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,[1] elected to five-year terms.[2]

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.

Although the Supreme People's Assembly is the primary legislative body of the DPRK, it ordinarily delegates authority to the smaller and more powerful Presidium, chosen from among its members.


Under the 1972 Constitution, the number of seats in the Assembly was 655.[3] This was increased to 687 following the 1986 election.[4]

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.[5]

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.[6]

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.

Kim Yong-nam has been president of the Assembly Presidum since 1998. Choe Thae-bok, Kim Wan-su and Hong Son Ok are the Vice-Chairmen.[7]

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".[8] 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.[9]

Elections and membership

Under the Constitution of North Korea, all citizens 17 and older, regardless of party affiliation, political views, or religion, are eligible to be elected to the legislature and vote in elections.

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.[10] 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.[11] Many North Korean defectors claim such an act of defiance is too risky to attempt.[10]


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:[12]

  • Adopting, amending or supplementing enactments to the constitution
  • Determining State policy and budgets[13]
  • Elections of the Chairman, Vice-Chairman and members of the National Defence Commission
  • Election of the President and other members of the Presidium
  • Elections of legal officials
  • Appointing the Premier, Deputy Premiers and other members of the Cabinet
  • Receiving reports and adopting measures on the Cabinet

Constitutional amendments require the approval of two-thirds of the deputies.[12]


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.[7]

The Presidium consists of the President, Vice-Presidents, secretaries and other members. The functions of the Presidium are to:[12]

  • Convene sessions of the Supreme People's Assembly
  • Examine and approve new state legislation when the SPA is in recess
  • Interpret and enact the Constitution and legislation
  • Form or dissolve state ministries
  • Supervise laws of State organs
  • Organize elections to the Supreme People's Assembly
  • Ratify treaties with foreign countries
  • Appoint, transfer, or remove officials and judges when the SPA is not in session
  • Grant special pardons or amnesties

In addition to its executive functions, the Presidium also receives credentials of diplomatic representatives from foreign countries.[12]


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.

Kim Yong-nam is the current President of the Presidium and as such, de jure head of state of North Korea.[7]

See also


  1. ^ "DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF KOREA Choe Go In Min Hoe Ui (Supreme People's Assembly)". Inter-Parliamentary Union. 5 August 2014. Retrieved 3 January 2018. 
  2. ^ "DPRK Holds Election of Local and National Assemblies". People's Korea. Archived from the original on 2013-03-31. Retrieved 2008-06-28. 
  3. ^ Gorvin, Ian (1989-01-01). Elections since 1945: a worldwide reference compendium. Longman. p. 196. ISBN 9780582036208. 
  4. ^ Publications, Europa; Staff, Europa Publications; 32nd, Ed (2017-04-25). The Far East and Australasia 2001. Taylor & Francis Group. p. 597. ISBN 9781857430806. Archived from the original on 2017-04-26. 
  5. ^ Association of Secretaries General of Parliaments
  6. ^ "North Korean legislature seen set to name Kim president", CNN, August 20, 1998. Archived March 26, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ a b c Dae-woong, Jin (2007-10-04). "Who's who in North Korea's power elite". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2007-10-05. [permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "DPRK revises constitution, elects Kim Jong Un as top leader", 2012-04-14 Archived 2012-04-18 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ Frank, Ruediger (28 April 2017). "The North Korean Parliamentary Session and Budget Report for 2017". 38 North. U.S.-Korea Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Archived from the original on 28 April 2017. Retrieved 1 May 2017. 
  10. ^ a b "North Korea votes for new rubber-stamp parliament". Associated Press. 8 March 2009. 
  11. ^ http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/07/local-elections-north-korea-bring-change-150718180133222.html
  12. ^ a b c d Europa Publications Staff. (2002). The Far East and Australasia 2003. Routledge. pp. 680. ISBN 978-1-85743-133-9
  13. ^ Frank, Ruediger (8 April 2016). "The 2016 North Korean Budget Report: 12 Observations". 38 North. U.S.-Korea Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Archived from the original on 4 May 2017. Retrieved 1 May 2017. 

External links

Coordinates: 39°01′43″N 125°44′59″E / 39.02861°N 125.74972°E / 39.02861; 125.74972