- have undergone a fundamental shift unlikely to revert to previous patterns. This shift poses a dilemma for North Korea. Will it persist in the pattern of conduct that has made it an international outlaw, or will it set out in a new direction aimed at integrating itself into the international community? In mid1993 North Korea appears to be on a dual track. On the one hand, P'yongyang's signing of the Agreement on Reconciliation, Nonaggression, Exchanges, and Cooperation, and the conclusion of a nuclear safeguards agreement with the IAEA point to its striving for greater acceptance in the international community by measuring up to internationally desired norms. On the other hand, P'yongyang continues to act as an international outlaw by selling ballistic missiles abroad, refusing to sign the convention on chemical and biological warfare, and refusing to comply with the terms for nuclear inspections.

North Korea

North Korea - Japan

North Korea

Until the late 1980s, North Korea's post-World War II policy toward Japan was mainly aimed at minimizing cooperation between Japan and South Korea, and at deterring Japan's rearmament while striving for closer diplomatic and commercial ties with Japan. Crucial to this policy was the fostering within Japan of support for North Korea, especially among the Japanese who supported the Japanese communist and socialist parties and the Korean residents of Japan. Over the years, however, North Korea did much to discredit itself in the eyes of many potential supporters in Japan. Japanese who had accompanied their spouses to North Korea had endured severe hardships and were prevented from communicating with relatives and friends in Japan. Japan watched with disdain as North Korea gave safe haven to elements of the Japanese Red Army, a terrorist group. North Korea's inability and refusal to pay its debts to Japanese traders also reinforced popular Japanese disdain for North Korea.

Coincidental with the changing patterns in its relations with China and Russia, North Korea has moved to improve its strained relations with Japan. P'yongyang's primary motives appear to be a quest for relief from diplomatic and economic isolation, which has also caused serious shortages of food, energy, and hard currency. Normalization of relations with Japan also raises the possibility of North Korea's gaining monetary compensation for the period of Japan's colonial rule (1910-45), a precedent set when Japan normalized relations with South Korea.

The first round of normalization talks was held January 30- 31, 1991, but quickly broke down over the question of compensation. P'yongyang has demanded compensation for damages incurred during colonial rule as well as for "sufferings and losses" in the post-World War II period. Japan, however, insists that North Korea first resolve its differences with South Korea over the question of bilateral nuclear inspections. Other points of contention are North Korea's refusal both to provide information about Japanese citizens who had migrated to North Korea with their Korean spouses in the 1960s, and to discuss the case of Yi Un Hee, a Korean resident of Japan whom North Korean agents had allegedly kidnapped to North Korea to teach Japanese in a school for espionage agents. As of mid-1993, several rounds of talks had yet to produce any significant progress toward normalization of relations.

North Korea

North Korea - The United States

North Korea

Since 1945 North Korea's relationship with the United States has been marked by almost continuous confrontation and mistrust. North Korea views the United States as the strongest imperialist force in the world and as the successor to Japanese imperialism. The Korean War only intensified this perception. The United States views North Korea as an international outlaw. The uneasy armistice that halted the intense fighting of the Korean War has occasionally been broken. Perpetuating the mutual distrust was North Korea's 1968 seizure of the United States Navy intelligence-gathering ship Pueblo, the downing of a United States reconnaissance plane in 1969, and the 1976 killing of two American soldiers at the P'anmunjm "Peace Village" in the middle of the DMZ. North Korea's assassination of several United States-educated South Korean cabinet officials in 1983 and the terrorist bombing of a South Korean airliner in 1987 likewise has reinforced United States perceptions of North Korea as unworthy of having diplomatic or economic ties with the United States.

Following South Korea's lead, the United States in 1988 launched its own modest diplomatic initiative. Washington sought to reduce P'yongyang's isolation and to encourage its opening to the outside world. Consequently, the United States government began facilitating cultural, scholarly, journalistic, athletic, and other exchanges with North Korea. After a hesitant start, by the early 1990s almost monthly exchanges were occurring in these areas between the two nations, a halting but significant movement away from total estrangement.

The atmosphere between P'yongyang and Washington warmed significantly in 1991 and 1992. The United States supported the simultaneous admission of both Koreas into the UN in September 1991. That same month, President George Bush announced the withdrawal of all tactical nuclear weapons worldwide. In January 1992, after North Korea had publicly committed itself to the signing of a nuclear safeguards agreement with the IAEA and to permitting IAEA inspections of its primary nuclear facility at Yngbyn, President Bush and South Korean president Roh Tae Woo took the unprecedented step of cancelling their 1992 joint annual military exercise Team Spirit.

In February 1992, United States Department of State Under Secretary for Political Affairs Arnold Kanter met with his North Korean counterpart, Korean Workers' Party Director for International Affairs Kim Yong-sun, in New York. At this meeting, the United States set forth the steps it wanted North Korea to take prior to normalization of relations. North Korea had to facilitate progress in the North-South Korea dialogue; end its export of missile and related technology; renounce terrorism; cooperate with accounting for all Korean War United States military personnel classified as Missing in Action; demonstrate increasing respect for human rights; and conclude a credible and effective North-South nuclear inspection regime designed to complement inspections conducted by the IAEA. Once a credible and effective bilateral North-South Korean inspection regime has been implemented, the United States government will initiate a policy level dialogue with North Korea to formulate specifics for resolving other outstanding United States concerns.

North Korea

CITATION: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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