At the fourth session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly – the North’s rubber-stamp legislature – Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the SPA and North Korea’s de jure head-of-state, announced that Kim Jong Un would be appointed chairman of the new State Affairs Commission.
The new State Affairs Commission replaces the National Defense Commission, which was previously regarded as the highest decision-making body in the DPRK government (outside of institutions of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea). Kim Yong Nam referred to the chairmanship of the State Affairs Commission as “our republic’s highest position.”
In Korean, there is only a single syllable difference between “National Defense Commission” and “State Affairs Commission.” Unlike most state media reports, Kim was not referred to by the title of first chairman of the National Defense Commission at any point during the KCTV broadcast of the SPA meeting.
The change from a National Defense Commission to a State Affairs Commission – as well as the makeup of that commission – appears to be another indication of a shift in Pyongyang regarding priorities and the relative positions of various entities within the regime.
During the reign of Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, from 1994-2011, the overarching philosophy aside from Juche was Songun (“Military First”). Kim Jong Il’s rule marked a period of prioritization of the military in politics, economics, etc.
Under Kim Jong Un’s rule, however, the DPRK has placed greater emphasis on the Byungjin Line, a policy of simultaneous nuclear and economic development. This appears to mean a more balanced approach to supporting the economy more broadly as well as improving military strength, especially key capabilities such as nuclear weapons and missiles.
In addition to Kim being made chairman, three vice chairman and eight members were named to the State Affairs Commission, making a total membership of 12 including Kim.
As vice chairmen, the SPA appointed: Hwang Pyong So, director of the Korean People’s Army General Political Bureau, a KPA vice marshal; Choe Ryong Hae, WPK Secretary of Workers’ Organization and vice chair of the WPK Central Committee; and Pak Pong Ju, premier of the DPRK.
The chairman and all three vice chairman of the State Affairs Commission are members of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee.
As members of the State Affairs Commission, the SPA appointed: Kim Ki Nam, director of the WPK Propaganda & Agitation Department; Ri Man Gon, a vice chairman in the WPK Central Committee; Kim Yong Chol, director of the United Front Department; Ri Su Yong, a vice chairman of the WPK Central Committee and likely director of the International Affairs Department; Ri Yong Ho, minister of Foreign Affairs; Pak Yong Sik, minister of the People’s Armed Forces; Kim Won Hong, minister of State Security; and Choe Pu Il, minister of People’s Security.
Two of the vice presidents – Hwang Pyong So and Pak Pong Ju – and five of the members – Ri Man Gon, Kim Yong Chol, Pak Yong Sik, Kim Won Hong, and Choe Pu Il – are also members of the WPK Central Military Commission.
Five of the 12 members of the State Affairs Commission were previously members of the National Defense Commission. Kim was first chairman of the NDC and Hwang Pyong So was a vice chairman. Pak Yong Sik, Kim Won Hong, and Choe Pu Il were regular members.
Decisions regarding the establishment and membership of the new State Affair Commission were likely made during the Seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, held from May 5 through May 9. Typically, decisions made by the ruling Party regarding the organization of the DPRK government and its policies are later formalized at sessions of the SPA. This is likely the reason for the unusual timing of the 13th SPA’s fourth session, which are usually convened in April.
Featured image: KCTV
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