State Affairs Commission
National Defense Commission
Kim Jong Un was elected as chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK at the Fourth Session of the 13th Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) held on 29 June 2016, reflecting the unanimous will and desire of all deputies to the SPA, service personnel and civilians. The state affairs commission replaces the National Defense Commission (NDC), which Kim led as the chairman. The one-day SPA session was held after the seventh congress of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party last month. During the event, Kim was unanimously elected as the "Chairman of the Workers' Party," a position once held by North Korean founder and his grandfather Kim Il-sung. The North customarily convened a SPA session to approve changes in government policies. The SPA is largely considered as a rubber-stamp organization for the North Korean dictatorship.
The North Korean military was directly controlled by the Defense Committee which has been elevated to an independent organization next only to the President of North Korea. The General Staff under the Ministry of People's Armed Forces (MPAF), the highest executive organization in military affairs, commands and controls military operations. The DPRK armed forces maintain a single command system: the Chief of the General Staff directly commands and controls ground corps, tanks, light infantry and artillery command, navy command and air command. Kim Jong-il, as the supreme commander of the People's Armed Forces and the chairman of the Military Committee, has overall command of the North Korean military apparatus and exercises direct right of military administration and command.
Under the coordinated authority of the party's Military Affairs Committee and the state National Defense Commission, the Ministry of People's Armed Forces exercises jurisdiction over the KPA. Eight major organizations constitute the national command authorities
- the President
- KWP's Military Affairs Committee
- Civil Defense Department
- Military Affairs Department
- Supreme People's Assembly
- National Defense Commission
- Ministry of People's Armed Forces
- General Political Bureau of the General Staff
At the Seventh Supreme People's Assembly on April 5, 1982, the Ministry of People's Armed Forces (along with the Ministry of Public Security and the State Inspection Commission) was separated from the State Administration Council and made responsible to the president alone. On December 24, 1991, however, the constitutional and legal requirements were muddied when it was announced that President Kim's son and heir apparent, Kim Jong Il, had been named supreme commander.
North Korea needed a legal basis if Kim Jong-il was to take full control of the military after he ascended to the position of supreme commander of the people's army, a position without legal or administrative power. The 3rd session of the Supreme People's Assembly revised the constitution in April 1992, abolishing the state president's concurrent chairmanship of the National Defense Commission, and made the commission an independent body. The new 1992 constitution continued a trend of increasing the importance and independence of the National Defense Commission. Links to the Central People's Committee were apparently severed and the commission became directly subordinate to the Supreme People's Assembly. Under previous constitutions, the president was empowered as the supreme commander of the armed forces and as chairman of the National Defense Commission. The 1992 state constitution deleted clauses in the 1972 constitution that stipulated that the president was supreme commander of the armed forces and chairman of the National Defense Commission, shifting powers instead to the Supreme People's Assembly and the National Defense Commission. Under the revisions, the president retains only the power to recommend the election or recall of the chairman of the National Defense Commission. The younger Kim assumed chairmanship of the commission in April 1993.
The National Defense Commission was separated from the Central Committee at the 1st session of the 9th-term Supreme People's Assembly in April, 1998, and was given a status equal to its former ruling body. The 1st session of the 10th-term Supreme People's Assembly on September 5, 1998 enhanced the status of the National Defense Commission to a top organ of the state by placing management and direction of all military affairs and defense projects under the commission's authority. The National Defence Commission, though nominally under the Supreme People's Assembly, was confirmed as the highest state body, with ultimate executive power (including responsibility for the armed forces) resting with its chairman, Kim Jong-il.
The National Defense Commission consisted of a chairman (Kim Jong-il), the first deputy chairman (Cho Myong-rok), deputy chairmen (Kim Il-chul and Lee Yong-mu), and six commission members (including Kim Young-chun). All members are selected to a five-year term. The National Defense Commission has the power to direct all activities of the armed forces and national defense projects, establish and disband central defense institutions, appoint and dismiss senior military officers, confer military titles and grant titles for top commanders, and declare a state of war and issue mobilization orders in an emergency.
