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The Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the constitution of North Korea. It states that the country is socialist and lays out the framework of the national government and the functions of the ruling state party, the Workers' Party of Korea in relation to the Cabinet and Supreme People's Assembly (the country's parliament). The constitution is divided into 166 articles, split between three sections.

Constitution of North Korea
Constitution of North Korea.jpg
Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Territorial extentNorth Korea
Enacted bySupreme People's Assembly
Passed1972 (revised in 2016)
Amended by
  • 1972
  • 1998 (revision)
  • 2009 (revision)
  • 2012 (revision)
  • 2013 (revision)
  • 2016 (revision)
Related legislation
Status: In force
Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Revised RomanizationJoseon Minjujuui Inmin Gonghwagug Sahoejuui Heonbeob
McCune–ReischauerChosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwagung Sahoejuŭi Hŏnbŏp

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]



The North Korean constitution is unique in combining strong socialist and nationalist tendencies as well as its reference to the country's Juche ideology.[4]

The constitution designates the country as a socialist and revolutionary state,[4] with the official name Democratic People's Republic of Korea.[5] According to the constitution, the state "shall conduct all activities under the Workers' Party of Korea". While the constitution stipulates citizens' limited right to property — "meeting the simple and individual aims of the citizen" — its provisions of a planned economy state that the means of production are owned by the state and social cooperative organizations.[4]

Article 12 defines the country as a "dictatorship of people's democracy" under the leadership of the WPK. It provides for civil and political rights, such as freedom of expression, the right to elect officials, the right to a fair trial, and freedom of religion. It asserts the right of every citizen to work, education, food, and healthcare. In practice, however, these rights are limited by Article 81, which requires that all citizens "firmly safeguard the political and ideological unity and solidarity of the people," and Article 82, which requires that citizens observe "the socialist standards of life."

Article 67 states: "Citizens are guaranteed freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, demonstration and association. The State shall guarantee conditions for the free activity of democratic political parties and social organizations."[6]

Although the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), the parliament of the country, is designated as the "highest organ of State power" by the constitution, the country is de facto a dictatorship under a supreme leader. One of the tasks of the SPA is to elect the Chairman of the State Affairs Commission (SAC; formerly National Defence Commission, NDC). Since the supreme leader is customarily elected to this post, the office can be considered the most senior position of authority.[7]

The constitution can be amended or supplemented by a two-thirds majority in the SPA. In practice, any changes require the consent of the Chairman of the WPK (formerly the General Secretary), an office which the supreme leader holds as a rule.[7] There is no judicial or constitutional review or an ombudsman.[8]


The inaugural constitution was adopted in 1948,[9] and amended in 1962.[10] The current constitution dates from 1972.[8] Revisions were made in 1992,[11] 1998,[12] 2009,[13] 2013,[14] and 2016.[15]

1948 People's ConstitutionEdit

The first North Korean constitution was based on the 1936 Soviet Constitution.[16] This constitution was adopted at the First SPA in September 1948. Joseph Stalin personally edited the constitution alongside Terentii Shtykov, de facto Soviet governor of North Korea, in Moscow. Some articles were later rewritten by Soviet supervisors.[16] Under the 1948 constitution, the SPA was the highest organ in the state, while the Presidium of the SPA was responsible for initiating action and policymaking.[17] Unlike later constitutions, the inaugural constitution does not grant a privileged status to the ruling WPK.[18] The first constitution defined Seoul as the capital of the country, while later constitutions designate Pyongyang.[19] The 1948 constitution became obsolete when it was replaced by a new constitution in 1972.[17]

1962 ConstitutionEdit

The 1948 constitution was amended at the first session of the Third SPA on October 12, 1962.[10]

1972 Juche ConstitutionEdit

Proposing a DPRK new constitution had been discussed as early as 1960. However, in the changing international environment meant that North Korea could no longer postpone a constitutional revision.[20] The WPK appointed a commission to draft a new constitution was established in October 1972.[21] The need was elaborated by Kim Il-sung in his speech at the first session of the Fifth SPA on December 25, 1972:

...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 1972 Constitution was adopted on 27 December.[21] Under the new constitution, Kim Il-sung became the President of North Korea. He became the head of state serving as commander of the armed forces and chairman of the National Defense Committee, he had the power to issue edicts, grant pardons, and conclude or abrogate treaties. Under the old constitution, there was no one designated as the head of state. The chairman of the Presidium of the SPA represented the state which followed the Soviet practice.[citation needed] In contrast to the 1948 Soviet-style constitution, the 1972 Constitution introduced various North Korean concepts of governance.[4] The constitution makes excessive references to the Juche ideology, leading Christopher Hale to conclude that "it would be accurate to call the constitution a Juche constitution".[22]

1992 ConstitutionEdit

Amendments to the 1972 Constitution were made in 1992.[11]

1998 Kim Il-sung ConstitutionEdit

The 1998 "Kim Il-sung Constitution" abolished the position of President and appointed Kim Il-sung, who had died in 1994, the country's Eternal President.[10][23] The 1998 constitution was the first one to include a preamble. The preamble recounts on the history of the country focusing on the person of Kim Il-sung.[4]

2009 Songun ConstitutionEdit

The new, amended in 2009 version of DPRK Constitution is called the "Songun Constitution.[13] It is six articles longer than the previous version adopted in of 1998. Section 2 of Chapter VI “Chairman of the National Defence Commission” is entirely new and the said post was constitutionally declared to be the supreme leader of North Korea. In Articles 29 and 40 (Economy and Culture respectively) the word 공산주의 (communism) was dropped.[24]

2012 Kim Il-sung–Kim Jong-il ConstitutionEdit

The Constitution was again amended in 2012 during the 5th Session of the 12th SPA to include changes in the preamble that states the legacy of Kim Jong-il in nation building and North Korea being a "nuclear-armed state".[25] Accordingly, the Constitution was named the "Kim Il-sung–Kim Jong-il Constitution".[26] Section 2 of Chapter VI, and several articles and provisions were revised accordingly due to provisions of Articles 91 and 95 that provide for constitutional amendments that are to be done by the SPA in its plenary sessions.

2013 ConstitutionEdit

The Constitution was amended on April 1, 2013.[14]

