A look at North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party

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— HISTORY: North Korea celebrates Oct. 10, 1945 as the foundation day of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

— MEMBERSHIP: About 3 million people out of North Korea’s population of 24 million are affiliated with the party. Leader Kim Jong Il has served as general secretary since 1997.

— AUTHORITY: By law, the Workers’ Party is North Korea’s top organ authorized to formulate state policies and supervise all national organizations, including the country’s 1.2 million-member military. The party’s authority, however, has withered in recent years under Kim Jong Il’s military-first policy.

— ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE: The party’s highest-level body is the national congress that determines national policies and strategies. Under an in-house regulation, the Workers’ Party must hold a national congress every five years but the last one was held in 1980.

— KEY PARTY MEMBERS: Most of the top party members concurrently hold other high-profile government jobs.

Kim Jong Il— the party’s general secretary — heads the powerful National Defense Commission and the military.

Jang Song Thaek — Kim’s brother-in-law who was promoted to be a vice chairman of the National Defense Commission in June — also serves as head of the party’s department on administration and capital construction.

Defense chief Kim Yong Chun was elected to the party’s Central Committee in 1980, while the North’s nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam, head of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, is a member of the party’s politburo.

Kim Jong Il’s only sister, Kim Kyong Hui, is the director of the light industry department of the ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee.


Sources: The Unification Ministry in Seoul, the National Intelligence Service in Seoul and research papers by Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at the Sejong Institute think tank in South Korea.