Coordinates: 39°1′15.23″N 125°45′10.99″E /
39.0208972°N 125.7530528°E / 39.0208972; 125.7530528
Workers' Party of Korea
Eternal General Secretary
Kim Jong-il (deceased)
June 30, 1949; 68 years ago (1949-06-30)
Workers' Party of North Korea
Workers' Party of South Korea
Building of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea,
Pyongyang, North Korea
Kimilsungist-Kimjongilist Youth League
Korean Children's Union
Korean People's Army
Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland
International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties
"Long Live the Workers' Party of Korea"
Active; Ruling party in North Korea
South Korea under the National Security Act
Supreme People's Assembly
607 / 687
Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the WPK Central Committee
Politics of North Korea
The Workers' Party of
Korea (WPK)[note 1] is the founding and ruling
political party of the
Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North
Korea) and the largest party represented in the Supreme People's
Assembly. The WPK is the sole governing party of North Korea, although
it coexists de jure with two other legal parties making up the
Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland. It was
founded in 1949 with the merger of the Workers' Party of North Korea
and the Workers' Party of South Korea. The WPK also controls the
world's 5th largest armed force, the Korean People's Army. This
political party (and all of the other parties in the DPRK) remains
South Korea under South Korea's own National Security Act
and is sanctioned by Australia, the European Union, the United Nations
and the United States.
The WPK is organized according to the Monolithic Ideological System
and the Great Leader, a system and theory conceived by
Kim Yong-ju and
Kim Jong-il. The highest body of the WPK is formally the Congress, but
in practice a Congress occurs infrequently. Between 1980 and 2016,
there were no congresses held. Although the WPK is organizationally
similar to communist parties, in practice it is far less
institutionalized and informal politics plays a larger role than
usual. Institutions such as the Central Committee, the Executive
Policy Bureau, the Central
Military Commission (CMC), the Politburo
and the Politburo's Presidium have much less power than that formally
bestowed on them by the party's charter, which is little more than a
Kim Jong-un is the current WPK leader, serving as
Chairman and CMC chairman.
The WPK is committed to Juche, an ideology which has been described as
a combination of collectivism and nationalism; and at the 4th
Conference (held in 2012), the party charter was amended to state that
Kimilsungism–Kimjongilism was "the only guiding idea of the party".
At the 3rd Conference (held in 2010), the WPK removed a sentence from
the preamble expressing the party's commitment "to building a
communist society", replacing it with a new adherence to Songun, that
is "military-first" policies.[not verified in body] The 2009 revision
had already removed all references to communism. Party ideology has
recently focused on perceived imperialist enemies of the party and
state; and on legitimizing the Kim family's dominance of the political
system. Before the rise of
Juche and later Songun, the party was
committed to Marxist–Leninist thought as well, with its importance
becoming greatly diminished over time. The party's emblem is an
adaptation of the communist hammer and sickle, with a traditional
Korean calligraphy brush. Each symbol is to represent industrial
workers (hammer), peasants (sickle) and intellectuals (ink brush).
1.1 Founding and early years (1945–1953)
1.2 Kim Il-sung's consolidation of power (1953–1980)
1.3 Kim Jong-il's apprenticeship and rule (1980–2011)
1.4 Kim Jong-un's rule (2011–present)
2.1 Great Leader
2.1.1 Kim dynasty
2.2 Monolithic Ideological System
3.1 Central organization
3.2 Lower-level organization
4.1.1 Relationship to Marxism–Leninism
4.1.2 Basic tenets
4.2.1 Allegations of xenophobia
5 See also
7.2.1 Articles, books and journal entries
8 External links
Main article: History of the Workers' Party of Korea
Workers' Party of Korea
"Workers' Party of Korea" in
Hancha (top) and
Joseon Rodongdang, Pukhan Nodongdang
Chosŏn Rodongdang, Bukhan Nodongdang
Founding and early years (1945–1953)
On 13 October 1945, the North Korean Bureau of the Communist Party of
Korea (NKB–CPK) was established, with Kim Yong-bom its first
chairman. However, the NKB–CPK remained subordinate to the CPK
Central Committee (headquartered in Seoul and headed by Pak
Hon-yong). Two months later, at the 3rd Plenum of the NKB, Kim
Yong-bom was replaced by
Kim Il-sung (an event probably orchestrated
by the Soviet Union). In spring 1946 the North Korean Bureau became
the Communist Party of North Korea, with
Kim Il-sung its elected
chairman. On 22 July 1946 Soviet authorities in North Korea
established the United Democratic National Front, a popular front led
by the Communist Party of North Korea. The Communist Party of North
Korea soon merged with the New People's Party of Korea, a party
primarily composed of communists from China. On 28 July 1946 a
special commission of the two parties ratified the merger, and it
became official the following day. One month later (28–30 August
1946) the party held its founding congress, establishing the Workers'
North Korea (WPNK). The congress elected former leader of
New People's Party of Korea
Kim Tu-bong as the first WPNK
Kim Il-sung its appointed deputy chairman. However,
despite his formal downgrade in the party's hierarchy Kim Il-sung
remained its leader.
Kim Il-sung (left) with
Pak Hon-yong in Pyongyang, 1948
Party control increased throughout the country after the congress.
From 27–30 March 1948, the WPNK convened its 2nd Congress. While
Kim Tu-bong was still the party's formal head,
Kim Il-sung presented
the main report to the congress. In it he claimed that North Korea
was "a base of democracy", in contrast to
South Korea (which was, he
believed, dictatorial). On 28 April 1948 a special session of the
Supreme People's Assembly
Supreme People's Assembly approved the constitution (proposed and
written by WPNK cadres), which led to the official establishment of an
independent North Korea. It did not call for the establishment of
an independent North Korea, but for a unified (communist) Korea; the
capital of the
Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) would be
Seoul, not Pyongyang.
