Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea

Coordinates: 39°0′57″N 125°44′26″E / 39.01583°N 125.74056°E / 39.01583; 125.74056

The Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (Korean: 조선로동당 중앙위원회) is the highest party body between WPK national meetings. According to WPK rules, the Central Committee is elected by the party congress and the party conference can be conferred the right to renew its membership composition. In practice, the Central Committee has the ability to dismiss and appoint new members without consulting with the wider party at its own plenary sessions.

Central Committee of the
Workers' Party of Korea
Workers' Party of Korea emblem
Supreme organ
Term limits
Not fixed
Founded1946; 74 years ago (1946)
Meeting place
Headquarters of Workers' Party of Korea 01.jpg
The Central Committee Building
Pyongyang, North Korea

The 1st Central Committee was elected at the 1st WPK Congress in 1946. It was composed of 43-members. The numbers of Central Committee members have increased since then, with the 7th Congress in 2017 electing 235-members. Non-voting members, officially referred to as alternate members at the present, was introduced at the 2nd Congress.

The Central Committee convenes at least once a year for a plenary session ("meeting"), and shall function as a top forum for discussion about relevant policy issues. It operates on the principle of the Monolithic Ideological System and the Great Leader theory. The role of the Central Committee has varied throughout history. In its early history until the August Faction Incident it was a forum in which different factions competed. Since then it has generally exercises power through formal procedures defined in the party rules. However, its actual ability to affect outcomes of national-level personnel decisions is non-existent, as that function has generally been, in practice, carried out by the Kim family and the Politburo. Nonetheless, Central Committee plenums function as venues whereby policy is formally implemented and public announcements made. Decisions are released publicly in the form of "resolutions" or "decisions".


The Central Committee was established at the 1st Congress when its 1st composition was elected.[1] It was composed of 43-members, and has since expanded at all congresses.[1] From 1948 to 1961 an average of 2.4 meetings per year were held,[2] about the same rate as the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.[2] Meetings held during this period frequently did not exceed one day.[2] The Central Committee's power lay not in how often (or for how long) it met but in its apparatus.[2] Controlled by the Politburo rather than the Central Committee, the apparatus was the nominal government of North Korea under Kim Il-sung.[2] The Central Committee was not convened for a plenary session between 1993 and 2010.[3]

It was a 37-year interval between the 6th Congress and the 7th Congress. The Central Committee and its apparatus was weakened greatly under Kim Jong-il, with several offices remaining unfilled.[4] Beginning in 2005 he took several steps to revitalize the party, appointing senior officials to new posts. Pak Nam Gi was appointed head of the Planning and Finance Department, and Jang Song-thaek was appointed head of the Administrative Department. Overseeing all security matters, Jang was indirectly restored to his duties and responsibilities as head of the Organization and Guidance Department.[5] The 3rd Conference of Representatives (held in September 2010) renewed the composition of the Central Committee; however, the power to give it a new term is held by the party congress.[6]


Election and appointment processEdit

The party congress elects the Central Committee.[7] The election process, and its appointment, is usually dismissed as rubber stamp.[8] The common belief is that the composition of the Central Committee has been decided upon in advance by the previous Central Committee and/or the Politburo, and that the election process is rigged.[8] The WPK charter defines the party as "the party of the Great Leader",[9] and stresses that the party is subordinate to the Great Leader.[10] This influences the party's internal procedures and its electoral process as the party has to be loyal to the Great Leader.[11]

The Charter prescribes that the size of the central committee is determined by the congress presidium.[12] The Central Committee Plenary Session is empowered to renew its rank if "necessary". [12] Candidates can be nominated by the provincial committees, but the Central Committee through the Organization and Guidance Department has the final say.[13]

Plenary sessionsEdit

In between sessions of party congresses and conferences, the Central Committee is the highest WPK institution.[14] It is not a permanent body and, according to the WPK Charter, shall convene at least once a year.[14][7] The Politburo summons the Central Committee for plenary sessions.[14] A plenary session shall consist of, according to the WPK Charter, discussing and deciding on "important issues of the party" and is empowered to elect the Politburo and its Presidium, Executive Policy Bureau, the Central Military Commission,[14] the Control Commission, WPK vice-chairmen, heads of CC departments and lower-level provincial posts.[15] It was formerly empowered to elect the party's leader.[14] It can elevate alternate, non-voting members to full members and appoint new voting and non-voting members to the Central Committee at its plenary sessions.[15]

