List of leaders of North Korea

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Emblem of North Korea.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
North Korea
Foreign relations

The following is a list of political leaders of North Korea.

Prior to the proclamation of a North Korean state, the Soviet Union had established in 1946 the Provisional People's Committee for North Korea as a de facto government in their occupation zone. Its chairman was Kim Il-sung.

On 9 September 1948 a North Korean state, called the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), was proclaimed under the leadership of Kim Il-sung and took the governmental functions over from the Provisional People's Committee.

Since its founding, the most important position in the DPRK has been that of the leader of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) — titled as chairman from 1948 to 1966, general secretary from 1966 to 2011 and first secretary since 2011. For all intents and purposes, the WPK is the only legal party in the country (two minor parties exist, but are completely subservient to the WPK), and its leader exercises absolute control over the country. The government serves largely as a transmission belt for the party.

The formal head of state originally was the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People's Assembly. On December 28, 1972 party leader and Premier Kim Il-sung proclaimed himself President and thus become head of state. He held this office until his death on July 8, 1994 when he was proclaimed the "Eternal President of the Republic". Since then, de jure functions of the head of state had been conferred to the President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly.

After the death of Kim Il-sung, his son Kim Jong-il held supreme power in the country as Chairman of the National Defence Commission and General Secretary of the party until his own death on December 17, 2011.

The current leader is Kim Jong-il's 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 December 29, 2011.

The government is headed by the Premier, formerly called Premier of the Council of Ministers.

Other important institutions include the Supreme People's Assembly, whose sessions are chaired by the Chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly, and, since 1993, the Chairman of the National Defence Commission, which holds supreme command of the DPRK's armed forces.

Since 1997, the SPA chairman, premier and National Defence Commission 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 chairman commands the armed forces. In practice, however, the real power is vested in the NDC chairman (who has also been leader of the Workers' Party), an office constitutionally defined as the "highest post in the state."

Supreme leaders[edit]

To date, "supreme leader" has been applied to three individual North Korean leaders, from three generations of a single family (dates approximate and open to dispute):

Kim Jong-un Kim Jong-il Kim Il-sung

Generations of leadership

      First generation       Second generation       Third generation

Picture Name Offices held Period Party
Kim Il Sung Portrait-2.jpg Kim Il-sung
김일성
(1912–1994)
Kim Il Sung Signature.svg
Supreme Commander of the KPA February 8, 1948 – December 24, 1991 September 9, 1948

July 8, 1994
(45 years, 302 days)
Workers' Party of Korea
Prime Minister of the DPRK Cabinet September 9, 1948 – December 28, 1972
Chairman of the WPK Central Committee June 30, 1949 – October 11, 1966
Chairman of the WPK Central Military Commission 1950 – July 8, 1994
General Secretary of the WPK Central Committee October 11, 1966 – July 8, 1994
President of the DPRK December 28, 1972 – July 8, 1994
Chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK December 28, 1972 – April 9, 1993
Eternal President of the DPRK July 8, 1994 – Incumbent
Kim Jong il Portrait.jpg Kim Jong-il
김정일
(1942–2011)
Kim Jong-il Signature.png
Supreme Commander of the KPA December 24, 1991 – December 17, 2011 July 8, 1994

December 17, 2011
(17 years, 162 days)
Workers' Party of Korea
Chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK April 9, 1993 – December 17, 2011
General Secretary of the WPK Central Committee October 8, 1997 – December 17, 2011
Chairman of the WPK Central Military Commission
Eternal General Secretary of the WPK Central Committee April 11, 2012 – Incumbent
Eternal Chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK April 13, 2012 – Incumbent
Kim Jong-un sketch.jpg Kim Jong-un
김정은
(1983–)
Kim Jong-un Signature.png
Supreme Commander of the KPA December 30, 2011 – Incumbent December 17, 2011

Incumbent
(2 years, 342 days)
Workers' Party of Korea
First Secretary of the WPK Central Committee April 11, 2012 – Incumbent
Chairman of the WPK Central Military Commission
First Chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK April 13, 2012 – Incumbent

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

Flag of the Workers' Party of Korea
# Picture Name Took office Left office Party
Chairmen of the Central Committee
1 No image.svg Kim Tu-bong 28 August 1946 30 June 1949 Workers' Party of Korea
2 Kim Il Sung Portrait-2.jpg Kim Il-sung 30 June 1949 11 October 1966 Workers' Party of Korea
General Secretary of the Central Committee
1 Kim Il Sung Portrait-2.jpg Kim Il-sung 11 October 1966 8 July 1994 Workers' Party of Korea
General Secretary of the Party
2 Kim Jong il Portrait.jpg Kim Jong-il 8 October 1997 Incumbent Workers' Party of Korea
First Secretary of the Central Committee
1 Kim Jong-un sketch.jpg Kim Jong-un 11 April 2012 Incumbent Workers' Party of Korea

Kim Jong-il died on 17 December 2011, but has since been posthumously named the "Eternal General Secretary". Thus his son and successor as leader, Kim Jong-un, was not given the title of General Secretary.