Kim Il-sung was the appointed head of
government of the new state, with
Kim Tu-bong heading the legislative
branch. A year later on 30 June 1949, the Workers' Party of Korea
was created with the merger of the WPNK and the Workers' Party of
Kim Il-sung was not the most ardent supporter of a military
reunification of Korea; that role was played by the South Korean
communists, headed by Pak Hon-yong. After several meetings with
Joseph Stalin (the leader of the Soviet Union), the North Koreans
South Korea on 25 June 1950—this began the Korean War.
With American intervention in the war the DPRK nearly collapsed, but
it was saved by Chinese intervention in the conflict. The war had
the effect of weakening Soviet influence over
Kim Il-sung and the
WPK. Around this time, the main fault lines in early WPK politics
were created. Four factions formed: domestic (a group of WPK cadres
who had remained in
Korea during Japanese rule), Soviet Koreans
Koreans sent from the Soviet Union), Yanan (
Koreans from China) and
guerrillas (Kim Il-sung's personal faction). However, Kim would be
unable to further strengthen his position until the end of the
Kim Il-sung's consolidation of power (1953–1980)
Propaganda mosaic commemorating the triumphant homecoming of Kim
Il-sung after he liberated
Korea from Japan
Relations worsened between the WPK and the Communist Party of the
Soviet Union (CPSU) when Stalin's successor, Nikita Khrushchev, began
pursuing a policy of de-Stalinization. During the Sino–Soviet
conflict, an ideological conflict between the CPSU and the Communist
Party of China (CPC),
Kim Il-sung maneuvered between the two socialist
superpowers; by doing so, he weakened their influence on the WPK.
Kim Il-sung and the WPK favored the CPC over the CPSU in the
ideological struggle, and "for a few years
North Korea almost
unconditionally supported the Chinese position on all important
issues." The primary conflict between the WPK and the CPSU during
this period was that
Kim Il-sung did not support the denunciation of
Stalinism (including Stalin's cult of personality), the creation of a
collective leadership and the theory of peaceful coexistence between
the capitalist and socialist worlds.
Kim Il-sung believed peaceful
coexistence synonymous with capitulation, and knew that
North Korea would effectively end his unlimited
power over the WPK. The result of the souring of relations between
the CPSU and the WPK was that the Soviet Union discontinued aid to
North Korea. As a result, several industries were on the brink of
disaster; China was unwilling to increase aid to North Korea. Mao
Zedong began the
Cultural Revolution shortly thereafter, an event
criticized by the WPK as "left-wing opportunism" and a manifestation
of the "Trotskyist theory of a permanent revolution." Relations
towards the CPSU and the CPC stabilized during the 1960s, with the WPK
making it clear it would remain neutral in the Sino–Soviet
conflict, thus resulting in the 1966 launch of the
aimed at national self-determination at all levels. This, in turn,
strengthened Kim Il-Sung's position in the WPK.
Beginning in the 1960s, Kim Il-sung's cult of personality reached new
heights. It had been no greater than Stalin's or Mao's until 1972,
when his birthday on April 15 became the country's main public holiday
and statues of him began to be built nationwide. Kim became known
as "Great Leader", the "Sun of the Nation", "The Iron All-Victorious
General" and "Marshal of the All-Mighty Republic" in WPK and state
publications; official propaganda stated that "burning loyalty to the
leader" was one of the main characteristics of any Korean.
Kim Il-sung and his guerilla faction had purged the WPK of its
opposing factions during the 1950s and the 1960s, to the dismay of
both the CPC and the CPSU. The domestic faction was the first to
go (in 1953–55), followed by the Yan'an faction in 1957–58 and the
Koreans (along with anyone else deemed unfaithful to the WPK
leadership) in the 1957–62 purge. According to historian Andrei
Kim Il-sung had become not only supreme, but also the
omnipotent ruler of North Korea—no longer merely 'first amongst
equals', as had been the case in the late 1940s". After purging
his WPK opposition,
Kim Il-sung consolidated his power base with
nepotism and hereditary succession in the Kim family and the guerilla
faction. Beginning in the late 1980s, "a high (and increasing)
proportion of North Korean high officials have been sons of high
officials." Since the 1960s,
Kim Il-sung had appointed family
members to positions of power. By the early 1990s, a number of
leading national offices were held by people in his family: Kang
Song-san (Premier of the Administrative Council and member of the WPK
Pak Song-chol (Vice President),
Hwang Jang-yop and Kim
Chung-rin (members of the WPK Secretariat),
Kim Yong-sun (Head of the
WPK International Department and member of the WPK Secretariat), Kang
Hui-won (Secretary of the WPK
Pyongyang Municipal Committee and Deputy
Premier of the Administrative Council), Kim Tal-hyon (Minister of
Foreign Trade), Kim Chan-ju (Minister of Agriculture and Deputy
Chairman of the Administrative Council) and
Yang Hyong-sop (President
of the Academy of Social Sciences and chairman of the Supreme People's
Assembly). These individuals were appointed solely because of
their ties to the Kim family, and presumably retain their positions as
long as the Kim family controls the WPK and the country. The
reason for Kim's support of nepotism (his own and that of the
guerrilla faction) can be explained by the fact that he did not want
the party bureaucracy to threaten his—and his son's—rule as it did
in other socialist states.
It was first generally believed by foreign observers that Kim Il-sung
was planning for his brother, Kim Yong-ju, to succeed him. Kim
Yong-ju's authority gradually increased, until he became co-chairman
of the North–South Coordination Committee. From late 1972 to the
6th WPK Congress,
Kim Yong-ju became an increasingly remote figure in
the regime. At the 6th Congress he lost his Politburo and Central
Committee seats, and rumors that
Kim Il-sung had begun grooming
Kim Jong-il in 1966 were confirmed. From 1974 to the 6th Congress,
Kim Jong-il (called the "Party centre" by North Korean media) was the
second most powerful man in North Korea. His selection was
criticized, with his father accused of creating a dynasty or turning
North Korea into a feudal state.
