Constitution of North Korea

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Constitution of North Korea
Constitution of North Korea.jpg
Chosŏn'gŭl 조선민주주의인민공화국 사회주의헌법
Revised Romanization
Joseonminjujuuiinmingonghwagug Sahoejuuiheonbeob
Emblem of North Korea.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Democratic People's Republic of Korea

The Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the constitution of North Korea. It states that the country is socialist and lays out the framework of the national government and the functions of the ruling state party, the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in relation to the Cabinet and Parliament. The constitution is divided into 166 articles, split between three sections.


Previous constitutions were adopted in 1948,[1] 1972,[2] 1992,[3] 1998,[4] and 2013. The constitution in force currently dates from 2016.[5]

1948 People's Constitution[edit]

The original North Korean constitution was based on the 1936 Soviet Constitution and the constitution of the Bulgarian People's Republic.[6][7] This constitution was adopted at the first Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) in September 1948. Joseph Stalin personally edited the constitution alongside Terentii Shtykov, de facto Soviet governor of North Korea, in Moscow. Some articles were later rewritten by Soviet supervisors.[6] Under the 1948 constitution, the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) was the highest organ in the state, while the Presidium of the SPA was responsible for initiating action and policymaking.[8] Unlike later constitutions, the inaugural constitution does not grant a privileged status to the ruling Workers' Party of Korea.[9] The 1948 constitution became obsolete when it was replaced by a new constitution in 1972.[8]

1972 Juche Constitution[edit]

Proposing a DPRK new constitution had been discussed as early as 1960. However, in the changing international environment meant that North Korea could no longer postpone a constitutional revision.[10] The WPK appointed a commission to draft a new constitution was established in October 1972.[11] The need was elaborated by Kim Il-sung in his speech at the first session of the fifth Supreme People's Assembly on December 25, 1972:

"...our realities today urgently demand the establishment of a new socialist constitution legally to consolidate the great achievements of our people in the socialist revolution and building of socialism and lay down principles for the political, economic, and cultural spheres in socialist society"

The 1972 Constitution was adopted on 27 December.[11] Under the new constitution, Kim Il-sung became the President of the DPRK. He became the head of state serving as commander of the armed forces and chairman of the National Defense Committee, he had the power to issue edicts, grant pardons, and conclude or abrogate treaties. Under the old constitution, there was no one designated as the head of state. The chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly represented the state which followed the Soviet practice.[citation needed] The constitution makes excessive references to the Juche ideology, leading Christopher Hale to conclude that "it would be accurate to call the constitution a Juche constitution".[12]

1998 Kim Il-sung Constitution[edit]

The 1998 "Kim Il-sung Constitution" appointed Kim Il-sung, who had died in 1994, the Eternal President.[13]

2009 Songun Constitution[edit]

The new, amended in 2009 version of DPRK Constitution is called the "Songun Constitution.[14] It is six articles longer than the previous version adopted in of 1998. Section 2 of Chapter VI “Chairman of the National Defence Commission” is entirely new and the said post was constitutionally declared to be the supreme leader of North Korea. In Articles 29 and 40 (Economy and Culture respectively) the word 공산주의 ("communism") was dropped.[15]

2012 Kim Il-sung–Kim Jong-il Constitution[edit]

The Constitution was again amended in 2012 during the 5th Session of the 12th Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) to include changes in the preamble that states the legacy of Kim Jong-il in nation building and North Korea being a "nuclear-armed state".[16] Accordingly, the Constitution was named the "Kim Il-sung–Kim Jong-il Constitution".[17] Section 2 of Chapter VI, and several articles and provisions were revised accordingly due to provisions of Articles 91 and 95 that provide for constitutional amendments that are to be done by the SPA in its plenary sessions.

2013 Constitution[edit]

The Constitution was amended on April 1, 2013.[18]

2016 Constitution[edit]

The Constitution was amended in June 2016 following the 7th WPK Congress. It replaces the National Defence Commission with the State Affairs Commission placing Kim Jong-un as head of state.[5]


The constitution establishes North Korea's official name and its status as a socialist state.[19] Article 12 defines the country as a "dictatorship of people's democracy" (a wording that closely follows the Chinese model of the people's democratic dictatorship[citation needed]) under the leadership of the Workers' Party. It provides for civil and political rights, such as freedom of expression, the right to elect officials, the right to a fair trial, and freedom of religion. It asserts the right of every citizen to work, education, food, and healthcare.

