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The State Security Department (SSD) or the Ministry of State Security is the secret police agency of North Korea. It is an autonomous agency of the North Korean government reporting directly to the Supreme Leader.[1][2] In addition to its internal security duties, it is involved in the operation of North Korea's concentration camps and various other hidden activities.[3] It is reputed to be one of the most brutal police forces in the world, and has been involved in numerous human rights abuses.[2]

State Security Department of North Korea
the Ministry of State Security
Agency overview
Superseding agency
JurisdictionGovernment of North Korea
HeadquartersPyongyang, North Korea
Agency executives
State Security Department
Revised RomanizationGukga anjeon bowibu
McCune–ReischauerKukka anjŏn powibu

It is one of two agencies which provides security or protection to North Korean officials and VIPs alongside the Supreme Guard Command.[2][4]



The SSD was created in 1973, having its functions from the former Ministry of Public Security.[5][6] The structure was created based on the Soviet KGB.[7]

Some defectors and sources have suggested that unlike its Eastern Bloc counterparts, State Security functions are actually conducted by several larger and different security bodies that operate under the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) or the Korean People's Army (KPA, the North Korean armed forces), each with its own unique responsibilities and classified names that are referred to by code (e.g. Room 39), and that the agency is little more than a hollow shell used by the elite to coordinate their activities and provide cover for them.

The post of Security Department head was left vacant after Minister Ri Chun-su's death in 1987, although it was de facto if not de jure controlled by Kim Jong-il and the WPK Organization and Guidance Department he headed.[8] In 1998, the SSD migrated under the National Defence Commission, also chaired by Kim Jong-il.[8] Finally, in 2007, it was transferred under the WPK Administration Department, whose first vice director became responsible of the SSD daily work, but it continued to have obligations towards the Organization and Guidance Department.[8]

In November 2011, it was reported that General U Tong-chuk had been appointed permanent minister of State Security,[9] the first of this kind since 1987, filling a post left unoccupied for 24 years. This was almost concurrent with General Ri Myong-su's appointment as minister of People's Security. Other sources also claimed that Kim Jong-un worked at the State Security Department before and/or after his anointment as heir apparent in September 2010.[10] Kim Won-hong was appointed minister in April 2012 as the position was restored following Kim Jong-il's death.[11] He served as Kim Jong-un's aide until February 2017 when he was allegedly dismissed for filing false reports to Kim Jong Un and mishandling an aide of Kim Jong Un. He was formally replaced in October 2017 at a WPK central committee plenum by Jong Kyong-thaek.[12] So Tae-ha is the vice minister, while Kim Chang-sop serves as the head of the political department of the ministry.[13]


The SSD is tasked to investigate political and economic crimes in North Korea, especially for the former on crimes against the Kim family.[6] It's also tasked to conduct VIP protection duties for North Korean diplomats and employees who work in various North Korean embassies, consulates and other foreign missions abroad.[6]

The SSD is known to link up with various government ministries and agencies to help them with their various missions.[6]



  1. ^ Library of Congress Country Studies
  2. ^ a b c Kirby, Michael Donald; Biserko, Sonja; Darusman, Marzuki (7 February 2014). "Report of the detailed findings of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea - A/HRC/25/CRP.1". United Nations Human Rights Council. Archived from the original on February 27, 2014.
  3. ^ Bermudez (2001), pg 198–203.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c d
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b c U Tong Chuk Appointed Minister of State Security Archived 2012-01-19 at the Wayback Machine. North Korea Leadership Watch, 12 November 2011.
  9. ^ General U Upped. Intelligence Online, 10 November 2011.
  10. ^ NDC: Kim Jong-un in charge of intelligence. North Korean Economic Watch, 21 April 2011.
  11. ^ "Top 4 N.Korean Military Officials Fall Victim to Shakeup". Chosun Ilbo. Nov 30, 2012. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Zwirko, Colin (28 December 2018). "North Korean leadership shakeups revealed in latest MOU reference book release". NK News. Retrieved 7 March 2019.


  • Bermudez, Joseph S. (2001). Shield of the Great Leader. The Armed Forces of North Korea. The Armed Forces of Asia. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86448-582-5.