Kim Jong-il's apprenticeship and rule (1980–2011)
Kim Jong-il headed the WPK with no pretense of following the
party charter, it was revitalized at the 3rd Conference at the end of
With Kim Jong-il's official appointment as heir apparent at the 6th
Congress, power became more centralized in the Kim family. WPK
officials began to speak openly about his succession, and beginning in
1981 he began to participate in (and lead) tours. In 1982 he was
made a Hero of the
Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Democratic People's Republic of Korea and wrote On
Juche Idea. While foreign observers believed that Kim
Jong-il's appointment would increase participation by the younger
generation, in On the
Juche Idea he made it clear that his leadership
would not mark the beginning of a new generation of leaders. The
WPK could not address the crisis facing
Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il's
leadership at home and abroad, in part because of the gerontocracy at
the highest level of the WPK and the state.
With the death of
O Jin-u on 25 February 1995,
Kim Jong-il became the
sole remaining living member of the Presidium (the highest body of the
WPK when the Politburo and the Central Committee are not in
session). While no member list of the WPK Central Military
Commission (CMC, the highest party organ on military affairs) was
published from 1993 to 2010, there were clear signs of movement in the
military hierarchy during 1995. For the WPK's 50th anniversary,
Kim Jong-il initiated a reshuffling of the CMC (and the military
leadership in general) to appease the old guard and younger
officials. He did not reshuffle the WPK Central Committee or the
government, however, and during the 1990s the changes to its
membership were caused mostly by its members dying of natural
causes. Beginning in 1995,
Kim Jong-il favored the military over
the WPK and the state. Problems began to mount as an economic
crisis, coupled with a famine in which at least half a million people
died, weakened his control of the country. Instead of recommending
structural reforms Kim began to criticize the WPK's lack of control
over the economy, lambasting its local and provincial branches for
their inability to implement central-level instructions. At a
speech celebrating the 50th anniversary of
Kim Il-sung University, he
said: "The reason why people are loyal to the instructions of the
Central Committee is not because of party organizations and workers,
but because of my authority."
Kim Jong-il said that his father had
told him to avoid economics, claiming that it was better left to
experts. After this speech, the WPK's responsibility to control the
economy was given to the Administrative Council (the central
government). By late 1996
Kim Jong-il concluded that neither the
WPK nor the central government could run the country, and began
shifting control to the military.
Monument to Party Founding
Monument to Party Founding in Pyongyang, erected in 1995
On 8 July 1997, the three-year mourning period for Kim Il-sung
ended. Later that year, on 8 October,
Kim Jong-il was appointed to
the newly established office of General Secretary of the Workers'
Party of Korea. There was considerable discussion by foreign
experts of why
Kim Jong-il was appointed General Secretary of the
Workers' Party of Korea, instead of succeeding his father as General
Secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea.
In a clear breach of the WPK charter,
Kim Jong-il was appointed WPK
General Secretary in a joint announcement by the 6th Central Committee
and the CMC rather than elected by a plenum of the Central
Committee. Although it was believed that
Kim Jong-il would call a
congress shortly after his appointment (to elect a new WPK
leadership), he did not. The WPK would not be revitalized
organizationally until the 3rd Conference in 2010. Until then, Kim
Jong-il ruled as an autocrat; only in WPK institutions considered
important were new members and leaders appointed to take the place of
dying officials. The 10th
Supreme People's Assembly
Supreme People's Assembly convened on 5
September 1998, amended the North Korean constitution. The amended
constitution made the
National Defense Commission
National Defense Commission (NDC), previously
responsible for supervising the military, the highest state organ.
Although the new constitution gave the cabinet and the NDC more
independence from WPK officials, it did not weaken the party. Kim
Jong-il remained WPK General Secretary, controlling the Organization
and Guidance Department (OGD) and other institutions. While the
central WPK leadership composition was not renewed at a single stroke
until 2010, the WPK retained its important role as a mass
On 26 June 2010, the Politburo announced that it was summoning
delegates for the 3rd Conference, with its official explanation
the need to "reflect the demands of the revolutionary development of
the Party, which is facing critical changes in bringing about the
strong and prosperous state and chuche [Juche] development." The
conference met on 28 September, revising the party charter and
electing (and dismissing) members of the Central Committee, the
Secretariat, the Politburo, the Presidium and other bodies. Kim
Jong-un was confirmed as heir apparent; Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho
Kim Kyong-hui (Kim Jong-il's sister) were appointed to
leading positions in the
Korean People's Army
Korean People's Army and the WPK to help him
consolidate power. The following year, on 17 December 2011, Kim
Kim Jong-un's rule (2011–present)
After Kim Jong-il's death, the North Korean elite consolidated Kim
Jong-un's position; he was declared in charge of the country when the
official report of his father's death was published on 19 December. On
26 December 2011, official newspaper
Rodong Sinmun hailed him as
supreme leader of the party and state. On 30 December a meeting of the
Politburo officially appointed him Supreme Commander of the Korean
People's Army, after he was allegedly nominated for the position by
Kim Jong-il in October 2011 (the anniversary of Kim Jong-il's becoming
general secretary). Despite the fact that he was not a Politburo
Kim Jong-un was named to the unofficial position of supreme
leader of the Workers' Party of Korea.
After celebrations for Kim Jong-il's 70th birth anniversary, during
which he was elevated to the rank of
Taewonsu — usually translated
Grand Marshal or
Generalissimo — on 18 February the Politburo
announced the 4th Party Conference (scheduled for mid-April 2012, near
the 100th birth anniversary of Kim Il-sung) "to glorify the sacred
revolutionary life and feats of
Kim Jong-il for all ages and
Juche cause, the
Songun revolutionary cause, rallied
close around Kim Jong-un".
