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Supreme Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
조선민주주의인민공화국의 최고령도자
Emblem of North Korea.svg
Emblem
Kim Jong-un April 2019 (cropped).jpg
Incumbent
Kim Jong-un

since 17 December 2011
Style

Respected Comrade Supreme Leader

Comrade Chairman of the State Affairs Commission
(Within the DPRK)
His Excellency
(International correspondence)
Residence Ryongsong Residence[1]
Term length No limit
Inaugural holder Kim Il-sung
Formation 9 September 1948
L
Hangul 조선민주주의인민공화국의 최고령도자
Hanja 朝鮮民主主義人民共和國의 最高領導者
Revised Romanization Joseon Minjujuui Inmin Gonghwagukui Choegoryeongdoja

This article lists the political leaders of North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

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, also led by Kim Il-sung.

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, and finally Chairman again since 2016—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". Since then, the practical functions of the head of state have been exercised by the President of the Presidium of the SPA.[dated info]

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 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”.

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 chairman of the State Affairs Commission) was formally designated as the "supreme leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea" (Korean: 조선민주주의인민공화국의 최고 령도자).[7][8][9]

Kim Jong-unKim Jong-ilKim Il-sung

Generations of leadership[]

      First generation       Second generation       Third generation

  • Bold offices refer to the highest positions in North Korea
Picture Name Offices held Period Ideology
Kim Il Sung Portrait-3.jpg Kim Il-sung
김일성
(1912–1994)
Kim Il Sung Signature.svg
Premier of the Cabinet of the DPRK 9 September 1948 – 28 December 1972 9 September 1948

8 July 1994 †
(700145000000000000045 years, 7002302000000000000302 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 Portrait-2.jpg Kim Jong-il
김정일
(1941–2011)
Kim Jong-il Signature.svg
Supreme Commander of the KPA 24 December 1991 – 17 December 2011 8 July 1994

17 December 2011 †
(700117000000000000017 years, 7002162000000000000162 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 April 2019 crop.jpg Kim Jong-un
김정은
(born 1983)
Kim Jong-un Signature.svg
Supreme Commander of the KPA 30 December 2011 – present 17 December 2011

Incumbent
(70009000000000000009 years, 7002302000000000000302 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 – present
Chairman of the State Affairs Commission 29 June 2016 – present
Supreme Representative of the Korean People[10] April 2019 – present

Leaders of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK)[]

Flag of the Workers' Party of Korea

Name Took office Left office Time in office Party
Chairman
1
Kim Tu-bong
Tu-bong, KimKim Tu-bong
(1889–1958)
28 August 194630 June 19492 years, 306 daysWorkers' Party
Chairman of the Central Committee
2
Kim Il-sung
Il-sung, KimKim Il-sung
(1912–1994)
30 June 194911 October 196617 years, 103 daysWorkers' Party
General Secretary of the Central Committee
(2)
Kim Il-sung
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
Kim Jong-il
Jong-il, KimKim Jong-il
(1941–2011)
[lower-alpha 1]
8 October 199717 December 2011 †24 years, 7 daysWorkers' Party
First Secretary of the Party
4
Kim Jong-un
Jong-un, KimKim Jong-un
(born 1983)
11 April 20129 May 20164 years, 28 daysWorkers' Party
Chairman of the Party
(4)
Kim Jong-un
Jong-un, KimKim Jong-un
(born 1983)
9 May 2016Incumbent5 years, 159 daysWorkers' Party

Heads of state[]

Name Took office Left office Time in office Party
Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People's Assembly
1
Kim Tu-bong
Tu-bong, KimKim Tu-bong
(1889–1958)
9 September 194820 September 19579 years, 11 daysWorkers' Party
Workers' Party
2
Choe Yong-gon
Yong-gon, ChoeChoe Yong-gon
(1900–1976)
20 September 195728 December 197215 years, 99 daysWorkers' Party
President of the Republic
3
Kim Il-sung
Il-sung, KimKim Il-sung
(1912–1994)
[lower-alpha 2]
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
Kim Yong-nam
Yong-nam, KimKim Yong-nam
(born 1928)
5 September 199811 April 201920 years, 218 daysWorkers' Party
5
Choe Ryong-hae
Ryong-hae, ChoeChoe Ryong-hae
(born 1950)
11 April 2019Incumbent2 years, 187 daysWorkers' Party
Supreme Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Kim Jong-il
Jong-il, KimKim Jong-il
(1941–2011)
9 April 200917 December 2011 †2 years, 252 daysWorkers' Party
Kim Jong-un
Jong-un, KimKim Jong-un
(born 1983)
8 March 2012Incumbent9 years, 221 daysWorkers' Party

Heads of government[]

