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Supreme Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
조선민주주의인민공화국의 최고지도자
Incumbent
Kim Jong-un

since 17 December 2011
StatusSupreme leader
ResidenceRyongsong Residence[1]
AppointerNone
Term lengthLife tenure
Inaugural holderKim Il-sung
Formation9 September 1948
List of leaders of North Korea
Hangul
Hanja
Revised RomanizationJoseon Minjujuui Inmin Gonghwagukui Choego Jidoja
McCune–ReischauerChosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwagugŭi Ch'oego Chidoja

The supreme leader of North Korea is the executive head of state and head of government of North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). The supreme leader directs all activities of the Workers' Party of Korea and of the North Korean political system. The supreme leader is also the supreme commander of the Korean People's Army as well as the holder of the highest office of North Korea. The official posts held by the supreme leader has varied over time, though thus far only Kim Il-sung, the first supreme leader, has served as head of government while all supreme leaders have been the de jure leader of the Workers' Party.

At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union occupied the northern half of Korea and in 1946 established the Provisional People's Committee for North Korea chaired by Kim Il-sung. On 9 September 1948, the DPRK was proclaimed, led by Kim Il-sung as Premier.

The leaders of the DPRK have been Kim Il-sung, his son Kim Jong-il, and his grandson Kim Jong-un. In this role they have not held consistent titles, though they were each leaders of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK)—titled as Chairman from 1948 to 1966, General Secretary from 1966 to 2011, First Secretary from 2011 to 2016, Chairman again from 2016 to 2021, and finally General Secretary again since 2021—for almost all of their period in power. Even though they have the appearance of a dynasty, succession is informal.

From 1948 to 1972, the nominal head of state was the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA). In 1972, the constitution was amended to create an executive presidency. Kim Il-sung, who had served as Premier of North Korea since the DPRK's inception, was unanimously elected President of North Korea by the Supreme People's Assembly on December 28. He held this office until his death on 8 July 1994 when he was proclaimed the "eternal president of the Republic". Practical functions of the head of state were then exercised by the President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, before being transferred to the President of the State Affairs Commission.

After the death of Kim Il-sung, his son Kim Jong-il was understood to have inherited his father's near-absolute control over the country.[2][3][4] Although he had been his father's designated successor since at least 1991, it took him three years to fully consolidate his power. He was elected general secretary of the party in 1997, and was reelected Chairman of the National Defence Commission (NDC) in 1998. During his rule he was given a range of titles. He ruled the country until his death on 17 December 2011. He was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-un, who was revealed to be in charge of the country since his father's death by the Rodong Sinmun and finally publicly acknowledged as "Supreme Leader" at the military review ending Kim Jong-il's funeral on 29 December 2011. Who would succeed Kim Jong-un is uncertain and has been speculated upon after health concerns arose in April of 2020.[5]

The government is headed by the premier of the Cabinet, formerly called Premier of the Administration Council.

Other important institutions include the SPA, whose sessions are chaired by the chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly, and, since 1993, the chairman of the NDC–since 2016, known as the State Affairs Commission–which holds supreme command of the DPRK's armed forces.

While two other parties, the Korean Social Democratic Party and the Chondoist Chongu Party, nominally exist, only the WPK holds any power at the national level. The other parties, and indeed all other mass organizations in the country, are completely subservient to the WPK. Almost nothing is mentioned about the minor parties except the names of their current leaders.[6]

Since 1997, the SPA chairman, premier and NDC/SAC chairman have officially formed a triumvirate heading the executive branch, with powers equivalent to one-third of a president's powers in other presidential systems. The SPA chairman conducts foreign affairs and receives the credentials of ambassadors, the premier handles domestic policy and the NDC/SAC chairman commands the armed forces. In practice, however, the real power is vested in the SAC chairman (who has also been leader of the WPK), an office constitutionally defined as the "highest post in the state”.