At the 4th Party Conference on 11 April,
Kim Jong-il was declared
Eternal General Secretary and
Kim Jong-un was elected to the newly
created post of
First Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea
First Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea and the
Presidium. The conference proclaimed
only guiding idea of the party".
In December 2013, the party experienced its first open inner struggle
after decades with the purge of Jang Song-taek.
After staging a huge military parade in celebration of the party's
70th anniversary on 10 October 2015, the Politburo announced that its
7th Congress will be held on May 6, 2016 after a 36-year hiatus. The
congress announced the first Five-Year Plan since the 1980s and gave
Kim Jong-un the new title of Chairman, which replaces the previous
office of First Secretary.
Unlike Marxism, which considers class struggle the driving force of
North Korea considers humanity the driving force
of history. "Popular masses are placed in the center of everything,
and the leader is the center of the masses".
Juche is an
anthropocentric ideology in which "man is the master of everything and
decides everything". Similar to Marxist–Leninist thought, Juche
believes that history is law-governed but only man drives progress:
"the popular masses are the drivers of history". However, for the
masses to succeed they need a Great Leader. Marxism–Leninism
argues that the people will lead, on the basis of their relationship
to production. In
North Korea a Great Leader is considered essential,
and this helped
Kim Il-sung establish a one-man rule.
This theory makes the Great Leader an absolute, supreme leader.
The working class thinks not for itself, but through the Great
Leader; he is the mastermind of the working class and its only
legitimate representative. Class struggle can only be realized
through the Great Leader; difficult tasks in general (and
revolutionary changes in particular) can only be introduced
through—and by—him. Thus, in historical development the Great
Leader is the leading force of the working class; he is a
flawless, incorruptible human being who never makes mistakes, is
always benevolent and rules for the benefit of the masses (working
class). For the Great Leader system to function, a unitary
ideology must be in place; in North Korea, this is known as the
Monolithic Ideological System.
Main article: Kim dynasty (North Korea)
The Kim dynasty began with Kim Il-sung, the first leader of the WPK
and North Korea. The official ideology is that the North Korean
system functions "well" because it was established by Kim Il-sung,
whose successors follow his bloodline. Every child is educated in
"the revolutionary history of the Great Leader" and "the revolutionary
history of the Dear Leader" (Kim Jong-il). Kim Il-sung's first
choice as successor was Kim Yong-ju, his brother, but he later decided
to appoint his son
Kim Jong-il instead; this decision was formalized
at the 6th Congress.
Kim Jong-il appointed his youngest son, Kim
Jong-un, as his successor at the 3rd WPK Conference in 2010, and his
son succeeded him in early 2011. Because of the familial
succession and the appointment of family members to high office, the
Kim family has been called a dynasty and a royal family. Suh
Dae-sook, the author of Kim Il Sung: The North Korean Leader, notes
that "What he [Kim Il-sung] has built in the North however, resembles
more a political system to accommodate his personal rule than a
communist or socialist state in Korea. It is not the political system
he built that will survive him; it is his son [Kim Jong-il], whom he
has designated heir, who will succeed his reign." The ruling Kim
North Korea (Kim Il-sung,
Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un) has
been described as a de facto absolute monarchy or
"hereditary dictatorship". In 2013, Clause 2 of Article 10 of the
new edited Ten Fundamental Principles of the Workers' Party of Korea
states that the party and revolution must be carried "eternally" by
the "Baekdu( Kim's) bloodline".
Monolithic Ideological System
Main article: Ten Principles for the Establishment of a Monolithic
Ten Principles for the Establishment of a Monolithic Ideological
System are a set of ten principles and 65 clauses which establishes
standards for governance and guides the behaviors of the people of
North Korea. The Ten Principles have come to supersede the
national constitution or edicts by the Workers' Party, and in practice
serve as the supreme law of the country.
Tomatoes, which are completely red to the core, are considered worthy
Communists; apples, which are red only on the surface, are considered
to need ideological improvement; and grapes are completely hopeless.
—The three main groups in North Korean society (friendly, neutral
and hostile to the WPK), metaphorically described
Main article: Songbun
Songbun is the name given to the caste system established on 30 May
1957 by the WPK Politburo when it adopted the resolution, "On the
Transformation of the Struggle with Counter-Revolutionary Elements
into an All-People All-Party Movement" (also known as the May 30th
Resolution). This led to a purge in North Korean society in which
every individual was checked for his or her allegiance to the party
and its leader. The purge began in earnest in 1959, when the WPK
established a new supervisory body headed by Kim Il-sung's brother,
Kim Yong-ju. The people of
North Korea were divided into three
"forces" (hostile, neutral or friendly), and the force in which a
person was classified was hereditary. Hostile forces cannot live
Pyongyang (the country's capital) or other major cities, or near
North Korea's border with other countries.
Songbun affects access
to educational and employment opportunities and, particularly,
eligibility to join the WPK. However, its importance has
diminished with the fall of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe
and the collapse of the North Korean economy (and the Public
Distribution System) during the 1990s.
The headquarters of the WPK Central Committee and hence the party
The Congress is the party's highest body, and convenes on an irregular
basis. According to the party's charter, the Central Committee can
convene a congress if it gives the rest of the party at least a six
months' notice. The party charter gives the Congress seven
Electing the Central Committee
Electing the Central Auditing Commission
Electing the WPK Chairman
Examining the report of the outgoing Central Committee
Examining the report of the outgoing Central Auditing Commission
Discussing and enacting party policies
Revising the party's charter
In between congresses, the Central Committee is the highest
decision-making institution. The Central Auditing Commission is
responsible for supervising the party's finances and works separatedly
from the Central Committee.
