Ministry of State Security (North Korea)

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Ministry of State Security of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
조선민주주의인민공화국 국가보위성
Agency overview
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdictionNorth Korea
General nature
Operational structure
39°4′29″N 125°46′7″E / 39.07472°N 125.76861°E / 39.07472; 125.76861Coordinates: 39°4′29″N 125°46′7″E / 39.07472°N 125.76861°E / 39.07472; 125.76861
Elected officers responsible
Agency executive
Parent agencyState Affairs Commission of North Korea
Ministry of State Security
Revised RomanizationGukga anjeon bowibu
McCune–ReischauerKukka anjŏn powibu

The Ministry of State Security of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea[a] (Korean: 조선민주주의인민공화국 국가보위성) is the secret police agency of North Korea. It is an autonomous agency of the North Korean government reporting directly to the Supreme Leader.[2][3] In addition to its internal security duties, it is involved in the operation of North Korea's concentration camps and various other hidden activities.[4] It's reputed to be one of the most brutal police forces in the world, and has been involved in numerous human rights abuses.[3]

It is one of two agencies which provides security or protection to North Korean officials and VIPs alongside the Supreme Guard Command.[3][5]


In 1945, the DPRK Security was established, being attached to the "Police Department".[6] In 1948, it became Ministry of Internal Affairs (Korean: 내무성 정치보위국) with the Bureau of Political Protection attached.[6] In February 1949, it became the Political Security Agency (Korean: 정치보위부로). On September 12, 1949, Bowman Lee Chang-ok, a violent man,[citation needed] was purged and reorganized and absorbed into social safety. In September 1948, the National Political Affairs Department, which specializes in political prisoners in the North Korean region, was newly established.

On August 20, 1949, however, after Lee Chang-ok, the deputy secretary of the Republic of Korea, escaped from Haeju, South Korea, along with Kim Kang and others, the organization was abolished after a massive purge. It was integrated into the Ministry of Social Safety (later known as the Ministry of People's Security). In 1951 it was renamed to Social Security Political Security Agency. In 1952, Department of Homeland Security. In 1962, it became Social and Political Security Agency (Korean: 사회안전성 정치보위국). The SSD was created in 1973, being separated from the Ministry of Public Security.[7][8]

Some defectors[who?] and sources[who?] have suggested that unlike its Eastern Bloc counterparts, State Security functions are actually conducted by several larger and different security bodies that operate under the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) or the Korean People's Army (KPA, the North Korean armed forces), each with its own unique responsibilities and classified names that are referred to by code (e.g. Room 39), and that the agency is little more than a hollow shell used by the elite to coordinate their activities and provide cover for them.[citation needed]

The post of Security Department head was left vacant after Minister Ri Chun-su's death in 1987, although it was de facto if not de jure controlled by Kim Jong-il and the WPK Organization and Guidance Department he headed.[9] In 1998, the SSD migrated under the National Defence Commission, also chaired by Kim Jong-il.[9] Finally, in 2007, it was transferred under the WPK Administration Department, whose first vice director became responsible of the SSD daily work, but it continued to have obligations towards the Organization and Guidance Department.[9]

In November 2011, it was reported that General U Tong-chuk had been appointed permanent minister of State Security,[10] the first of this kind since 1987, filling a post left unoccupied for 24 years. This was almost concurrent with General Ri Myong-su's appointment as minister of People's Security. Other sources also claimed that Kim Jong-un worked at the State Security Department before and/or after his anointment as heir apparent in September 2010.[11] Kim Won-hong was appointed minister in April 2012 as the position was restored following Kim Jong-il's death.[12] He served as Kim Jong-un's aide until February 2017 when he was allegedly dismissed for filing false reports to Kim Jong-un and mishandling an aide of Kim Jong-un. He was formally replaced in October 2017 at a WPK central committee plenum by Jong Kyong-thaek.[13] So Tae-ha is the vice minister, while Kim Chang-sop serves as the head of the political department of the ministry.[14]


The Ministry of State Security is tasked to investigate political and economic crimes in North Korea, especially for the former on crimes against the Kim family.[8] It's also tasked to conduct VIP protection duties for North Korean diplomats and employees who work in various North Korean embassies, consulates and other foreign missions abroad.[8]

The Ministry is known to link up with various government ministries and agencies to help them with their various missions.[8]

Agency directors[edit]

No. Portrait Minister Took office Left office
Lee Chang-ok 이창옥 (李昌玉)
Yong-gon, ChoeLee Chang-ok
이창옥 (李昌玉)
Kim Byong-ha 김병하 (金炳夏)
Kim Byong-ha
김병하 (金炳夏)
Jin Soo-lee 김창봉 (李鎭洙)
Jin Soo-lee
김창봉 (李鎭洙)
Kim Ryong-yong 최현
Kim Ryong-yong
Kim Jong-il 김정일
Kim Jong-il
Jang Song-thaek 장성택
Jang Song-thaek
U Tong-chuk 우동측
U Tong-chuk
Kim Won-hong 김원홍
Kim Won-hong
Jong Kyong-thaek 정경택
Jong Kyong-thaek


Rank Insignia
General General rank insignia (North Korean secret police).png
Colonel General Colonel General rank insignia (North Korean secret police).png
Lieutenant General Lieutenant General rank insignia (North Korean secret police).png
Major General Major General rank insignia (North Korean secret police).png
Senior Colonel Senior Colonel rank insignia (North Korean secret police).png
Colonel Colonel rank insignia (North Korean secret police).png
Commander Lieutenant Colonel rank insignia (North Korean secret police).png
Major Major rank insignia (North Korean secret police).png
Captain Captain rank insignia (North Korean secret police).png
Senior Lieutenant Senior Lieutenant rank insignia (North Korean secret police).png
Lieutenant Lieutenant rank insignia (North Korean secret police).png
Junior Lieutenant Junior Lieutenant rank insignia (North Korean secret police).png


  1. ^ Other sources indicate that the agency's name is known as the State Security Department according to authors like Joseph Bermudez[1]



  1. ^ Bermudez 2001, p. 198.
  2. ^ Library of Congress Country Studies
  3. ^ a b c Kirby, Michael Donald; Biserko, Sonja; Darusman, Marzuki (7 February 2014). "Report of the detailed findings of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea - A/HRC/25/CRP.1". United Nations Human Rights Council. Archived from the original on February 27, 2014. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ Bermudez 2001, pp. 198–203.
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^ "Everything We Know About the State Security Department, North Korea's Secret Service". 28 April 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d "State Security Department | North Korea Leadership Watch".
  9. ^ a b c U Tong Chuk Appointed Minister of State Security Archived 2012-01-19 at the Wayback Machine. North Korea Leadership Watch, 12 November 2011.
  10. ^ General U Upped. Intelligence Online, 10 November 2011.
  11. ^ NDC: Kim Jong-un in charge of intelligence. North Korean Economic Watch, 21 April 2011.
  12. ^ "Top 4 N.Korean Military Officials Fall Victim to Shakeup". Chosun Ilbo. Nov 30, 2012. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  13. ^ "Choe Ryong Hae to OGD? [revised 13 JAN 2018] | North Korea Leadership Watch".
  14. ^ Zwirko, Colin (28 December 2018). "North Korean leadership shakeups revealed in latest MOU reference book release". NK News. Retrieved 7 March 2019.


  • Bermudez, Joseph S. (2001). Shield of the Great Leader. The Armed Forces of North Korea. The Armed Forces of Asia. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86448-582-5.