Currently, General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea is the first priority political position of the supreme leader.[7]

Supreme leader of North Korea

All supreme leaders of North Korea hold the positions of leader of the Workers' Party of Korea and supreme commander of the Korean People's Army. The Constitution of North Korea has officially recognized the title "Supreme Leader" since 2009, when the chairman of the National Defence Commission (and as of 2016 when it was replaced by president of the State Affairs Commission) was formally designated as the "supreme leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea" (Korean: 조선민주주의인민공화국의 최고 령도자).[8][9][10]

Kim Jong-unKim Jong-ilKim Il-sung

Generations of leadership

  First generation   Second generation   Third generation

Picture Name Offices held Period Ideology
Kim Il-sung
김일성
(1912–1994)
Premier of the Cabinet of the DPRK 9 September 1948 – 28 December 1972 9 September 1948

8 July 1994 †
(45 years, 302 days)
Juche
(Ten Principles)
Chairman of the Central Committee of the WPK 30 June 1949 – 11 October 1966
Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the WPK 26 June 1950 – 8 July 1994
Supreme Commander of the KPA 4 July 1950 – 24 December 1991
General Secretary of the Central Committee of the WPK 11 October 1966 – 8 July 1994
President of the DPRK 28 December 1972 – 8 July 1994
Chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK 28 December 1972 – 9 April 1993
Eternal President of the DPRK 5 September 1998 – present
Kim Jong-il
김정일
(1941–2011)
Supreme Commander of the KPA 24 December 1991 – 17 December 2011 8 July 1994

17 December 2011 †
(17 years, 162 days)
Juche
Songun
(Ten Principles)
Chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK 9 April 1993 – 17 December 2011
General Secretary of the WPK 8 October 1997 – 17 December 2011
Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the WPK
Eternal General Secretary of the WPK 11 April 2012 – present
Eternal Chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK 13 April 2012 – present
Kim Jong-un
김정은
(born 1983)
Supreme Commander of the KPA 30 December 2011 – present 17 December 2011

Incumbent
(9 years, 68 days)
First Secretary of the WPK 11 April 2012 – 9 May 2016
Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the WPK 11 April 2012 – present
First Chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK 13 April 2012 – 29 June 2016
Chairman of the WPK 9 May 2016 – 10 January 2021
President of the State Affairs Commission 29 June 2016 – present
Supreme Representative of the Korean People[11] April 2019 – present
General Secretary of the WPK 10 January 2021 – present

Leaders of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK)

Main article: General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea

Flag of the Workers' Party of Korea
Flag of the Workers' Party of Korea
No. Portrait Name Took office Left office Time in office Party
Chairman
1
Tu-bong, KimKim Tu-bong
(1889–1958)
28 August 194630 June 19492 years, 306 daysWorkers' Party
Chairman of the Central Committee
2
Il-sung, KimKim Il-sung
(1912–1994)
30 June 194911 October 196617 years, 103 daysWorkers' Party
General Secretary of the Central Committee
(2)
Il-sung, KimKim Il-sung
(1912–1994)
11 October 19668 July 1994 †27 years, 270 daysWorkers' Party
Vacant
(8 July 1994–8 October 1997)
General Secretary of the Party
3
Jong-il, KimKim Jong-il
(1941–2011)
[a]
8 October 199717 December 2011 †23 years, 138 daysWorkers' Party
First Secretary of the Party
4
Jong-un, KimKim Jong-un
(born 1983)
11 April 20129 May 20164 years, 28 daysWorkers' Party
Chairman of the Party
(4)
Jong-un, KimKim Jong-un
(born 1983)
9 May 201610 January 20214 years, 246 daysWorkers' Party
General Secretary of the Party
(4)
Jong-un, KimKim Jong-un
(born 1983)
10 January 2021Incumbent44 daysWorkers' Party