Democratic People's Republic of Korea
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Juche (state ideology)
Songun ("military-first" policy)
Eternal leaders of
Chairman: Kim Jong-un
Central Committee (7th)
Executive Policy Bureau
Chairman: Kim Jong-un
Organization and Guidance Department
Kimilsungist-Kimjongilist Youth League
State Affairs Commission
Korean People's Army
Supreme Commander: Kim Jong-un
Premier: Pak Pong-ju
President: Kim Yong-nam
Rodonjagu (workers' district)
Minister of Foreign Affairs
of North Korea
to North Korea
(Enforcement • Security Ministry)
The Central Committee, as the party's highest decision-making organ in
between national meetings, elects the composition of several bodies to
carry out its work. The 1st Plenary Session of a newly elected
central committee elects the Central
Military Commission (CMC), the
Executive Policy Bureau (EPB), the Politburo, the Presidium, and the
Control Commission. The Politburo exercises the functions and
powers of the Central Committee when a plenum is not in session.
The Presidium is the party's highest decision-making organ when the
Politburo, the Central Committee, Conference of Representatives and
the Congress are not in session. It was established at the 6th
National Congress in 1980. The CMC is the highest decision-making
institution on military affairs within the party, and controls the
operations of the Korean People's Army. The WPK Chairman is by
right Chairman of the CMC. Meanwhile, the EPB is the top
implementation body and is headed by the WPK Chairman and consists of
several WPK vice-chairmen. WPK vice-chairmen normally head Central
Committee departments, commissions, publications, and so on. The
Control Commission resolves disciplinary issues involving party
members. Investigative subjects range from graft to anti-party and
counter-revolutionary activities, generally encompassing all party
A first plenum of the Central Committee also elects the heads of
departments, bureaus, and other institutions to pursue its
work. The WPK currently has more than 15 Central Committee
departments. Through these departments it controls several mass
organisations and newspapers, such as
Rodong Sinmun for instance.
Korean People's Army
Korean People's Army (KPA) is, according to the WPK Charter, the
"revolutionary armed power of the Workers' Party of
inherited revolutionary traditions." The leading organ within the
KPA is the General Political Bureau (GPB), which according to the WPK
Charter is defined "as an executive organ of the KPA Party Committee,
and is therefore entitled to the same authority as that of the Central
Committee in conducting its activities." The GPB controls the
party apparatus and every political officer within the KPA.
Kim Il-sung badge with the WPK emblem
The WPK has local organizations for the three levels of local North
Korean government: provinces and province-level municipalities;
special city, ordinary cities and urban districts, and rural counties
North Korea has nine provinces, each with a
provincial party committee; their composition is decided by the
The WPK has two types of membership: regular and probationary.
Membership is open to those 18 years of age and older, and is granted
after the submission of an application (endorsed by two party members
with at least two years in good standing) to a cell. The
application is acted on by the cell's plenary session, and an
affirmative decision is subject to ratification by a county-level
party committee. After an application is approved a mandatory
one-year probationary period may be waived under unspecified "special
circumstances", allowing the candidate to become a full member.
Recruitment is under the direction of the Organization and Guidance
Department and its local branches.
The WPK claimed a membership of more than three million in 1988, a
significant increase from the two million members announced in 1976;
the increase may have resulted from the Three Revolutions Team
Movement mobilization drive. Later information on party membership
has not been forthcoming. The WPK has three constituencies:
industrial workers, peasants and intellectuals (office workers).
Since 1948 industrial workers have constituted the largest percentage
of party members, followed by peasants and intellectuals.
Beginning in the 1970s, when North Korea’s population reached the
50-percent-urban mark, the composition of the party's groups changed;
more people working in state-owned enterprises were party members, and
the number of members in agricultural cooperatives decreased.
The WPK maintains a leftist image and normally sends a delegation
to the International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties, where
it receives some support; its 2011 resolution, "Let us jointly
commemorate the Birth Centenary of the Great Leader comrade President
Kim Il Sung as a Grand Political Festival of the World’s Humankind",
was signed by 30 of the 79 attending parties. The WPK also sees
itself as part of the worldwide leftist and socialist movement; during
the Cold War, the WPK and
North Korea had a policy of "exporting
revolution", aiding leftist guerrillas worldwide. However, others
argue the WPK ideology is xenophobic nationalist or
Main article: Juche
Relationship to Marxism–Leninism
Whatever the name and however elaborate his claim, Kim's
Juche idea is
nothing more than xenophobic nationalism that has little relevance to
—Suh Dae-Sook, author of Kim Il-sung: The North Korean Leader
Juche developed in a similar fashion to
Stalinism (formally known as
"Marxism–Leninism" under Stalin's rule): a strong leader took
power, presenting himself as the sole defender of ideological
orthodoxy. Many North Korean leaders, before and after Stalin's
Stalinism as the only correct interpretation of
Marxism. Although the term "Juche" was first used in Kim Il-sung's
speech (published in 1955), "On Eliminating
Dogmatism and Formalism
Juche in Ideological Work",
Juche as a coherent
ideology did not develop until the 1960s. Similar to Stalinism,
it led to the development of an unofficial (later formalized)
ideological system defending the central party leadership. Until
Juche was called a "creative application" of
Marxism–Leninism and "the
Marxism–Leninism of today", and Kim
Il-sung was hailed as "the greatest Marxist–Leninist of our
time". However, by 1976
Juche had become a separate ideology; Kim
Jong-il called it "a unique ideology, the contents and structures
which cannot simply be described as Marxist–Leninist."
