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The Supreme People’s Assembly(SPA)

The SPA is the body of highest political power, as stipulated by the ‘Socialist Constitution’ of North Korea. Although it acts as an assembly in that it performs legislative functions, the powers granted to it by the constitution are far greater. In reality, the SPA is a rubber-stamp assembly that merely passes laws and decisions handed down by the KWP. Assembly meetings are held once or twice a year. Matters dealt with during such sessions include: approving the national budget, appointing members of the Cabinet and other key state bodies, and passing laws. During recess periods, the functions of the SPA are carried out by the Standing Committee. Each administrative division has its own regional people’s assembly.

1st Meeting of the 11th SPA, September 2003

Authorities of the SPA

  • Amending/revising the constitution
  • Legislating/amending/revising laws
  • Approving laws passed by the SPA Standing Committee during recess
  • Drawing up frameworks for domestic/foreign policy
  • Appointing or recalling the Chairman of the National Defense Commission
  • Appointing or recalling the members of the SPA Standing Committee
  • Upon consultation with the Chairman, appointing or recalling the 1st Division Chief, Vice Chairman, and members of the National Defense Commission
  • Appointing or recalling the Vice Chairman, Honorary Vice Chairman, Secretary, and members of the SPA Standing Committee
  • Appointing or recalling the Premier of the Cabinet
  • Upon consultation with the Premier, appointing or recalling Vice Premiers, Chairmen, Ministers, and other Cabinet officials
  • Appointing or dismissing the Head of the Central Prosecution Agency
  • Appointing or recalling the Chairman of the Central Court
  • Appointing or recalling Chairmen, Vice Chairmen, and members of each SPA Committee
  • Inspecting and approving reports on economic development plans
  • Inspecting and approving reports on the national budget
  • Receiving briefings by the Cabinet and other central bodies on various projects
  • Ratifying or rejecting treaties proposed to the SPA

General Remarks

Election of SPA members - appointed by secret votes; votes, by principle, must be general, egalitarian, and direct. Tenure - five years Types of sessions - regular or temporary Quorum for proposal - 2/3 or more members must be present Quorum for approval - 1/2 or more for regular laws 2/3 or more for constitutional amendments/revisions 11th SPA - 687 members appointed by elections held in August 2003

The Standing Committee

Delegated to have the highest political power when the SPA is in recess, the SPA Standing Committee comprises the Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary, and members. Although the constitution originally stated that the SPA is the highest political body, amendments in 1998 have given the Chairman of the SPA Standing Committee the authority to represent the nation as a whole. Therefore, according to the constitution, the Chairman of the Standing Committee holds the highest position of power in North Korea. In accordance with amendments made in 1998, the Standing Committee has inherited most of the authority of the former SPA Permanent Committee, Central People’s Committee, and the President. Members of the Standing Committee are appointed every five years. Sessions of the Standing Committee are either full sessions (all Standing Committee members present) or cadre sessions (Chairman, Vice Chairman, and Secretary present).

Authority of the Standing Committee

  • Convening SPA sessions
  • Inspecting and approving laws, amendments, and revisions on regulations during SPA recess periods (laws approved by the Standing Committee are passed during the next SPA session)
  • Inspecting and approving economic development plans and budget-related matters that were not discussed during SPA sessions
  • Interpreting articles of the constitution and laws
  • Supervising state bodies, checking for legal breaches
  • Canceling decisions or measures by state bodies that run contrary to laws, measures, or orders by the SPA or its Standing Committee Canceling erroneous decisions or measures made by regional people’s assemblies
  • Organizing elections for appointing SPA and regional people’s assembly members
  • Organizing projects between SPA members
  • Organizing projects between SPA committees
  • Installing or disassembling Cabinet committees and ministries
  • Upon consultation with the Cabinet Premier, appointing or dismissing Vice Premiers, Chairmen, Ministers, and other Cabinet officials
  • Appointing or dismissing members of committees under the SPA Standing Committee
  • Appointing or recalling judges and people’s assessors of the Central Court
  • Ratifying or rejecting treaties
  • Appointing or recalling diplomatic representatives
  • Conferring awards such as decorations, medals, honorary titles and diplomatic titles
  • Exercising ambassadorial or special envoy authority
  • Demarcating or revising administrative divisions or zones
  • The Chairman of the SPA Standing Committee conducts projects supervised by the Standing Committee, represents North Korea, and accepts letters of credence or summons from foreign states