Heads of state

Main article: List of heads of state of North Korea

No. Portrait Name Took office Left office Time in office Party
Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People's Assembly
1
Tu-bong, KimKim Tu-bong
(1889–1958)
9 September 194820 September 19579 years, 11 daysWorkers' Party
(WPNK until 1949)
2
Yong-gon, ChoeChoe Yong-gon
(1900–1976)
20 September 195728 December 197215 years, 99 daysWorkers' Party
President of the Republic
3
Il-sung, KimKim Il-sung
(1912–1994)
[b]
28 December 19728 July 1994 †21 years, 192 daysWorkers' Party
Vacant
(8 July 1994–5 September 1998)
President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly
4
Yong-nam, KimKim Yong-nam
(born 1928)
5 September 199811 April 201920 years, 218 daysWorkers' Party
5
Ryong-hae, ChoeChoe Ryong-hae
(born 1950)
11 April 2019Incumbent1 year, 318 daysWorkers' Party
Chairman of the National Defense Commission
4
Jong-il, KimKim Jong-il
(1941–2011)
9 April 199317 December 2011 †2 years, 252 daysWorkers' Party
5
Jong-un, KimKim Jong-un
(born 1983)
8 March 201230 June 20168 years, 352 daysWorkers' Party
President of the State Affairs Commission
5
Jong-un, KimKim Jong-un
(born 1983)
30 June 2016Incumbent8 years, 352 daysWorkers' Party

Heads of government

Main article: Premier of North Korea

No. Portrait Name Took office Left office Time in office Party
Premier of the Cabinet
1
Il-sung, KimKim Il-sung
(1912–1994)
9 September 194828 December 197224 years, 110 daysWorkers' Party
(WPNK until 1949)
Premier of the Administration Council
2
Il, KimKim Il
(1910–1984)
28 December 197219 April 19763 years, 113 daysWorkers' Party
3
Song-chol, PakPak Song-chol
(1913–2008)
19 April 197616 December 19771 year, 241 daysWorkers' Party
4
Jong-ok, RiRi Jong-ok
(1916–1999)
16 December 197727 January 19846 years, 42 daysWorkers' Party
5
Song-san, KangKang Song-san
(1931–2007)
27 January 198429 December 19862 years, 336 daysWorkers' Party
6
Kun-mo, RiRi Kun-mo
(1926–2001)
29 December 198612 December 19881 year, 349 daysWorkers' Party
7
Hyong-muk, YonYon Hyong-muk
(1931–2005)
12 December 198811 December 19923 years, 365 daysWorkers' Party
(5)
Song-san, KangKang Song-san
(1931–2007)
11 December 199221 February 19974 years, 72 daysWorkers' Party
Song-nam, HongHong Song-nam
(1929–2009)
Acting
21 February 19975 September 19981 year, 196 daysWorkers' Party
Premier of the Cabinet
8
Song-nam, HongHong Song-nam
(1929–2009)
5 September 19983 September 20034 years, 363 daysWorkers' Party
9
Pong-ju, PakPak Pong-ju
(born 1939)
3 September 200311 April 20073 years, 220 daysWorkers' Party
10
Yong-il, KimKim Yong-il
(born 1944)
11 April 20077 June 20103 years, 57 daysWorkers' Party
11
Yong-rim, ChoeChoe Yong-rim
(born 1930)
7 June 20101 April 20132 years, 298 daysWorkers' Party
(9)
Pong-ju, PakPak Pong-ju
(born 1939)
1 April 201312 April 20196 years, 11 daysWorkers' Party
12
Jae-ryong, KimKim Jae-ryong12 April 201913 August 20201 year, 123 daysWorkers' Party
13
Tok-hun, KimKim Tok-hun
(born 1962)
13 August 2020Incumbent194 daysWorkers' Party

Heads of parliament

No. Portrait Name Took office Left office Time in office Party
Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People's Assembly
1
Tu-bong, KimKim Tu-bong
(1889–1958)
9 September 194820 September 19579 years, 11 daysWorkers' Party
(WPNK until 1949)
2
Yong-gon, ChoeChoe Yong-gon
(1900–1976)
20 September 195728 December 197215 years, 99 daysWorkers' Party
3
Jang-yop, HwangHwang Jang-yop
(1923–2010)
28 December 19727 April 198310 years, 100 daysWorkers' Party
4
Hyong-sop, YangYang Hyong-sop
(born 1925)
7 April 19835 September 199815 years, 151 daysWorkers' Party
Chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly
5
Thae-bok, ChoeChoe Thae-bok
(born 1930)
5 September 199811 April 201920 years, 218 daysWorkers' Party
6
Thae-song, PakPak Thae-song
(born 1955)
11 April 2019Incumbent1 year, 318 daysWorkers' Party

