The Supreme People's Assembly (Chosongul: 최고 인민 회의) is the unicameral legislature of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), commonly known as North Korea. It consists of one deputy from each of 687 constituencies, elected to five-year terms.
The constitution recognizes the Workers' Party as the leading party of the state. The Workers' Party, led by Kim Jong-un, governs the DPRK in a monopoly coalition with the Social Democratic Party and the Chondoist Chongu Party called the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland. Elections are held in five-year intervals, the most recent taking place in 2014.
In 1990, the composition of the SPA was 601 seats held by the Workers' Party of Korea, 51 seats held by the Korean Social Democratic Party, 22 seats held by the Chondoist Chongu Party and 13 seats held by independents.
The last convention during Kim Il-sung's government took place in April 1994, three months before his death. Then during the mourning period the assembly did not meet, nor did elections take place. The next meeting convened in September 1998, four years after Kim's death.
Kim Jong-il did not make a speech at the first session of the 10th SPA in 1998. Instead, members listened to a tape-recorded speech of the late Kim Il Sung, which was made at the first session of the 9th SPA, in 1991. The enhanced status of the Korean People's Army was anticipated by the SPA election July 1998, when 101 military officials were elected out of 687 delegates. This was a large increase from the 57 military officials elected during the 9th SPA in 1990.
On April 14, 2012, during the fifth session of the 12th Supreme People's Assembly Kim Jong Un was elected as the country's supreme leader. Addressing the SPA session, Kim Yong Nam, president of the SPA Presidium, said Kim's accession to the DPRK's top post reflected "the ardent desire and unanimous will of all the party members, servicepersons and other people". His status as leader was reaffirmed when he was elected unopposed on March 9, 2014. Kim had nominated to represent his district, the symbolic Mount Paekduto, in the assembly election. Voters could vote yes or no with all voting in the affirmative, according to government officials.
In 2017, the assembly created a subordinate Diplomatic Commission. This may be useful for international dialogue with other parliaments, while other diplomatic channels are blocked.
All candidates are selected by the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland in mass meetings held to decide which candidates will be nominated and their names can only go on the ballot paper with the approval of the meeting. The Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland is a popular front dominated by the Korean Worker's Party, in which almost all power rests. The other participants in the coalition include the two other de facto legal political parties, the Korean Social Democratic Party and the Chondoist Chongu Party, as well as various other member organizations including social groups and youth groups, such as the Korean section of the Pioneer movement, the Kimilsungist-Kimjongilist Youth League, the Korean Democratic Women's League, and the Red Cross Society of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Elections are ostensibly by secret ballot. However, only one candidate who has been selected by the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland appears on the ballot. A voter may cross off the candidate's name to vote against them. However, anyone voting against the Front's candidate must do so without any secrecy. In most polling stations the voter must do so with a red pen next to the ballot box in sight of electoral officials. At some polling stations there is a separate ballot box for 'no' votes. Many North Korean defectors claim such an act of defiance is too risky to attempt.
According to the Constitution of North Korea, it is the highest organ of state power in the country. The Assembly is convened once or twice a year in regular sessions of several days each. At all other times, the Presidium acts for the Assembly. Extraordinary sessions of the Assembly can also meet when called by the Presidium or by one third of the Assembly deputies.
The functions of the SPA are:
Constitutional amendments require the approval of two-thirds of the deputies.
The Presidium exercises legislative power when the SPA is in recess, which occurs during all but a few days of every year. For all intents and purposes, it is the highest organ of state power in North Korea.
The Presidium consists of the President, Vice-Presidents, secretaries and other members. The functions of the Presidium are to:
According to the 1998 Constitution, the Presidium and the President of the Presidium succeed the Assembly's Standing Committee and the Chairman of the Standing Committee. Prior to the creation of the post of President of the DPRK in 1972, the Chairman of the Standing Committee was the country's de jure head of state. Currently, the Chairman of the Assembly is the SPA speaker while the President of the Presidium is the nominal head of state.
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