Ministry of State Security of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
조선민주주의인민공화국 국가보위성
Flag used by the MoSS
Flag used by the MoSS
Agency overview
Annual budgetClassified
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdictionNorth Korea
Operational structure
39°4′29″N 125°46′7″E / 39.07472°N 125.76861°E / 39.07472; 125.76861
Elected officers responsible
  • Ri Chang-dae, Minister of State Security
  • So Tae-ha, Vice Minister of State Security
Agency executive
  • Kim Dong-lay, Political department head
Parent agencyState Affairs Commission of North Korea
Ministry of State Security
Revised RomanizationGukga anjeon bowibu
McCune–ReischauerKukka anjŏn powibu

The Ministry of State Security of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea[a] (Korean: 조선민주주의인민공화국 국가보위성) is the secret police agency of North Korea. It is an autonomous agency of the North Korean government reporting directly to the Supreme Leader.[2][3] In addition to its internal security duties, it is involved in the operation of North Korea's concentration camps and various other hidden activities.[4] The agency is reputed to be one of the most brutal secret police forces in the world, and has been involved in numerous human rights abuses.[3]

It is one of two agencies which provides security or protection to North Korean officials and VIPs alongside the Supreme Guard Command.[3][5]


In 1945, the DPRK Security was established, being attached to the "Police Department".[6] In 1948, it became Ministry of Internal Affairs (Korean: 내무성 정치보위국) with the Bureau of Political Protection attached.[6] In February 1949, it became the Political Security Agency (Korean: 정치보위부로). On September 12, 1949, Bowman Lee Chang-ok, a violent man,[citation needed] was purged and reorganized and absorbed into social safety. In September 1948, the National Political Affairs Department, which specializes in political in the North Korean region, was newly established.

On August 20, 1949, however, after Lee Chang-ok, the deputy secretary of the Republic of Korea, escaped from Haeju, South Korea, along with Kim Kang and others, the organization was abolished after a massive purge. It was integrated into the Ministry of Social Safety (later known as the Ministry of People's Security). In 1951 it was renamed to Social Security Political Security Agency. In 1952, Department of Homeland Security. In 1962, it became Social and Political Security Agency (Korean: 사회안전성 정치보위국). The SSD was created in 1973, being separated from the Ministry of Public Security.[7][8]

Some defectors[who?] and sources[who?] have suggested that unlike its Eastern Bloc counterparts, State Security functions are actually conducted by several larger and different security bodies that operate under the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) or the Korean People's Army (KPA, the North Korean armed forces), each with its own unique responsibilities and classified names that are referred to by code (e.g. Room 39), and that the agency is little more than a hollow shell used by the elite to coordinate their activities and provide cover for them.[citation needed]

The post of Security Department head was left vacant after Minister Ri Chun-su's death in 1987, although it was de facto if not de jure controlled by Kim Jong-il and the WPK Organization and Guidance Department he headed.[9] In 1998, the SSD migrated under the National Defence Commission, also chaired by Kim Jong-il.[9] Finally, in 2007, it was transferred under the WPK Administration Department, whose first vice director became responsible of the SSD daily work, but it continued to have obligations towards the Organization and Guidance Department.[9]

In November 2011, it was reported that General U Tong-chuk had been appointed permanent minister of State Security,[10] the first of this kind since 1987, filling a post left unoccupied for 24 years. This was almost concurrent with General Ri Myong-su's appointment as minister of People's Security. Other sources also claimed that Kim Jong-un worked at the State Security Department before and/or after his anointment as heir apparent in September 2010.[11] Kim Won-hong was appointed minister in April 2012 as the position was restored following Kim Jong-il's death.[12] He served as Kim Jong-un's aide until February 2017 when he was allegedly dismissed for filing false reports to Kim Jong-un and mishandling an aide of Kim Jong-un. He was formally replaced in October 2017 at a WPK central committee plenum by Jong Kyong-thaek.[13] So Tae-ha is the vice minister, while Kim Chang-sop serves as the head of the political department of the ministry.[14]