In practice, however, these rights are limited by Article 81, which requires that all citizens "firmly safeguard the political and ideological unity and solidarity of the people," and Article 82, which requires that citizens observe "the socialist standards of life." As a result, North Korean citizens are some of the most unfree in the entire world.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kim, Hyung-chan; Kim, Tong-gyu (2005). Human remolding in North Korea: a social history of education. University Press of America. p. 134.
  2. ^ Constitution of North Korea (1972). Wikisource.
  3. ^ Haale, Christopher (2002). 'North Korea in Evolution: The Correlation Between the Legal Framework and the Changing Dynamic of Politics and the Economy.' Korea Observer, Vol. 33 No. 3
  4. ^ North Korea drops Communism from its Constitution Archived February 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.. Azerbaijan Press Agency. September 28, 2009.
  5. ^ a b JH Ahn (30 June 2016). "N.Korea updates constitution expanding Kim Jong Un's position". NK News. Retrieved 2016-09-27. 
  6. ^ a b "Terenti Shtykov: the other ruler of nascent North Korea" by Andrei Lankov. "...even the North Korean constitution was edited by Stalin himself and became law of the land only after a lengthy discussion in Moscow, where Shytkov and Stalin sat together looking through the draft of the country’s future supreme law. They approved it, but not completely, since some articles were rewritten by Soviet supervisors. So Shytkov, together with Stalin himself, can be seen as the authors of the North Korean constitution." Korea Times Archived April 17, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Aalto, Pentti; Vaarnas, Kalle (1962). "Korea". Otavan Iso Tietosanakirja: Encyclopaedia Fennica (in Finnish). IV: JYRS–KUUR. Helsinki: Otava. p. 1338. OCLC 832620470. 
  8. ^ a b Constitutionalism in Asia: Cases and Materials By Wen-Chen Chang, Li-ann Thio, Kevin YL Tan, Jiunn-rong Yeh
  9. ^ Przeworski, Adam (2013). "Ruling against Rulers". In Ginsburg, Tom; Simpser, Alberto. Constitutions in Authoritarian Regimes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-107-04766-2. 
  10. ^ “Korea Today”. Foreign Languages Pub. House, (196), 1987. p. 3.
  11. ^ a b Youn-Soo Kim (1980). "Introduction". In Simons, William B. The Constitutions of the Communist World. Leiden: BRILL. p. 228. ISBN 90-286-0070-1. 
  12. ^ Amarnath Amarasingam (19 December 2011). "The Prophet Is Dead: Juche and the Future of North Korea". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-07-03. 
  13. ^ Kwon, Heonik; Chung, Byung-Ho (12 March 2012). North Korea: Beyond Charismatic Politics. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 978-1-4422-1577-1. Retrieved 9 July 2015. 
  14. ^ David-West, Alzo (February 2011). "North Korea, Fascism, and Stalinism: On B. R. Myers' The Cleanest Race". Journal of Contemporary Asia. 41 (1): 152. doi:10.1080/00472336.2011.530043. 
  15. ^ DPRK has quietly amended its Constitution | Leonid Petrov's KOREA VISION Archived 2013-03-31 at WebCite. (2009-10-12). Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  16. ^ North Korea proclaims itself a nuclear state in new constitution - Archived August 20, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  17. ^ "North Korea Amends the Constitution". The Institute for Far Eastern Studies. 2012-06-14. Retrieved 2015-07-09. 
  18. ^ Korea Institute for National Unification (10 September 2014). White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea 2014. 길잡이미디어. p. 86. ISBN 978-89-8479-766-6. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  19. ^ Scalapino, Robert A.; Kim, Chun-yŏp (1983). North Korea today: strategic and domestic issues. Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, Center for Korean Studies. p. 24.
  20. ^ "North Korea - Country report - Freedom in the World - 2016". 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]