Go to contents

`NK Revises Constitution to Keep Kim Jong Il Leader`

Posted May. 22, 2009 07:14,   


A Japanese daily said yesterday that North Korea revised its constitution last month to keep Kim Jong Il as its supreme leader and give him more power.

Since 1998, power in the North had been divided among the National Defense Commission, which Kim heads, the Supreme People’s Assembly, and standing committees. The constitutional revision heralds a new era in which Kim is officially recognized as supreme leader.

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun said the North Korean constitution changed Kim’s duties from leadership of national military affairs to all affairs. In other words, the amendment clarifies Kim’s status as the supreme leader who controls not only the military but also the legislative, judicial and administrative branches.

Pyongyang will also give more power to Kim by allowing the supreme leader to declare ratification and abolition of significant agreements, pardons and national emergencies. That means the North’s "head of the state" system abolished in 1998, when the nation’s constitution was revised, has partially been revived.

The constitutional revision, however, is more a symbolic gesture that simply made powers already held by Kim. It means no fundamental changes in the North’s power structure.

After leader Kim Il Sung’s death in 1994, North Korea revised its constitution in September 1998 to allow three bodies to share the governing of state affairs but gave real power to Kim Jong Il.

The Japanese daily also said the revision will bring no change to the North`s fundamental principles under which the Workers` Party rules.

According to the revision, soldiers are given sovereign authority under a right that had been given to laborers and farmers for a long time. The North Korean military now also has the duty of protecting their revolutionary leaders led by Kim Jong Il, providing legal support for Kim’s "military-first" policy.

Nihon Keizai is also the first foreign media to report on the revision conducted at the Supreme People’s Assembly last month. The daily quoted Mimura Mitsuhiro from the Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia, who recently visited North Korea.

In Seoul, a source from the South Korean government said, “We have no official comment.”

But Jeong Seong-jang, director of inter-Korean relations studies at the Sejong Institute, said, “The daily’s report is highly likely to be true.”

jkmas@donga.com kyle@donga.com