On October 21, 2021, the MSS was instructed not to surveil North Koreans living near the Chinese-North Korean border who are known to be free from any ideological suspicions.[15]


The Ministry of State Security is tasked to investigate political and economic crimes in North Korea, especially for the former on crimes against the Kim family.[8] It's also tasked to conduct VIP protection duties for North Korean diplomats and employees who work in various North Korean embassies, consulates and other foreign missions abroad.[8]

The Ministry is known to link up with various government ministries and agencies to help them with their various missions.[8]

Agency directors

No. Portrait Minister Took office Left office
Lee Chang-ok 이창옥 (李昌玉)
Yong-gon, ChoeLee Chang-ok
이창옥 (李昌玉)
Kim Byong-ha 김병하 (金炳夏)
Kim Byong-ha
김병하 (金炳夏)
Jin Soo-lee 김창봉 (李鎭洙)
Jin Soo-lee
김창봉 (李鎭洙)
Kim Ryong-yong 최현
Kim Ryong-yong
Kim Jong-il 김정일
Kim Jong-il
Jang Song-thaek 장성택
Jang Song-thaek
U Tong-chuk 우동측
U Tong-chuk
Kim Won-hong 김원홍
Kim Won-hong
Jong Kyong-thaek 정경택
Jong Kyong-thaek
Ri Chang-dae 리창대
Ri Chang-dae


Rank Insignia
Colonel General
Lieutenant General
Major General
Senior Colonel
Senior Lieutenant
Junior Lieutenant


  1. ^ Other sources indicate that the agency's name is known as the State Security Department according to authors like Joseph Bermudez[1]



  1. ^ Bermudez 2001, p. 198.
  2. ^ Library of Congress Country Studies
  3. ^ a b c Kirby, Michael Donald; Biserko, Sonja; Darusman, Marzuki (February 7, 2014). Report of the detailed findings of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea - A/HRC/25/CRP.1. United Nations Human Rights Council. Archived from the original on February 27, 2014.
  4. ^ Bermudez 2001, pp. 198–203.
  5. ^ Bermudez, Joseph S. Jr. (2005). "SIGINT, EW, and EIW in the Korean People's Army: an Overview of Development and Organization" (PDF). In Mansourov, Alexandre Y. (ed.). Bytes and Bullets: Information Technology Revolution and National Security on the Korean Peninsula. Honolulu: Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. pp. 234–275. OCLC 977455303.
  6. ^ a b "How the North is run: The secret police". NK News. July 24, 2018. Archived from the original on March 11, 2019.
  7. ^ "Everything We Know About the State Security Department, North Korea's Secret Service". Showbiz Cheat Sheet. April 28, 2018. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved July 31, 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d "State Security Department". North Korea Leadership Watch.
  9. ^ a b c "U Tong Chuk Appointed Minister of State Security". North Korea Leadership Watch. November 12, 2011. Archived from the original on January 19, 2012.
  10. ^ "General U Upped". Intelligence Online. November 10, 2011.
  11. ^ "NIC: Kim Jong-un in charge of intelligence". North Korean Economy Watch. April 21, 2011.
  12. ^ "Top 4 N.Korean Military Officials Fall Victim to Shakeup". Chosun Ilbo. November 30, 2012. Retrieved December 1, 2012.
  13. ^ "Choe Ryong Hae to OGD? [revised 13 JAN 2018]". North Korea Leadership Watch.
  14. ^ Zwirko, Colin (December 28, 2018). "North Korean leadership shakeups revealed in latest MOU reference book release". NK News. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  15. ^ "Kim Jong Un orders security agency to avoid 'excessive' surveillance of N. Koreans in border regions". Daily NK. October 21, 2021.


  • Bermudez, Joseph S. (2001). Shield of the Great Leader. The Armed Forces of North Korea. The Armed Forces of Asia. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86448-582-5.