Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army

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Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army
Supreme Commander DPRK.gif
Chosŏn'gŭl 조선인민군 최고사령관
Hancha 朝鮮人民軍最高司令官
Revised Romanization Joseon Inmin-gun Choego Saryeonggwan
McCune–Reischauer Chosŏn Inmin'gun Ch'oego Saryŏnggwan
Emblem of North Korea.svg
This article is part of a series on the
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The Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army is the highest post in command of the Korean People's Army, the armed forces of North Korea, and is in charge of one of the largest standing armies in the world with around 5.9 million active duty personnel and reserves.


The position was created after the outbreak of the Korean War. It was an emergency mechanism that gave Kim Il Sung with full control and command of DPRK armed forces as the war unfolded. From 1972 to 1991, Kim Il-sung served as KPA Supreme Commander concurrently to being DPRK President (i.e. head of state). On 24 December 1991, Kim Jong-il was elected KPA Supreme Commander during the 19th plenary meeting of the 6th KWP Central Committee. The day after his election, on 25 December, the KPA General Political Department (also known as the General Political Bureau) convened a meeting of KPA political officers and cadres. At the end of the meeting, they swore a loyalty oath to Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, who were in attendance.[citation needed]

Kim Jong-il was succeeded by his son Kim Jong-un, who was publicly declared Supreme Commander by the Rodong Sinmun, on 24 December 2011 and officially appointed to the position on 30 December 2011.[1][2]


The KPA Supreme Commander (조선인민군 최고사령관) serves as the leading official (i.e. commander-in-chief) of the Korean People’s Army (KPA). The supreme commander can declare a state of emergency or war and issue instructions and commands in support of such a declaration. During a state of emergency or war, the Supreme Commander commands all of the DPRK’s ground, naval, air, strategic rocket, and special forces. The supreme commander also establishes direct authority and command over the KPA’s other security organizations (typically controlled by the party) such as the Ministry of State Security, Ministry of People’s Security, the Guard Command, and Pyongyang Defense Command as well as the country’s civilian reserve forces who serve in the Reserve Military Training Units and Worker-Peasant Red Guards, plus the KPA's Young Red Guards Cadet Corps, the uniformed youth cadet corps organization.

The KPA Supreme Commander can also promote officers with the rank of general or higher, as well as those holding the position of division vice-commander or higher. In addition, the KPA Supreme Command directs and guides the winter and spring training rotation of the KPA. The supreme command issues orders through the 10th office of the KPA General Staff Operations Bureau; during contingency or war, the supreme commander bypasses the formal chain of command and issues orders and instructions through the Operations Bureau’s 10th office. The position is intended to bypass the collective control over security organizations by the Workers' Party of Korea and allow the supreme commander to exercise single guidance.

List of supreme commanders[edit]

Name Term Life span
Kim Il-sung 8 February 1948 – 24 December 1991 15 April 1912 – 8 July 1994 (aged 82)
Kim Jong-il 24 December 1991 – 17 December 2011 16 February 1941 – 17 December 2011 (aged 70)
Kim Jong-un 30 December 2011 – Present 8 January 1983 – Present (age 31)


  1. ^ "N.Korea declares Kim Jong-Un commander of military". Agence France-Presse. December 30, 2011. Retrieved December 30, 2011. 
  2. ^ "North Korea: Kim Jong-un hailed 'supreme commander'". BBC News. 2011-12-24. Retrieved 2011-12-24.