The Supreme People's Assembly


The North Korean constitution provides that the Supreme People¡¯s Assembly is the highest organization in the country¡¯s power echelon that has legislative authority. Though the Supreme People¡¯s Assembly is a state organization equivalent to the National Assembly in the South, it has power in name only. In reality, it is a rubber-stamp organization that approves directives from Kim Jong-il and policies of the Workers¡¯ Party.

It settles a budget for a preceding year, deliberates and finalizes a budget for a corresponding fiscal year, elects cadres for major organizations and determines relevant laws and regulations. It has a legislative committee, a budget committee, etc. under its command.

Its major duties include the following: revision and amendment of the constitution, enactment, revision and amendment of laws and regulations, establishment of the basic principles for internal and external policies of the state, election and recall of a prime minister of the cabinet and a chairman of the national defense commission, appointment of major officials including the heads of the central prosecutors¡¯ office and the central court, deliberation and approval of a national budget and its execution report, ratification and nullification of treaties submitted to it, etc.

Representatives of the Supreme People¡¯s Assembly are not elected by a free election. Instead, the Workers¡¯ Party selects an ardent party member with good background for each election district and nominates him or her as a single candidate. Then, voters are required to say yea to a candidate. Therefore, the Supreme People¡¯s Assembly, in its nature, is completely different from the legislature of a Western country.

The Supreme People¡¯s Assembly is comprised of representatives with a five-year tenure. A representative is selected out of 30,000 people. The Supreme People¡¯s Assembly has a total of 4 committees, that are, the standing committee (chaired by Kim Young-Nam), the representative qualification screening committee (chaired by Kim Kuk-Tae), the legislative committee (chaired by Baek Hak-Rim) and the budget committee (chaired by Han Sung-Ryong). In addition, the Supreme People¡¯s Assembly summons two kinds of meetings: regular biannual meetings held in the first and second half of each year respectively and extraordinary meetings convened when more than a third of representatives request or when the standing committee deems it necessary. Each session which is validly held with attendance of more than two thirds of representatives, lasts for about 2 to 3 days usually.

In April 1990, North Korea elected 687 representatives of the Supreme People¡¯s Assembly with a five-year tenure. Despite expiration of their term, however, the country failed to hold an election to select its representatives for some time. On July 26, 1998, North Korea finally held the 10th election of the Assembly where 687 representatives including Kim Jong-il and other high-ranking officials of the party, administration and military were elected.

In the first session of the 10th-term Supreme People¡¯s Assembly held on September 5, 1998, a revision was made in the North Korean constitution including abolition of the state presidency system. In addition, Kim Jong-il was re-nominated as chairman of the National Defense Commission, the highest position in the country¡¯s political hierarchy with more roles and authority. Other high-ranking officials were also elected during the session including appointment of Hong Sung-Nam as prime minister.

In the meantime, the constitutional revision in 1998 includes the following: chairman of the standing committee of the Supreme People¡¯s Assembly represents the country; when the Supreme People¡¯s Assembly is in recess, its standing committee carries out its duties; the standing committee supervises state-level projects and represents the country, taking over most of the authority originally held by the standing council of the Supreme People¡¯s Assembly, the Central People¡¯s Committee and State President. The standing committee, the highest authority in the country, consists of a chairman, a vice chairman, a general secretary and other members with a five-year tenure.

From April 4 to 6, 2000, North Korea held the third session of the 10th-term Supreme People¡¯s Assembly at Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang. Bills passed during the session include the following: settlement of the budget for 1999, approval of the budget for 2000, approval of three proposed acts including the Education Act adopted during the recess of the Supreme People¡¯s Assembly by its standing committee, the External Economy Arbitration Act and the Civil Aviation Act and renaming of the Ministry of Public Security to the Ministry of People¡¯s Security, etc.

On April 5, 2001, North Korea convened the fourth session of the 10th-term Supreme People¡¯s Assembly at Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang with its representatives and party & government cadres including Kim Jong-Il, Chairman of the National Defense Commission, on hand. During the session which was closed on the same date above, four bills including the draft budget for 2001 were put up for discussion.

The four bills above pertain to the projects to be pursued by the cabinet in 2000, tasks to be implemented in 2001, settlement of the national budget for 2000, a new budget for 2001, approval of an act by the standing committee of the Supreme People¡¯s Assembly during its recess, organizational structure of the body, etc.