North Korea’s parliament has approved changes to the country’s constitution to solidify leader Kim Jong Un’s role as head of state, state media said on Thursday. The move comes after Kim was formally named head of state and commander-in-chief of the military in a new constitution in July.
Kim’s legal status as “representing our state has been further consolidated to firmly ensure the monolithic guidance of the Supreme Leader over all state affairs,” state news agency KCNA quoted Choe Ryong Hae, president of the presidium of the supreme people’s assembly, or titular parliament, as saying.
The new constitution said Kim, as chairman of the State Affairs Commission (SAC), a top governing body created in 2016, was the supreme representative of all the Korean people, which means head of state, as well as “commander-in-chief”.
A previous constitution simply called Kim “supreme leader” who commanded the country’s “overall military force”. Thursday’s constitutional amendments appear to confirm that North Korea’s legal system will now recognize Kim as head of state.
“With the amendment, Kim Jong Un is reviving his grandfather’s head of state system,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at the Sejong Institute. “He has become a de facto head of state.”
The back-to-back constitutional revision is unprecedented, said Rachel Minyoung Lee, an analyst with NK News, a website that tracks North Korea. “By further bolstering the SAC chairman’s authority, Kim Jong Un has emerged as the most powerful leader in North Korean history,” she said.
In reality Kim, a third-generation hereditary leader, already rules North Korea with an iron fist and the title change will mean little to the way he wields power.