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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korea’s parliament on Thursday approbated constitutional revisions which further solidify the “legal status” of the chairman of the State Affairs Commission Kim Jong Un and his leadership over “all the state affairs,” the DPRK’s state media reported.
The Second Session of the 14th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) was held on Thursday in the absence of the North Korean leader, the state-run broadcaster Korean Central Television (KCTV) said at 20:00 local time.
President of the SPA Presidium Choe Ryong Hae said articles related to the authority of the state organs in Chapter 6 “State Machinery” of the DPRK Socialist Constitution have been partially supplemented and modified.
Choe first raised the matter of the legal status and authority of the State Affairs Commission (SAC) chairman.
“An article stipulating that the SAC chairman is elected at the Supreme People’s Assembly in accordance with the unanimous will of all the Korean people and the SAC chairman is not elected as deputy to SPA was added to the constitution,” Choe said in an English-language statement carried by Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
The new article, Choe said, “constitutionally fixes the status of the SAC chairman as the supreme leader of the Party, state and armed forces of the DPRK elected in accordance with the unanimous will and desire of all the Korean people, both in name and reality.”
“This is the lofty manifestation of our people’s consistent will and desire to complete the revolutionary cause of Juche and the feat of constructing the powerful socialist country to the end, following the leadership of respected and beloved Supreme Leader,” Choe said in his speech only aired by KCTV.
“This is the epoch-making step that will lay the everlasting and far-reaching foundation of guaranteeing the prosperity of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il’s Korea.”
Choe explained that the purpose of constitutional amendments is to “provide mighty legal guarantee for stepping up the building of a powerful socialist country more dynamically under the monolithic guidance of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un.”
TIMING, DOMESTIC PERCEPTION?
Thursday’s announcement is in line with a previous report that the North Korean leader is no longer a deputy to the 14th SPA as he did not appear on a list of elected members.
Kim was also described as “supreme representative of all the Korean people” in the media coverage reporting the First Session of the 14 SPA held in April.
Rachel Minyoung Lee, a senior analyst with NK Pro, noted the timing of going public with the constitutional revisions which were observed in the past.
“Choe’s reference to the SAC chairman’s non-election to the SPA — which we already witnessed in early March, when Kim Jong Un was not elected in the SPA elections — seems to confirm that North Korea had been planning these sweeping changes to unveil at the April SPA session but postponed, probably due to domestic sensitivities following the failed Hanoi summit,” Lee said.
“The North’s highly unusual move of not disclosing any details of the constitutional revision in April, which only strengthened some language about Kim’s powers as SAC chairman, also seems to confirm the top leadership’s concern about domestic perception.”
The changes in the Socialist Constitution were only revealed by external-focused online outlet Naenara months after the First Session of the 14th SPA was held.
Pyongyang notably changed article 100 under chapter 6, and it newly stipulated that the SAC chairman is the “supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”
ELEVATED DUTY, AUTHORITY
Speaking at the meeting, Choe continued that a paragraph concerning the duty and authority of the SAC chairman has been newly added.
The paragraph stipulates that the “SAC chairman is authorized to promulgate SPA ordinances and major SAC decrees and decisions and to appoint or recall diplomatic envoys to foreign countries,” Choe said in the English-language dispatch.
“Therefore, the legal status of the chairman of the SAC of the DPRK representing our state has been further consolidated to firmly ensure the monolithic guidance of the Supreme Leader over all the state affairs,” Choe continued.
In the Korean-language version, the diplomatic envoys were described as “diplomatic representatives residing in foreign countries.”
NK News reported earlier this month that newly-appointed North Korean ambassadors “will from now on present Credentials done in the name of the Chairman of the State Affairs Commission” to local heads of state, due to the new stipulation.
The DPRK government, in turn, “will receive the Credentials of ambassadors extraordinary and plenipotentiary of other countries which are to be addressed to the Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK,” a document seen by NK News read.
During the Second Session, the modifications and supplementations of the duty and authority of the SAC in the Socialist Constitution were raised as well.
In accordance with the change, the SAC now “supervises and takes measures for the implementation of the orders given by the SAC chairman … and the decrees, decisions, and instructions made by the SAC.”
Choe said the country can “further cement the legal authority of the SAC as the pivotal body materializing the monolithic guidance of the Supreme Leader and further perfect its own style state administration system” through the legal revision.
According to NK Pro analysis, Pyongyang previously signaled the elevated status of the SAC and its chairman by holding the first official commemoration of Kim’s SAC chairman election anniversary, three years after he was first elected to the position in 2016.
“The North noticeably stepped up Kim Jong Un propaganda and commemorated for the first time Kim’s election as SAC chairman, apparently to solidify the groundwork for the sweeping constitutional changes implemented today,” Rachel Minyoung Lee said.
“The resurgence of the defense and munitions industry sectors over the past few months, as exemplified by the series of weapons tests that began in May, also may have been in part due to Kim’s efforts to cement support across all sectors and levels before revising the constitution that would at least put him on par with Kim Il Sung.”
Speaking at the parliamentary meeting, Choe also explained revisions and supplementations of articles on duty and authority of the Presidium of the SPA as well as the authority of the SPA before the agenda was adopted with “unanimous approbation.”
The President of the SPA Presidium said the DPRK Socialist Constitution, which is revised and supplemented, would “firmly guarantee the monolithic leadership of respected and beloved Supreme Leader Comrade Kim Jong Un over all the state affairs,” in the Korean-language dispatch.
It will also “legally and trustily guarantee the augmentation of our people’s power and the all-people advance for building a powerful socialist country,” he continued.
The second topic for the meeting was the matter of composing the organization.
Pak Yong Il, chairman of the Central Committee of the Korean Social Democratic Party, was notably appointed as the new vice-president of the Presidium of the SPA and replacement of Kim Yong Dae.
The article has been updated to amend the title and fix typo for Comrade
Featured image: KCNA