Main decision-making organsEdit


The Politburo, formerly the Political Committee, was the main decision-making body of the WPK until the establishment of the Presidium.[16][17] The Politburo has full (voting) and candidate (non-voting) members, and is the highest WPK decision-making body when it convenes for meetings.[18] Until the 3rd Conference, the Politburo was elected by the Central Committee immediately after a congress.[18] Although the party charter specifies that the Politburo should meet at least once a month, there is little evidence that this actually happens.[18] Politburo members may serve concurrently on party or state commissions, the government or the Central Committee apparatus.[18]

Evidence suggests that the Politburo functions much like the CPSU Politburo under Stalin, with Politburo members acting as the party leader's personal staff rather than as policy-makers.[18] This was not always the case; before Kim Il-sung purged the party opposition, the Politburo was a decision-making body where policy differences were discussed.[18] Since Kim Il-sung's consolidation of power, the Politburo has turned into a rubber stamp body. Leading members have disappeared without explanation; the last case is that of Kim Tong-gyu who disappeared in 1977.[19] Politburo members under Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il lacked a strong power base and depended on the party leader for their position.[19]


The Presidium was established at the 6th Congress in 1980, and is the highest decision-making organ within the WPK when the Politburo and the Central Committee are not in session.[17] With the death of O Jin-u in 1995, Kim Jong-il remained the only member of the Presidium still alive; the four others (Kim Il-sung, Kim Il, O Jin-u, and Ri Jong-ok) died in office.[20] Between O Jin-u's death and the 3rd Conference, there were no reports indicating that Kim Jong-il or the central party leadership was planning to change the composition of the Presidium.[21] Stephan Haggard, Luke Herman and Jaesung Ryu, writing for Asian Survey in 2014, contended that the Presidium "was clearly not a functioning institution."[22]

Executive Policy BureauEdit

The Executive Policy Bureau, in its current form, was established at the 7th Congress, however, its history can be traced back to the establishment of the Secretariat at the 2nd Party Conference in October 1966.[23] It mimics the role of its Soviet counterpart during the Stalin era.[23] The WPK Chairman is the Head of the Executive Policy Bureau, and the other members have the title of "Vice Chairman of the WPK Central Committee". The body is responsible for overseeing and implementing party policies and supervising party organs.[23]

Central Military CommissionEdit

The Central Military Commission was established in 1962 by a decision of the 5th Plenary Session of the 4th Central Committee.[24] A 1982 amendment to the WPK charter is believed to have made the CMC equal to the Central Committee, enabling it (among other things) to elect the WPK leader.[25] Despite this, some observers believe that at the 3rd Conference the CMC again became accountable to the Central Committee.[26] According to Article 27 of the WPK Charter, the CMC is the highest party body in military affairs and leads the Korean People's Army. It commands the Korean People's Army (KPA) by developing and guiding its weaponry.[24] The WPK Chairman is by right the CMC Chairman.[27]

Control CommissionEdit

The Control Commission, formerly the Inspection Commission, is elected by the 1st CC Plenary Session after a party congress.[28] Its responsible for regulating party membership and resolves disciplinary issues involving party members. Investigative subjects range from graft to anti-party and counter-revolutionary activities, generally encompassing all party rules violations.[28] Lower-level party organizations (at the provincial or county level, for example) and individual members may appeal directly to the commission.[28]

Administrative responsibilitiesEdit


Although under Kim Jong-il's rule the Central Committee apparatus underwent several reorganizations, some departments (mainly those responsible for internal and organizational party affairs: the Organization and Guidance, Propaganda and Agitation and Cadre Affairs departments) were left largely untouched.[29][30] In contrast, departments responsible for overseeing the economy or South Korean affairs (such as the Administrative Department, which was re-established in 2006 after being part of the Organization and Guidance Department since the 1990s) were frequently revamped.[31] Although the United Front Department had its ups and downs during Kim Jong-il's rule, in 2006–2007 it was the centre of a purge.[31]

The Economic Planning and Agricultural Policy departments were abolished in 2002–2003 to strengthen cabinet control of the economy.[31] Further changes occurred in 2009 with the establishment of the Film and Light Industry Industrial Policy departments; Office 38 was merged into Office 39 (and later re-established), the External Liaison Department was moved from WPK jurisdiction to the Cabinet, while Office 35 (also known as the External Investigations and Intelligence Department) and the Operations Department were moved from WPK jurisdiction to the Reconnaissance General Bureau.[31]