At the 5th Congress,
Juche was elevated to the same level as
Marxism–Leninism. It gained in prominence during the 1970s, and
at the 6th Congress in 1980 it was recognized as the WPK's only
ideology. During the following decade,
Juche transformed from
practical to pure ideology. On the
Juche Idea, the primary text
on Juche, was published in Kim Jong-il's name in 1982.
according to this study, inexorably linked with
Kim Il-sung and
"represents the guiding idea of the Korean Revolution ... we are
confronted with the honorable task of modeling the whole society on
Kim Jong-il says in the work that
Juche is not
simply a creative application of Marxism–Leninism, but "a new era in
the development of human history". The WPK's break with basic
Marxist–Leninist premises is spelled out clearly in the article,
"Let Us March Under the Banner of
Marxism–Leninism and the Juche
Despite Juche's conception as a creative application of
Leninism, some scholars claim it has little direct connection to
them. Policies may be explained without a Marxist or Leninist
rationale, making the identification of specific influences from these
ideologies difficult. Some analysis claim is easier to connect
Juche with nationalism, but not a unique form of nationalism. Although
the WPK claims to be socialist-patriotic, some analysts claim its
socialist patriotism would be more similar to bourgeois nationalism;
the chief difference is that socialist patriotism is nationalism in a
Juche developed as a reaction to foreign
occupation, involvement and influence (primarily by the Chinese and
Soviets) in North Korean affairs, and may be described "as a normal
and healthy reaction of the Korean people to the deprivation they
suffered under foreign domination." However, there is nothing
uniquely Marxist or Leninist in this reaction; the primary reason for
its description as "communist" is that it occurred in a
self-proclaimed socialist state. The WPK (and the North Korean
leadership in general) have not explained in details how their
policies are Marxist, Leninist or communist;
Juche is defined as
"Korean", and the others as "foreign".
You requested me to give a detailed explanation of the
Juche idea. But
there is no end to it. All the policies and lines of our Party emanate
Juche idea and they embody this idea.
—Kim Il-sung, when asked by a Japanese interviewer to define
Juche's primary objective for
North Korea is political, economic and
military independence. Kim Il-sung, in his "Let Us Defend the
Revolutionary Spirit of Independence, Self-Reliance, and Self-defense
More Thoroughly in All Fields of State Activities" speech to the
Supreme People's Assembly
Supreme People's Assembly in 1967, summarized Juche:
The government of the republic will implement with all consistency the
line of independence, self-sustenance, and self-defense to consolidate
the political independence of the country (chaju), build up more
solidly the foundations of an independent national economy capable of
insuring the complete unification, independence, and prosperity of our
nation (charip) and increasing the country's defense capabilities, so
as to safeguard the security of the fatherland reliably by our own
force (chawi), by splendidly embodying our Party's idea of
The principle of political independence known as chaju is one of
Juche's central tenets.
Juche stresses equality and mutual
respect among nations, asserting that every state has the right of
self-determination. In practice, the beliefs in
self-determination and equal sovereignty have turned
North Korea into
a hermit kingdom. As interpreted by the WPK, yielding to foreign
pressure or intervention would violate chaju and threaten the
country's ability to defend its sovereignty. This may explain why
Kim Jong-il believed that the Korean revolution would fail if North
Korea became dependent on a foreign entity. In relations with
fellow socialist countries China and the Soviet Union Kim Il-sung
urged cooperation, mutual support and dependence, acknowledging that
it was important for
North Korea to learn from other countries.
Despite this, he abhorred the idea that
North Korea could (or should)
depend on the two nations and did not want to dogmatically follow
Kim Il-sung said that the WPK needed to
"resolutely repudiate the tendency to swallow things of others
undigested or imitate them mechanically", attributing the success of
North Korea on the WPK's independence in implementing policies.
To ensure North Korean independence, official pronouncements stressed
the need for the people to unite under the WPK and the Great
Economic independence (charip) is seen as the material basis of
chaju. One of Kim Il-sung's greatest fears involved North Korean
dependence on foreign aid; he believed it would threaten the country's
ability to develop socialism, which only a state with a strong,
independent economy could do. Charip emphasizes an independent
national economy based on heavy industry; this sector, in theory,
would then drive the rest of the economy.
Kim Jong-il said:
Building an independent national economy means building an economy
which is free from dependence on others and which stands on its own
feet, an economy which serves one’s own people and develops on the
strength of the resources of one’s own country and by the efforts of
Kim Il-sung considered military independence (chawi) crucial.
North Korea might need military support in a war
against imperialist enemies, he emphasized a domestic response and
summed up the party's (and state's) attitude towards military
confrontation: "We do not want war, nor are we afraid of it, nor do we
beg peace from the imperialists."
According to Juche, because of his consciousness man has ultimate
control over himself and the ability to change the world. This
differs from classical Marxism, which believes that humans depend on
their relationship to the means of production more than on
Juche view of a revolution led by a Great Leader,
rather than a group of knowledgeable revolutionaries, is a break from
Lenin's concept of a vanguard party.
Karl Marx and
Friedrich Engels did not clarify the difference between
state and law, focusing on class divisions within nations. They
argued that nation and law (as it existed then) would be overthrown
and replaced by proletarian rule. This was the mainstream view of
Soviet theoreticians during the 1920s; however, with Stalin at the
helm in 1929 it was under attack. He criticized Nikolai
Bukharin's position that the proletariat was hostile to the
inclinations of the state, arguing that since the state (the Soviet
Union) was in transition from capitalism to socialism the relationship
between the state and the proletariat was harmonious. By 1936,
Stalin argued that the state would still exist if the Soviet Union
reached the communist mode of production if the socialist world was
encircled by capitalist forces.
Kim Il-sung took this position to
its logical conclusion, arguing that the state would exist after North
Korea reached the communist mode of production until a future world
revolution. As long as capitalism survived, even if the socialist
North Korea could still be threatened by the
restoration of capitalism.