Heads of state[edit]

# Picture Name Took office Left office Party
Chairmen of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People's Assembly
1 No image.svg Kim Tu-bong 9 September 1948 20 September 1957 Workers' Party of Korea
2 No image.svg Choi Yong-kun 20 September 1957 28 December 1972 Workers' Party of Korea
President of the Republic
1 Kim Il Sung Portrait-2.jpg Kim Il-sung 28 December 1972 Incumbent Workers' Party of Korea
Presidents of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly
3 No image.svg Yang Hyong-sop 8 July 1994 5 September 1998 Workers' Party of Korea
4 No image.svg Kim Yong-nam 5 September 1998 Incumbent Workers' Party of Korea

Kim Il-sung died on 8 July 1994, but has since been posthumously named the "Eternal President of the Republic". Thus his son and successor as leader, the late Kim Jong-il, was not given the title of President and the President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly became de jure head of state.

Heads of government[edit]

# Picture Name Took office Left office Party
Prime Minister of the Cabinet
1 Kim Il Sung Portrait-2.jpg Kim Il-sung 9 September 1948 28 December 1972 Workers' Party of Korea
Premiers of the Council of Ministers
1 No image.svg Kim Il 28 December 1972 29 April 1976 Workers' Party of Korea
2 No image.svg Pak Song-chol 19 April 1976 16 December 1977 Workers' Party of Korea
3 Li Jong-ok.jpg Li Jong-ok 16 December 1977 27 January 1984 Workers' Party of Korea
4 No image.svg Kang Song-san 27 January 1984 29 December 1986 Workers' Party of Korea
5 No image.svg Li Gun-mo 29 December 1986 12 December 1988 Workers' Party of Korea
6 No image.svg Yon Hyong-muk 12 December 1988 11 December 1992 Workers' Party of Korea
7 No image.svg Kang Song-san 11 December 1992 21 February 1997 Workers' Party of Korea
No image.svg Hong Song-nam
Acting
21 February 1997 5 September 1998 Workers' Party of Korea
Premiers of the Cabinet
1 No image.svg Hong Song-nam 5 September 1998 3 September 2003 Workers' Party of Korea
2 No image.svg Pak Pong-ju 3 September 2003 11 April 2007 Workers' Party of Korea
3 No image.svg Kim Yong-il 11 April 2007 7 June 2010 Workers' Party of Korea
4 No image.svg Choe Yong-rim 7 June 2010 1 April 2013 Workers' Party of Korea
5 No image.svg Pak Pong-ju 1 April 2013 Incumbent Workers' Party of Korea

Heads of parliament[edit]

# Picture Name Took office Left office Party
Chairmen of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People's Assembly
1 No image.svg Kim Tu-bong 9 September 1948 20 September 1957 Workers' Party of Korea
2 No image.svg Choi Yong-kun 20 September 1957 28 December 1972 Workers' Party of Korea
3 Hwang Jang Yeop.jpg Hwang Jang-yop 28 December 1972 1983 Workers' Party of Korea
4 No image.svg Yang Hyong-sop 1983 5 September 1998 Workers' Party of Korea
Chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly
5 No image.svg Choe Thae-bok 5 September 1998 Incumbent Workers' Party of Korea

Heads of the military[edit]

# Picture Name Took office Left office Party
Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea
1 Kim Il Sung Portrait-2.jpg Kim Il-sung 1950 28 December 1972 Workers' Party of Korea
Chairman of the National Defence Commission
1 Kim Il Sung Portrait-2.jpg Kim Il-sung 28 December 1972 9 April 1993 Workers' Party of Korea
2 Kim Jong il Portrait.jpg Kim Jong-il 9 April 1993 Incumbent Workers' Party of Korea
First Chairman of the National Defence Commission
1 Kim Jong-un sketch.jpg Kim Jong-un 13 April 2012 Incumbent Workers' Party of Korea

Kim Jong-il died on 17 December 2011, but has since been posthumously named the "Eternal Chairman of the National Defence Commission". Thus his son and successor as leader, Kim Jong-un, was not given the title of Chairman.

See also[edit]