Constitution of North Korea

Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Constitution of North Korea.jpg
Original title조선민주주의인민공화국 사회주의헌법
Presented23 October 1972
Ratified27 December 1972
Date effective27 December 1972
SystemUnitary one-party republic
Head of stateChairman of the State Affairs Commission
ChambersUnicameral (Supreme People's Assembly)
ExecutivePremier-led Cabinet
JudiciaryCentral Court
Electoral collegeYes (Supreme People's Assembly)
First legislature25 December 1972
First executive27 December 1972
First court27 December 1972
Last amended29 August 2019
Commissioned byCentral Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea
Author(s)Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea
SignatoriesSupreme People's Assembly
Supersedes1948 Constitution
Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Revised RomanizationJoseon Minjujuui Inmin Gonghwagug Sahoejuui Heonbeob
McCune–ReischauerChosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwagung Sahoejuŭi Hŏnbŏp
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The Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (Chosongul: 조선민주주의인민공화국 사회주의헌법) is the constitution of North Korea. It was approved by the 6th Supreme People's Assembly at its first session on 27 December 1972, and has been amended and supplemented in 1998, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2016 and 2019. It replaced the country's first constitution which was approved in 1948.

The constitution consists of seven chapters and 171 articles and codifies North Korea's basic principles on politics, economy, culture and national defense, the basic rights and duties of the country's citizens, the organization of the North Korean government and the country's national symbols.

North Korea is also governed by the Ten Principles for the Establishment of a Monolithic Ideological System, which some claim have come to supersede the constitution and in practice serve as the supreme law of the country.[1][2][3]


1948 Constitution

North Korea began to draft its first constitution following the convention of the South Korean Interim Legislative Assembly on 12 December 1946 which began to draft an interim constitution for South Korea and the failure to establish a unified provisional government in Korea due to the collapse of the US-Soviet Joint Commission on 21 October 1947.[4]

In November 1947, the People's Assembly of North Korea organized a 31-member committee to enact a provisional constitution. A draft provisional constitution was presented to the People's Assembly of North Korea in February 1948, and it was decided to submit it to an "all-people discussion" that was held from 11 February until 25 April 1948.[4]

On 10 July 1948, the People's Assembly of North Korea adopted the draft constitution as the Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which was implemented by the Supreme People's Assembly throughout the Korean peninsula on 8 September 1948.

According to Andrei Lankov, the 1948 constitution was personally edited by Joseph Stalin alongside Terentii Shtykov, the head of the Soviet occupation of North Korea, in Moscow, with some of its articles being rewritten later by Soviet supervisors.[5]

The 1948 constitution consisted of 10 chapters and 104 articles. It codified the reforms being implemented in North Korea since the establishment the Provisional People's Committee of North Korea in 1946, such as land reforms, the nationalization of industries and resources, and the provision of various freedoms and rights to Koreans.

The constitution instituted the Supreme People's Assembly as the highest government institution in North Korea with various powers such as the passing of laws and the election of the Cabinet, the Supreme Court and the Procurator General. The Standing Committee of the Supreme People's Assembly was tasked with exercising the powers of the assembly during its recess, as well as to represent the country in its foreign relations. The Cabinet was instituted to be the highest executive institution, with its Premier being designated as head of government.

The 1948 constitution was amended five times in April 1954, October 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1962.

Socialist Constitution

North Korea began drafting the present Socialist Constitution as there was a need to set into law the expanding socialist policies and the political, economic and social changes in the country, which are no longer being reflected in the 1948 constitution.[4]

The need for a new constitution had been discussed since the mid-1960s. In the 1970s, the creation of a new constitution was made into an urgent matter.[6]

On 23 October 1972, a committee to draft the Socialist Constitution was organized during the 5th plenary meeting of the 5th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea.[4][7] Kim Il-sung said in a report during the meeting that there was a need to codify the "socialist revolution and construction" and their achievements in the constitution.[4]

The draft constitution was presented to the 1st session of the 5th Supreme People's Assembly, where Kim Il-sung remarked in a speech during the session on 25 December 1972 that "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 Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was adopted at the 1st session of the 5th Supreme People's Assembly on 27 December 1972.

The original version of the Socialist Constitution stated that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is an "independent socialist state" guided by the Juche idea of the Workers' Party of Korea, which was described as "a creative application of Marxism–Leninism" to the situation in North Korea, and based on the socialist relations of production and the independent economy. It codified the Chongsanri spirit and method as the country's basis for all its activities and the Chollima movement as the central line of socialist construction. It establishes the North Korean economy as a planned economy that had achieved industrialisation and is being managed through the Taean work system. North Korea is said by this constitution to be developing a "socialist national culture" that trains people to become builders of socialism and communism.

The constitution established a new government system for North Korea where the President is the head of state, the supreme commander of the entire armed forces, the chairman of the National Defense Commission and the head of the Central People's Committee - the new highest leadership institution established by the constitution with a wide-range of powers on domestic policy. The Supreme People's Assembly still remains to be the highest government institution with the power to pass laws and to elect the President, the members of the Central People's Committee, the members of the Administration Council, the president of the Central Court and the prosecutor general of the Central Public Prosecutors Office. The Standing Committee of the Supreme People's Assembly had its powers reduced to merely exercising the powers of the Supreme People's Assembly during its recess. The Cabinet was replaced by the Administration Council which is headed by the Premier and is tasked with implementing state policy.

The Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has been amended eight times in 1992, 1998, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2016 and 2019.