The revival of the term "state" in the Soviet Union under Stalin led
to the revival of "nation" in
North Korea under Kim Il-sung.
Despite official assertions that the Soviet Union was based on "class"
rather than "state", the latter was revived during the 1930s. In
Kim Il-sung expressed a similar view in his speech, "On
Dogmatism and Formalism and Establishing
What we are doing now is not a revolution in some foreign country but
our Korean revolution. Therefore, every ideological action must
benefit the Korean revolution. To fulfill the Korean revolution, one
should be perfectly cognizant of the history of our national struggle,
of Korea's geography, and our customs.
From then on, he and the WPK stressed the roles of "revolutionary
tradition" and Korea's cultural tradition in its revolution. At
party meetings, members and cadres learned about North Korea's
national prestige and its coming rejuvenation. Traditional
customs were revived, to showcase Korean-ness. By 1965, Kim
Il-sung claimed that if communists continued opposing individuality
and sovereignty, the movement would be threatened by dogmatism and
revisionism. He criticized those communists who, he believed,
subscribed to "national nihilism by praising all things foreign and
vilifying all things national" and tried to impose foreign models on
their own country. By the 1960s,
Juche was a full-fledged
ideology calling for a distinct path for North Korean socialist
construction and non-interference in its affairs; however, a decade
later it was defined as a system whose "fundamental principle was the
realization of sovereignty".
Although WPK theoreticians were initially hostile towards the terms
"nation" and "nationalism" because of the influence of the Stalinist
definition of "state", by the 1970s their definition was changed from
"a stable, historically formed community of people based on common
language, territory, economic life, and culture" to include "shared
bloodline". During the 1980s a common economic life was removed
from the definition, with shared bloodline receiving increased
emphasis. With a democratic transition in
South Korea and the
dissolution of the Soviet Union, the WPK revised the meaning of
nationalism. Previously defined in Stalinist terms as a bourgeois
weapon to exploit the workers, nationalism changed from a reactionary
to a progressive idea.
Kim Il-sung differentiated "nationalism"
from what he called "genuine nationalism"; while genuine nationalism
was a progressive idea, nationalism remained reactionary:
True nationalism (genuine nationalism) is similar to patriotism. Only
a genuine patriot can become a devoted and true internationalist. In
this sense, when I say communist, at the same time, I mean nationalist
Allegations of xenophobia
During the 1960s the WPK began forcing ethnic
Koreans to divorce their
European spouses (who were primarily from the Eastern Bloc), with a
high-ranking WPK official calling the marriages "a crime against the
Korean race" and
Eastern Bloc embassies in the country beginning to
accuse the regime of fascism. In May 1963, a Soviet diplomat
described Kim Il-sung's political circle as a "political Gestapo".
Similar remarks were made by other
Eastern Bloc officials in North
Korea, with the East German ambassador calling the policy
"Goebbelsian" (a reference to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's minister of
propaganda). Although this was said during a nadir in relations
North Korea and the Eastern Bloc, it illustrated a perception
of racism in Kim Il-sung's policies.
In his book
The Cleanest Race
The Cleanest Race (2010),
Brian Reynolds Myers dismisses
the idea that
Juche is North Korea's leading ideology. He views its
public exaltation as designed to deceive foreigners; it exists to be
praised rather than followed. Myers writes that
Juche is a sham
ideology, developed to extol
Kim Il-sung as a political thinker
comparable to Mao Zedong. In The Cleanest Race, the author writes
that North Korean military-first policy, racism and xenophobia
(exemplified by race-based incidents such as the attempted lynching of
black Cuban diplomats and forced abortions for North Korean women
pregnant with ethnic Chinese children) indicate a base in far-right
politics (inherited from
Imperial Japan during its colonial occupation
of Korea) rather than the far-left.
North Korea portal
Alejandro Cao de Benós de Les y Pérez
Index of North Korea-related articles
Korean Central Television
^ Sometimes referred to as the Korean Workers' Party (KWP).
^ Francisca Bastías (12 January 2016). "12 datos sobre Corea del
Norte que te costará creer que son reales". AyAyAy TV (in Spanish).
Retrieved 4 March 2018. Hay muchos países fascinantes en el mundo,
pero probablemente el más curioso y raro de todos sea Corea del
Norte. En un régimen totalitario y de extrema izquierda
^ "조선로동당 만세 (Long Live the Workers' Party of Korea)".
dprktoday.com (in Korean). Retrieved 15 January 2018.
^ Executive Order -- Blocking Property of the Government of North
Korea and the Workers' Party of Korea, and Prohibiting Certain
Transactions with Respect to North Korea
^ Lankov 2002, p. 20.
^ Lankov 2002, p. 21.
^ Lankov 2002, p. 22.
^ Lankov 2002, pp. 21–22.
^ Lankov 2002, pp. 28–29.
^ a b Lankov 2002, p. 29.
^ a b c Lankov 2002, p. 31.
^ Lankov 2002, pp. 31–32.
^ Lankov 2002, pp. 33–40.
^ Lankov 2002, p. 40.
^ a b Lankov 2002, p. 42.
^ Lankov 2002, p. 44.
^ Lankov 2002, p. 45.
^ Lankov 2002, p. 47.
^ "KBS WORLD Radio". kbs.co.kr.
^ Lankov 2002, p. 60.
^ a b Lankov 2002, p. 61.
^ a b c d Lankov 2002, p. 62.
^ a b c d e Lankov 2002, p. 65.
^ a b c d e Lankov 2002, p. 66.
^ a b c Lankov 2002, p. 70.
^ Lankov 2002, pp. 62–63.
^ Lankov 2002, p. 63.
^ a b Lankov 2002, p. 72.
^ a b c d Lankov 2002, p. 73.
^ a b c d e f Lee 1982, p. 442.