By the 3rd Conference, it was known by foreign observers that the Civil Defense Department had been abolished, and certain department heads (Chong Pyong-ho, Kim Kuk-tae and Ri Ha-il, for example) had retired.[31]

Departments and offices
Department or office Director Ref
Organization and Guidance Department Choe Ryong-hae [32]
Propaganda and Agitation Department Pak Kwang-ho [33]
Cadres Department Kim Phyong-hae [33]
Light Industry Department An Jong-su [33]
Economic Affairs Department O Su-yong [32]
Science and Education Department Choe Dong-myon [33]
International Department Ri Su-yong [33]
Military Department N/A [33]
Defense Industry Department[note 1] Thae Jong-su [33]
Working Organization Department Ri Il-hwan [33]
Agriculture Department Ri Chol-man [33]
Party History Institute Ryang Won-ho [33]
Document Archives Kim Jung-hyop [33]
Civil Defense Department Ri Yong-rae [33]
Appeals Office N/A [33]
Finance Accounting Department Han Kwang-sang [32]
General Affairs Department N/A [33]
United Front Department Kim Yong-chol [33]
Office 39 Shin Ryong-man [33]

Rodong SinmunEdit

The Rodong Sinmun is an organ of the WPK Central Committee and acts as the official mouthpiece of the party.[35] Its task is to "achieve a revolutionary transformation of society and the people as demanded by revolutionary ideology and juche idea of the great suryǒng, hold the entire party and people firmly around Kim Jong-il, and fight to secure political and ideological unity of the party."[35] The editor-in-chief of the newspaper is appointed by the central committee in a plenary session.[36]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Also known as the Machine Industry Department or the Munitions Industry Department[34]



  1. ^ a b Suh 1988, p. 350.
  2. ^ a b c d e Lankov 2007, p. 66.
  3. ^ Gause 2013, p. 20.
  4. ^ Gause 2013, pp. 24–25.
  5. ^ Gause 2013, p. 27.
  6. ^ "WPK Conference Held". NK News. 28 September 2010. Archived from the original on 13 March 2014. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  7. ^ a b Staff writer 2014, p. 64.
  8. ^ a b Staff writer 2014, p. 61.
  9. ^ Staff writer 2014, p. 58.
  10. ^ Staff writer 2014, pp. 58–60.
  11. ^ Staff writer 2014, pp. 13, 35 & 58–60.
  12. ^ a b 4th Conference of Representatives of the Workers' Party of Korea 2010, p. 8.
  13. ^ 4th Conference of Representatives of the Workers' Party of Korea 2010, p. 9.
  14. ^ a b c d e "The Central Committee". North Korean Leadership Watch. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  15. ^ a b "2nd Plenary Session of the 7th WPK Central Committee Held". North Korean Leadership Watch. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  16. ^ Buzo 1999, p. 30.
  17. ^ a b Kim 1982, p. 140.
  18. ^ a b c d e f Buzo 1999, p. 31.
  19. ^ a b Buzo 1999, p. 32.
  20. ^ Kim 2000, p. 257.
  21. ^ Kim 2000, pp. 257–258.
  22. ^ Haggard, Herman & Ryu 2014, p. 779.
  23. ^ a b c Buzo 1999, p. 34.
  24. ^ a b Gause 2011, pp. 226–227.
  25. ^ Gause 2013, p. 43.
  26. ^ Gause 2013, p. 44.
  27. ^ "4th Party Conference To Convene in "mid-April"". North Korea Leadership Watch. 2 February 2012. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  28. ^ a b c "Central Control Commission". North Korea Leadership Watch. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  29. ^ Gause 2013, p. 35.
  30. ^ Gause 2013, p. 36.
  31. ^ a b c d e Gause 2013, p. 37.
  32. ^ a b c Zwirko, Colin (28 December 2018). "North Korean leadership shakeups revealed in latest MOU reference book release". NK News. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  33. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Organizational Chart of North Korean Leadership" (PDF). Seoul: Political and Military Analysis Division, Intelligence and Analysis Bureau; Ministry of Unification. January 2018. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  34. ^ "Thae Jong Su (T'ae Cho'ng-su)". North Korea Leadership Watch. 24 February 2018. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  35. ^ a b Staff writer 2014, p. 337.
  36. ^ Madden, Michael (8 October 2017). "2nd Plenary Session of the 7th WPK Central Committee Held". North Korea Leadership Watch. Retrieved 19 October 2017.


Journal entries

External linksEdit

  • Rodong Sinmun - the official newspaper of the WPK Central Committee