Heads of the military

Main article: Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of North Korea

Standard of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of North Korea
No. Portrait Name Took office Left office Time in office Party
Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea
1
Il-sung, KimKim Il-sung
(1912–1994)
26 June 195028 December 197222 years, 185 daysWorkers' Party
Chairman of the National Defence Commission
(1)
Il-sung, KimKim Il-sung
(1912–1994)
28 December 19729 April 199320 years, 102 daysWorkers' Party
2
Jong-il, KimKim Jong-il
(1941–2011)
[c]
9 April 199317 December 2011 †18 years, 252 daysWorkers' Party
First Chairman of the National Defence Commission
3
Jong-un, KimKim Jong-un
(born 1983)
13 April 201229 June 20164 years, 77 daysWorkers' Party
Chairman of the State Affairs Commission
(3)
Jong-un, KimKim Jong-un
(born 1983)
29 June 2016Incumbent4 years, 239 daysWorkers' Party

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Kim Jong-il died on 17 December 2011, but was posthumously named the "Eternal General Secretary" on 11 April 2012. Thus his son and successor as leader, Kim Jong-un, was not given the title of General Secretary.
  2. ^ Kim Il-sung died on 8 July 1994, but was posthumously named the "Eternal President of the Republic" on 5 September 1998. Thus his son and successor as leader, the late Kim Jong-il, did not assume the post of head of state until April 2009 and the President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly became recognised as the de facto head of state.
  3. ^ Kim Jong-il died on 17 December 2011, but was posthumously named the "Eternal Chairman of the National Defence Commission" on 13 April 2012. Thus his son and successor as leader, Kim Jong-un, was given the title of "First Chairman".

References

  1. ^ "Kim Jong-il's 'Mt. Ryongnam Range' is succeeded by Kim Jong-un's 'Mt. Ami Range'". Leonid Petrov’s Korea Vision. Retrieved December 12, 2012.
  2. ^ Barry Turner (2013). The Statesman's Yearbook 2014: The Politics, Cultures and Economies of the World. Springer. p. 746. ISBN 978-1-349-59643-0. However, it is widely understood that Kim, like his late father, yields absolute power over the state, party and army.
  3. ^ Korea Focus on Current Topics. Korea Foundation. 2000. pp. 109–110. Kim Jong-il exercises near absolute power based on juche thought and respect for his revolutionary legacy.
  4. ^ Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia (1999). Japan and Russia in Northeast Asia: Partners in the 21st Century. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-275-96382-8. On February 14, 1974, Kim Il Sung announced the ten major principles to the party leadership, thus forcing power rivals to accept his "divinity, absolutism, and unconditionality" as was articulated in the principles. As a result, one may consider Kim Jong Il's control over North Korea, at least for the time being, as absolute, because he has made it almost impossible to openly advocate ideas directed against his father or express discontent with the system.
  5. ^ "Kim Jong-un: Who might lead N Korea without Kim?". BBC.
  6. ^ Savada, Andrea Matles. "Mass Organizations." North Korea: A country study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1993.
  7. ^ "Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un Cuts Tape for Completion of Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory". Kim Il-sung University. Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). 2020-05-02. Retrieved 2020-05-02. Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and supreme commander of the armed forces of the DPRK, attended the ceremony.
  8. ^ Petrov, Leonid (12 October 2009). "DPRK has quietly amended its Constitution". Leonid Petrov's KOREA VISION. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  9. ^ Isozaki, Atsuhito. "North Korea Revamps Its Constitution". thediplomat.com. DIPLOMAT MEDIA INC. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  10. ^ "Article 100". Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (PDF). Amended and supplemented on April 1, Juche 102 (2013), at the Seventh Session of the Twelfth Supreme People's Assembly. Pyongyang: Foreign Languages Publishing House. 2014. p. 22. ISBN 978-9946-0-1099-1.CS1 maint: others (link)
  11. ^ Josh Doyle (16 April 2019). "Is Kim Jong Un 'supreme representative of all the Korean people'?". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 17 August 2020.