State and politics
According to the Constitution, North Korea is a Socialist
People's Republic with the Communist Party (Korean Workers'
Party) as the leading political force. Although a
parliament, the Supreme People's Assembly, exists, the real
power lies with the Communist Party. North Korea's
undisputed leader, Kim Il Sung, formulated the so-called
juche ideology, a development and application of
Marxism-Leninism to the conditions in North Korea. Since
1972, this has been enshrined in the Constitution as a
leading political ideology. Official policy has been based
on the principles of independence and self-reliance in juche
ideology in politics, economics and defense and on the
mobilization of primarily domestic resources. However, the
country has always to some extent traded with the Soviet
Union/Russian Federation and China mainly, and has
received assistance from these countries.
A fundamental objective in most areas has been to create
the conditions, material as well as non-material, for the
emergence of the "new, socialist man - the master of
nature". The production and distribution funds are owned by
the state and by cooperatives. Taxation has been abolished,
and private ownership is restricted to personal use.
Political life in North Korea has been greatly influenced by
the very far-reaching personal cult of Kim Il Sung.
After Kim Il Sung's death in 1994, the powers of power
were gradually handed over to his son Kim Jong Il, who in
1993 was appointed the country's commander-in-chief. In
October 1997, he took up the post of Secretary General of
the Korean Workers' Party. In 1998, the 1972 constitution
was changed and the presidential post was abolished. Kim Il
Sung was named "eternal president". See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how KP can stand for North Korea.
Kim Jong Il still ruled the country in the role of
chairman of the National Defense Committee, which is the
state's highest body. Several of the older top politicians
in the Communist Party were dismissed after 1995 and a
senior adviser to Kim Jong Il jumped off to China. In
December 2011 Kim Jong Il passed away and was succeeded by
his youngest son, Kim Jong Un.
During the post-war throne in North Korea, there were no
indications of a change in the regime's hard-line
isolationist policies. The government, despite starvation
and agricultural crisis, has so far not shown any clear
signs of wanting to implement reforms similar to those
implemented in other socialist countries. However, it has
accepted foreign aid at the same time as the Jucheid idea
Kim Jong Un's first appearance on the world political
scene was in connection with a failed rocket launch in April
2012, an event that caused heavy criticism from, among
others, South Korea, Japan and the United States and was
considered a further setback in the Korea issue.
North Korea's ambition to supply the country with nuclear
weapons can primarily be seen as a strategic positioning
against the outside world and mainly the United States. The
tactics have intensified under Kim Jong Un's leadership. In
February 2013, North Korea conducted a nuclear test, which
was strongly condemned by the world community and the
country's allied China. New nuclear tests were conducted in
January and September 2016, which resulted in the UN
Security Council adopting three resolutions imposing
stricter sanctions on the country.
Historically strained relations between North Korea and
the United States escalated in 2017 following a harsh
rhetoric between Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump.
Another nuclear test was conducted in September 2017. The
explosive force was then at least ten times as large as in
the nuclear test 2016.
The relationship between North Korea and South Korea was
thawed in the spring of 2018 by the April meeting between
the country's leaders, which resulted in promises of a
formal peace end in the Korean War before the end of the
year, and the Korean Peninsula to be made nuclear-free. The
US and North Korea were also approaching each other, which
was expressed in the meeting between the country's leaders
in 2018, which resulted in an agreement between Donald Trump
and Kim Jong Un on closer relations in general and a
disarmament of North Korea's nuclear weapons in particular.
The country's legal life is dominated by its special
social model. The judicial organization consists mainly of
public courts, provincial courts and a central court, but
the substantive law is underdeveloped and to some extent
replaced by ideological doctrines. The death penalty is
punished for some serious crimes.
The dictatorship of North Korea's strict control over all
information makes reporting on the state's attitude towards
and respect for human rights more difficult. The very
limited freedom of movement in the country, combined with
the difficulties for foreigners to get in touch with North
Korean citizens, means that a larger part of the reports are
second- and third-hand information.
According to Human Rights Watch, the state systematically
violates the rights of its residents and the change of
leadership in 2011 meant no change in the state's
authoritarian political system.
The government has ratified four important international
treaties on human rights, including the Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights, but in practice organized political
opposition or free media is not allowed.
All media are state-controlled and critical statements
can reportedly be penalized. The Internet is available to a
small circle and the possibility of making mobile calls
abroad is only available to foreigners. In Reporters
Without Borders Press Freedom Index 2015, North Korea is in
second place as 179 out of 180 countries.
Arbitrary arrests of regime critics, lack of legal
security and torture and ill-treatment of interns in the
country's prisons and detention centers are extensive
according to testimonies from 2012. Data also shows that the
country practices public executions for crimes such as theft
of state property and hoarding of food, as well as for
serious crime. The criminal law imposes the death penalty
for murder, stamping against the state, high treason,
terrorism and aid to the enemy.
According to Amnesty International and people who left
North Korea during the 2000s, there are large labor camps
for dissidents. The conditions at these are venerable and
are characterized by starvation as well as heavy forced
labor in mines and agriculture. Deaths occur as a result of
The number of women in employment is high and a
non-discriminatory culture characterizes the education
system. However, duplication works to the greatest extent to
women who are expected to both gain employment and be
responsible for the home.
According to the official ideology, children are given a
special position in society and childcare and education are
well developed. But it is at the same time that children are
most severely affected by malnutrition as a result of the
country's periods of famine and a distribution policy that
favors military power and government employees.
No information on LGBTQ persons or their situation is