Virtually all legislators of North Korea’s parliament, the Supreme People’s Assembly, are members of the Kims’ party who ran unopposed in the last nationwide election, leading many outside observers to consider the body a rubber stamp for the regime’s policies.
North Korea’s Constitution allows political parties, but politics is overwhelmingly dominated by the Workers’ Party, founded by Kim Il Sung, grandfather of the current ruler.
Here’s a look at the Supreme People’s Assembly and how it works:
- The current 12th parliament formed in 2009 has 687 legislators, or deputies, of which 107 are women. The number of deputies is determined by the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly in proportion to the country’s population.
- The assembly meets at the austere Mansudae Assembly Hall in the capital, Pyongyang.
- Deputies are elected after a committee of more than 100 people from each district recommends candidates to represent the constituency in the parliament. Even though the law provides no limits on the number of candidates who can run from each district, almost all candidates ran unopposed in the last election in March 2009.
- According to Kim Song Chun, a parliamentary official, deputies meet to discuss and pass laws and establish the country’s domestic and foreign policies. They also can appoint or dismiss officials at top state organizations and confer titles. For example, at the last session in April, Kim Jong Un was made first chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission.
Parliament typically met only once a year under Kim Jong Il, the now-deceased father of the current leader Kim Jong Un. With a second parliamentary session having been convened in the first year of Kim Jong Un’s reign, this could mark a return to the more active role that parliament played under Kim Il Sung, who often held two sessions a year, said John Delury of Yonsei University in South Korea.
“… A general trend under Kim Jong Il [was] holding less frequent and less regular meetings of key party and government organs,” Delury said. “The striking thing is that Kim Jong Un seems to be reversing that trend by regularizing and re-institutionalizing governance.”