2016 ConstitutionEdit

The Constitution was amended in June 2016 following the 7th WPK Congress. It replaces the National Defence Commission (NDC) with the State Affairs Commission (SAC) placing Kim Jong-un as head of state.[15] In part, the aim of the reorganization was to clarify the role of the SAC in overall state and economic policy, which the constitution previously assigned to the Cabinet.[27]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "N. Korea revises leadership ideology to legitimize rule of Kim Jong-un". Yonhap News Agency. August 12, 2013. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
  2. ^ Lim, Jae-Cheon (2008). Kim Jong-il's Leadership of North Korea. United Kingdom: Routledge. ISBN 9780203884720. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
  3. ^ Green, Christopher. "Wrapped in a Fog: On the North Korean Constitution and the Ten Principles," Sino-NK, June 5, 2012. Retrieved January 3, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e Maddex 2012, p. 328.
  5. ^ Scalapino, Robert A.; Kim, Chun-yŏp (1983). North Korea today: strategic and domestic issues. Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, Center for Korean Studies. p. 24.
  6. ^ "Constitution of North Korea".
  7. ^ a b Maddex 2012, p. 329.
  8. ^ a b Maddex 2012, p. xxii.
  9. ^ Kim, Hyung-chan; Kim, Tong-gyu (2005). Human remolding in North Korea: a social history of education. University Press of America. p. 134.
  10. ^ a b c Kim, Ilpyong J. (2003). "Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea". Historical Dictionary of North Korea. Lanham: Scarecrow Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-8108-4331-8.
  11. ^ a b Haale, Christopher (2002). 'North Korea in Evolution: The Correlation Between the Legal Framework and the Changing Dynamic of Politics and the Economy.' Korea Observer, Vol. 33 No. 3
  12. ^ North Korea drops Communism from its Constitution Archived February 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Azerbaijan Press Agency. September 28, 2009.
  13. ^ a b David-West, Alzo (February 2011). "North Korea, Fascism, and Stalinism: On B. R. Myers' The Cleanest Race". Journal of Contemporary Asia. 41 (1): 152. doi:10.1080/00472336.2011.530043.
  14. ^ a b Korea Institute for National Unification (10 September 2014). White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea 2014. 길잡이미디어. p. 86. ISBN 978-89-8479-766-6. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  15. ^ a b JH Ahn (30 June 2016). "N.Korea updates constitution expanding Kim Jong Un's position". NK News. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  16. ^ a b "Terenti Shtykov: the other ruler of nascent North Korea" by Andrei Lankov. "...even the North Korean constitution was edited by Stalin himself and became law of the land only after a lengthy discussion in Moscow, where Shytkov and Stalin sat together looking through the draft of the country’s future supreme law. They approved it, but not completely, since some articles were rewritten by Soviet supervisors. So Shytkov, together with Stalin himself, can be seen as the authors of the North Korean constitution." Korea Times Archived April 17, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ a b Constitutionalism in Asia: Cases and Materials. By Wen-Chen Chang, Li-ann Thio, Kevin YL Tan, Jiunn-rong Yeh
  18. ^ Przeworski, Adam (2013). "Ruling against Rulers". In Ginsburg, Tom; Simpser, Alberto (eds.). Constitutions in Authoritarian Regimes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-107-04766-2.
  19. ^ Lankov, Andrei (2014). The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-19-939003-8.
  20. ^ “Korea Today”. Foreign Languages Pub. House, (196), 1987. p. 3.
  21. ^ a b Youn-Soo Kim (1980). "Introduction". In Simons, William B. (ed.). The Constitutions of the Communist World. Leiden: BRILL. p. 228. ISBN 978-90-286-0070-6.
  22. ^ Amarnath Amarasingam (19 December 2011). "The Prophet Is Dead: Juche and the Future of North Korea". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-07-03.
  23. ^ Kwon, Heonik; Chung, Byung-Ho (12 March 2012). North Korea: Beyond Charismatic Politics. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 978-1-4422-1577-1. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
  24. ^ DPRK has quietly amended its Constitution | Leonid Petrov's KOREA VISION Archived 2013-04-21 at the Wayback Machine. (2009-10-12). Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  25. ^ North Korea proclaims itself a nuclear state in new constitution - Archived August 20, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  26. ^ "North Korea Amends the Constitution". The Institute for Far Eastern Studies. 2012-06-14. Retrieved 2015-07-09.
  27. ^ Madden, Michael (6 July 2016). "The Fourth Session of the 13th SPA: Tweaks at the Top". 38 North. Retrieved 17 September 2017.

Works citedEdit

Further readingEdit

Original textsEdit

  • 1972: Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Pyongyang: Foreign Languages Publishing House. 1986 [Adopted at the first session of the fifth Supreme People's Assembly of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, December 27, 1972]. OCLC 1004545528.
  • 1998: Socialist Constitution of the Democratic [sic] People's Republic of Korea. Pyongyang: Foreign Languages Publishing House. 1998 [Amended and supplemented on September 5, Juche 87(1998) at the First Session of the Tenth Supreme People's Assembly, of the Democratic People's Republic Korea]. Archived from the original on 26 April 2014.
  • 2009: Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Pyongyang: Foreign Languages Publishing House. 2010 [Amended and supplemented at the 1st Session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea on April 9, Juche 98 (2009)]. OCLC 855026478.
  • 2013: Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Pyongyang: Foreign Languages Publishing House. 2014 [Amended and supplemented on April 1, Juche 102 (2013), at the Seventh Session of the Twelfth Supreme People's Assembly]. ISBN 978-9946-0-1099-1. Archived from the original on 8 July 2016.
  • 2016: Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Foreign Languages Publishing House. 2016 [Amended and supplemented on June 29, Juche 105 (2016), at the Fourth Session of the Thirtieth Supreme People's Assembly].

External linksEdit