Name Took office Left office Time in office Party
Premier of the Cabinet
1
Kim Il-sung
Il-sung, KimKim Il-sung
(1912–1994)
9 September 194828 December 197224 years, 110 daysWorkers' Party
Workers' Party
Premier of the Administration Council
2
Kim Il
Il, KimKim Il
(1910–1984)
28 December 197219 April 19763 years, 113 daysWorkers' Party
3
Pak Song-chol
Song-chol, PakPak Song-chol
(1913–2008)
19 April 197616 December 19771 year, 241 daysWorkers' Party
4
Ri Jong-ok
Jong-ok, RiRi Jong-ok
(1916–1999)
16 December 197727 January 19846 years, 42 daysWorkers' Party
5Song-san, KangKang Song-san
(1931–2007)
27 January 198429 December 19862 years, 336 daysWorkers' Party
6Kun-mo, RiRi Kun-mo
(1926–2001)
29 December 198612 December 19881 year, 349 daysWorkers' Party
7Hyong-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 (Acting)
(1929–2009)
21 February 19975 September 19981 year, 196 daysWorkers' Party
Premier of the Cabinet
8Song-nam, HongHong Song-nam
(1929–2009)
5 September 19983 September 20034 years, 363 daysWorkers' Party
9Pong-ju, PakPak Pong-ju
(born 1939)
3 September 200311 April 20073 years, 220 daysWorkers' Party
10Yong-il, KimKim Yong-il
(born 1944)
11 April 20077 June 20103 years, 57 daysWorkers' Party
11Yong-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
12Jae-ryong, KimKim Jae-ryong12 April 201913 August 20201 year, 123 daysWorkers' Party
13Tok-hun, KimKim Tok-hun
(born 1962)
13 August 2020Incumbent1 year, 63 daysWorkers' Party

Heads of parliament[]

Name Took office Left office Time in office Party
Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People's Assembly
1
Kim Tu-bong
Tu-bong, KimKim Tu-bong
(1889–1958)
9 September 194820 September 19579 years, 11 daysWorkers' Party
Workers' Party
2
Choe Yong-gon
Yong-gon, ChoeChoe Yong-gon
(1900–1976)
20 September 195728 December 197215 years, 99 daysWorkers' Party
3
Hwang Jang-yop
Jang-yop, HwangHwang Jang-yop
(1923–2010)
28 December 19727 April 198310 years, 100 daysWorkers' Party
4Hyong-sop, YangYang Hyong-sop
(born 1925)
7 April 19835 September 199815 years, 151 daysWorkers' Party
Chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly
5Thae-bok, ChoeChoe Thae-bok
(born 1930)
5 September 199811 April 201920 years, 218 daysWorkers' Party
6Thae-song, PakPak Thae-song
(born 1955)
11 April 2019Incumbent2 years, 187 daysWorkers' Party

Heads of the military[]

Standard of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of North Korea

Name Took office Left office Time in office Party
Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea
1
Kim Il-sung
Il-sung, KimKim Il-sung
(1912–1994)
26 June 195028 December 197222 years, 185 daysWorkers' Party
Chairman of the National Defence Commission
(1)
Kim Il-sung
Il-sung, KimKim Il-sung
(1912–1994)
28 December 19729 April 199320 years, 102 daysWorkers' Party
2
Kim Jong-il
Jong-il, KimKim Jong-il
(1941–2011)
[lower-alpha 3]
9 April 199317 December 2011 †18 years, 252 daysWorkers' Party
First Chairman of the National Defence Commission
3
Kim Jong-un
Jong-un, KimKim Jong-un
(born 1983)
13 April 201229 June 20164 years, 77 daysWorkers' Party
Chairman of the State Affairs Commission
(3)
Kim Jong-un
Jong-un, KimKim Jong-un
(born 1983)
29 June 2016Incumbent5 years, 108 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. http://leonidpetrov.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/kim-jong-ils-mt-ryongnam-range-is-succeeded-by-kim-jong-uns-mt-ami-range/. 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. https://books.google.com/books?id=r5PlDQAAQBAJ&pg=PA746. "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. https://books.google.com/books?id=rnSGAAAAIAAJ. "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. https://books.google.com/books?id=uPI9vkyisXMC&pg=PA138. "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?". https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-52450744. 
  6. Savada, Andrea Matles. "Mass Organizations." North Korea: A country study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1993.
  7. Petrov, Leonid (12 October 2009). "DPRK has quietly amended its Constitution". Leonid Petrov's KOREA VISION. https://leonidpetrov.wordpress.com/2009/10/12/dprk-has-quietly-amended-its-constitution/. Retrieved 12 September 2015. 
  8. Isozaki, Atsuhito. "North Korea Revamps Its Constitution". DIPLOMAT MEDIA INC.. https://thediplomat.com/2019/08/north-korea-revamps-its-constitution/. Retrieved 27 April 2020. 
  9. "Article 100" (PDF). Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. 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. http://www.naenara.com.kp/en/book/download.php?4+4047. 
  10. Josh Doyle (16 April 2019). "Is Kim Jong Un 'supreme representative of all the Korean people'?". Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/04/kim-jong-supreme-representative-korean-people-190416023730477.html. Retrieved 17 August 2020. 

External links[]

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