The Korean Workers Party [KWP] Military Affairs Committee determines broad security policy, including basic military policy, political indoctrination of the armed services, resource allocation, and high-level personnel matters. The committee has under its jurisdiction both the regular and paramilitary forces. The Military Affairs Committee consists of between ten and twenty party officials, typically military officers.
On 09 April 2009 the First Session of the 12th Supreme People's Assembly of the DPRK reelected Kim Jong Il to a fourth five-year term as chairman of the National Defense Commission. On 10 April 2009 Official North Korean newspapers released photos of "all 12 members" of North Korea's top organ of power, the Defense Commission. The Rodong Sinmun and Minju Chosun released the photos after the new commission was confirmed by the recently elected parliament, the Supreme People's Assembly. In the past, North Korea released only the photos of the chairman and vice chairmen. The photographs are noteworthy because hithterto the Central Intelligene Agency had only noted six members of the NDC, not twelve. The National Defense Commission was bolstered by the addition of one more vice chairman and four additional members, each of whom previously had dealings with military affairs. Kim appointed his brother-in-law Jang Song Thaek to the all-powerful National Defense Commission. Jang, who was married to Kim's younger sister, was widely expected to play a major role in guarding Kim's succession. The first meeting of the 12th Supreme People's Assembly was expected to pass legislation to change the non-standing National Defense Commission into a standing organization and the centerpiece of the government. The North's state-run Korean Central News Agency reported that the North Korean lawmakers had unanimously adopted a law to revise and supplement the nation's constitution, but gave no further details.
From left, Jo Myong-rok, Director of the People's Army General Political Bureau; Kim Yong-chun, Minister of People's Armed Forces; Ri Yong-mu, Vice Marshal of the Korean People's Army; O Kuk-ryol, Chief of the Operational Department of the Workers' Party
From left, Chun Byong-ho, Secretary of Military Industry; Kim Il-chol, First Vice-Director of the Ministry of People's Armed Forces; Paek Se-bong, Chairman of the Second Economic Committee; Jang Song-taek, Director of the Administrative Department of the Workers' Party
From left, Ju Sang-song, Minister of Public Security; U Dong-chuk, Deputy Chief of the Secret Police; Ju Kyu-chang, First Vice-Director of the Ministry of Defense Industry; Kim Jong-gak, First Vice-Director of the General Political Department of the People's Army
Until June 29, 2016, the DPRK constitution provided that the National Defense Commission is the highest guiding organ of the military and the defense-building work of the State. The constitution provided the National Defense Commission with the powers to abrogate any decision of a state organ that is in conflict with its own decisions or directives. It was composed of ten individuals, including Kim Jong Un, who served as First Chairman and is the Suryong (“Supreme Leader") of the DPRK, a position that has historically exercised absolute authority in the DPRK; according to the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the DPRK (the “COI"), the Suryong system embeds under the supreme leader all powers of the state, party, and military.
According to the COI, since the accession of Kim Jong Un, there has been an increase in the number of executions of senior officials that “seem to have political purposes," which the COI described as appearing to be linked to his consolidation of power. In certain instances, the executions were carried out in secret after the individuals were forcibly disappeared. The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HNRK) similarly reported in its report Pyongyang Republic that “the numerous and brutal executions of members of the power elite since Kim Jong Un took power are apparently being used by the regime to maximize the power elite’s fear of the young supreme leader."
Per its mandate and in practice, the National Defense Commission exercised direct authority over entities responsible for some of the most pervasive and notorious human rights abuses in the DPRK; the ministry of state security, ministry of public security, and the Korean People’s Army all reported directly to it, and these ministries’ respective ministers all sat on the commission.
According to the COI report, in January 2013, the ministry of public security issued a proclamation on behalf of the National Defense Commission urging that North Koreans report behavior to the security forces, including watching and distributing foreign television. The COI reports similar directives issued by the Supreme Leader through the National Defense Commission.
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