March 8, 2009 / 6:59 AM / 10 years ago

FACTBOX - North Korea's main political bodies and power

(Reuters) - North Koreans elect a rubber stamp parliament Sunday to mark the start of a new phase in Kim Jong-il’s leadership that analysts say could set in place succession plans in Asia’s only communist dynasty.

Following are some of the main government bodies in North Korea and the power they hold.

SUPREME PEOPLE’S ASSEMBLY

The Supreme People’s Assembly, or parliament, is officially the North’s highest body of sovereign power that can revise the constitution, approve the budget and make appointments to top official positions, including the National Defense Commission.

Its annual meetings make official the measures taken by the Presidium, which is headed by the North’s nominal head of state, Kim Yong-nam, who ranks second after leader Kim Jong-il.

NATIONAL DEFENSE COMMISSION

Officially under the supervision of the Assembly, the eight-member commission is in reality the highest point of power in North Korea.

Headed by Kim Jong-il, the commission is made up of military officers and has increased its power as the state’s leaders tried to shift the focus away from its economic difficulties to building a powerful military state.

Kim’s right-hand man is Vice Marshal Jo Myong-rok, 80 who, as the leader’s special envoy, was the highest ranking official to visit Washington and meet a U.S. president, who at the time was Bill Clinton.

WORKERS’ PARTY OF KOREA

Founded in 1945, the communist party of North Korea has been the singular source of power that led the entire history of the state through its formation, growth and its troubles.

But decades of economic difficulties have led to a decline in power for the party and its Central Committee, which in previous years wielded absolute power. It has not formally met since the early 1990s. Kim serves as party chief with the title of general secretary.

THE CABINET

A 1998 amendment to the constitution revived the cabinet that had been scrapped in 1972 and restored it as the top administrative body and the main economic policy making organization.

The cabinet has 37 minister-level officials. The Ministry of People’s Armed Forces is not part of the cabinet but is a National Defense Commission apparatus. The current premier is Kim Yong-il, a career bureaucrat whose specialty is transport management.

(Source: North Korea’s KCNA news agency, “Revised Understanding of Modern North Korea” by Lee Jong-suk, Reuters)

Editing by Dean Yates and Paul Tait

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