^ Lee 1982, p. 434.
^ a b c Buzo 1999, p. 105.
^ Buzo 1999, pp. 105–106.
^ Buzo 1999, p. 106.
^ Gause 2011, p. 7.
^ a b Gause 2011, p. 8.
^ a b Gause 2011, p. 11.
^ Gause 2011, pp. 11–13.
^ a b c Gause 2011, p. 13.
^ Gause 2011, p. 15.
^ a b c d e f g h Gause 2011, p. 18.
^ Gause 2011, p. 22.
^ Gause 2011, p. 23.
^ a b Gause 2011, p. 24.
^ a b c d Gause 2013, p. 20.
^ a b Gause 2013, pp. 30–32.
^ Choi & Hibbitts 2010, p. 3.
^ Gause 2013, p. 19.
^ "DPRK's ruling party to convene conference in April".
^ 4th Party Conference of WPK Held, Rodong Sinmun, 12 April
2012.[permanent dead link]
^ a b Lee 2004, p. 4.
^ a b Lee 2004, p. 5.
^ Lee 2004, p. 6.
^ a b c d e Lee 2004, p. 7.
^ Lee 2004, p. 8.
^ a b Lee 2004, p. 9.
^ Becker 2005, p. 44.
^ a b Lankov 2007, p. 29.
^ Lankov, Andrei (15 January 2014). "The family feuds of the Kim
dynasty". NK News. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
^ Suh 1988, p. xviii.
^ Young W. Kihl, Hong Nack Kim. North Korea: The Politics of Regime
Survival. Armonk, New York, USA: M. E. Sharpe, Inc., 2006. Pp 56.
^ Robert A. Scalapino, Chong-Sik Lee. The Society. University of
California Press, 1972. Pp. 689.
^ Bong Youn Choy. A history of the
Korean reunification movement: its
issues and prospects. Research Committee on Korean Reunification,
Institute of International Studies, Bradley University, 1984. Pp. 117.
^ Sheridan, Michael (16 September 2007). "A tale of two dictatorships:
The links between
North Korea and Syria". The Times. London. Retrieved
9 April 2010.
^ The Twisted Logic of the N.Korean Regime, Chosun Ilbo, 2013-08-13,
Accessed date: 2017-01-11
^ Namgung Min (October 13, 2008). "Kim Jong Il's Ten Principles:
Restricting the People". Daily NK. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
Korea revises leadership ideology to legitimize rule of Kim
Jong-un". Yonhap News Agency. August 12, 2013. Retrieved January 20,
^ Lim, Jae-Cheon (2008). Kim Jong-il's Leadership of North Korea.
United Kingdom: Routledge. ISBN 9780203884720. Retrieved January
^ Green, Christopher. "Wrapped in a Fog: On the North Korean
Constitution and the Ten Principles," Sino-NK, June 5, 2012. Retrieved
January 3, 2016.
^ a b Hunter 1999, pp. 3–11.
^ Lankov 2007, p. 66.
^ a b c d e Lankov 2007, p. 67.
^ Lankov, Andrei (3 December 2012). "North Korea's new class system".
Asia Times. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
^ a b c Gause 2011, p. 147.
Staff writer 2014, p. 64.
Staff writer (10 May 2016). "New Party Central Auditing Commission
North Korea Economy Watch. Retrieved 18 October
^ Liu 2011, p. 41.
^ a b "Central Control Commission".
North Korea Leadership Watch.
Retrieved 12 March 2014.
Staff writer 2014, p. 66−67.
^ Buzo 1999, p. 30.
^ a b Kim 1982, p. 140.
^ a b
Staff writer 2004, pp. 66−67.
^ Madden, Michael. "The Party Roundup: Preliminary Look at North
Korea's October 7 Central Committee Plenum". 38 North. Retrieved 18
^ Gause 2013, p. 35.
^ a b c Gause 2013, p. 36.
Staff writer 2014, p. 55.
^ a b
Staff writer 2014, p. 69.
^ a b Cha & Hwang 2009, p. 202.
^ a b c d e Cha & Hwang 2009, p. 193.
^ a b c d Cha & Hwang 2009, p. 209.
^ Cha & Hwang 2009, p. 210.
^ Myers 2011, pp. 9 & 11–12.
^ "13th International meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties in
Athens". Act of Defiance. 29 November 2011. Retrieved 15 March
^ "13 IMCWP Resolution, Let us jointly commemorate the Birth Centenary
of the Great Leader comrade President Kim Il Sung as a Grand Political
Festival of the World's Humankind". Solidnet.org. 23 December 2011.
Retrieved 15 March 2014.
^ Suh 1988, p. 313 & 139.
^ Myers 2011, pp. 9, 11–12.
^ a b c d e Becker 2005, p. 66.
^ Suh 1988, p. 313.
^ a b Cheong 2000, pp. 136–138.
^ a b c d e f Cheong 2000, p. 139.
^ Cheong 2000, pp. 138–139.
^ a b c So & Suh 2013, p. 107.
^ a b c Kwak 2009, p. 19.
^ Kwak 2009, p. 20.
^ Suh 1988, p. 302.
^ a b c Suh 1988, p. 309.
^ Suh 1988, pp. 309–310.
^ a b Suh 1988, p. 310.
^ Suh 1988, pp. 310–313.
^ Oh & Hassig 2000, p. 18.
^ a b Lee 2003, p. 105.
^ Lee 2003, pp. 105–106.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Lee 2003, p. 106.
^ a b c d Lee 2003, p. 107.
^ Lee 2003, p. 109.
^ a b Lee 2003, p. 111.
^ a b c d Cheong 2000, p. 140.
^ a b c d e f g h Cheong 2000, p. 141.
^ a b c d Cheong 2000, p. 142.
^ a b c d e Cheong 2000, p. 143.
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