The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, often simply referred to as North Korea, is a unitary, socialist, one-party state which is led by a totalitarian dictator that is referred to as the Supreme Leader. It is located in the Eastern parts of Asia. It has its capital in Pyongyang city which is also the largest city in the country. The North Korean government is highly centralized. The family of the supreme leader heads almost all the primary functions of the government. In this article, we will look at the roles and the responsibilities of the supreme leader of the country a well as looking at some of the office holders.
Rise of Socialist Rule in North Korea after World War II
After the Second World War, the Soviet Union occupied the Northern parts of Korea and established a Provisional People’s Committee for North Korea, placing Kin ii-sung in power as the committee's chair. From 1948 up until 1972, the chairman of the committee doubled up as the head of state. The constitution was the amended, and the post of an executive president was created. Kim ii-Sung was unanimously elected as president, a position he held until he his death in 1994. He was then declared the eternal president of the Republic. The post was inherited by his son Kim Jon-il who led until 2011 when he died and in turn his son also inherited the position. The title “supreme leader” was officially recognized by the constitution in 2009.
Kim-ii Sung was the longest serving Supreme leader of North Korea, holding the title from 1948 when the position was first established until his death in 1994. During his reign, a cult of personality around the Kim family started to dominate, and there are very severe punishments for anyone who criticizes any member of the ruling family. The early life of Kim-II Sung is not clear, and this has led to some historians to assert that he is an impostor. According to him, he came from a humble background which was “only a step from poverty.” He attended a military school which he found to be outdated and decided to attend the Yuwen Middle School. He became an activist at a tender age and was arrested at 17 for his subversive activities which brought to an end his education. He joined several guerrilla groups fight the Japanese rule. In 1994 he suffered a sudden heart attack and died at the age of 82 leaving the post to his son. Even after his death, he was declared the eternal president of North Korea.
The birth date of Jong-il is not clear, but is thought to have been in either 1941 or 1942. Records indicate Jong-il was born in the Soviet Union, although the Kim family has contended that he was born on Baekdu Mountain, a site sacred to Koreans. He entered into public service in the 1980s where he held several positions both in the government and in the military. He had become the heir-apparent, and his father started preparing him for the leadership of the country. His reign is said to be more dictatorial than that of hiss father. He mismanaged the economy, and there were complaints of high human rights violations. It is during this time that the country suffered from the worst famine in its history. As insurance, Jon-il had over US $4 billion in European accounts in case there was a need for him to flee the country.
Jon-un was born in 1984, and was the youngest son of Kim Jon-un. He ascended to power as Supreme Leader in December of 2011. In 2012, he became a Marshal of the Korean People’s Army, consolidating his position as the Supreme Commander of the armed forces. He holds two bachelor degrees, including one in physics and one in military science. Unlike his predecessors, he has shown some cultural change and once attended a festival where American music was being played. He is also said to be diabetic and socially awkward. In 2013, he threatened the US with nuclear attacks. There are reports that Jong-un has been stocking nuclear weapons and has even made rockets which can power ICBMs. He has also claimed that North Korea has manufactured a drug with the capability of curing HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and other viral diseases.
Role of the Supreme Leader in North Korea
The top political authority and responsibilities are highly centralized in North Korea, and tightly controlled by the Supreme Leader. The supreme leader is the head of government and also heads the state. He is also the head of the Workers Party of Korea and the commander in chief of the armed forces. Since the governance style is totalitarian, the supreme leader makes laws and decrees which have to be followed by everyone.