Military Structure and Organization

    Military Organization and Command System

    North Korean Armed Forces consists of People's Armed Forces, which is the regular armed forces including Escorting Command and Pyongyang Defense Command; People's Security Guards, which is the paramilitary forces; and civilian forces including the Workers and Farmers Red Guards and the Young Red Guards. Major military organs include the party's Central Military Committee, the National Defense Commission, the party's Military Affairs Department, the party's Civil Defense Department, the general munitions mobilization bureau, and the Ministry of People's Armed Forces.

    The direction and guidance system of the North Korean Armed Forces is dualized. Political and policy guidance is conducted by the party's Central Military Committee, while the National Defense Commission is in charge of military and administrative direction. The Armed Forces are under a unitary command system with the chief of the general staff commanding all the ground, naval, and air forces.

    Even during times of peace, the armed forces are operated in a war-time system. Deployment of troops is based on a full-fledged war concept. The amount of administrative and support manpower is minimalized, while a maximum number of combat troops are retained.

    The Party's Central Military Committee

    The 5th session of 4th term Central Committee of the Workers' Party adopted the four-point military guidelines and established the Military Committee at each level of party committees -- central, province, city and county -- to successfully implement the military guidelines.

    The Central Military Committee of the party is the highest military policy making organ. The party charter stipulates "The Military Affairs Committee has power to decide on military policy, direct the troops and the military industry and control the armed forces." (the 27th article) The number of members on the committee is confirmed to be 14, including Kim Jong-il, and the post of chairman has remained vacant since Kim Il-sung's death.

    The National Defense Commission

    The National Defense Commission was established under the Socialist Constitution in December 1972 as one of the department committees of the Central People's Committee. To reinforce Kim Jong-il's hold on the military, Pyongyang separated it from the Central People's Committee under the Constitution, as revised in April 1992, and expanded its status and power, promoting the National Defense Commission as the highest military guidance organ.

    The constitution stipulates the authority of the National Defense Commission as follows: directing the entire armed forces and national defense projects, appointing and dismissing major army officials; managing personnel affairs of generals; and declaring state of war and emergency mobilization. The Constitution also prescribes that the chairman of the National Defense Commission direct and control the entire Armed Forces.

    The committee is composed of chairman, vice chairmen, and committee members. It has been chaired by Kim Jong-il since April 1993, and the posts of vice chairmen have remained vacant since the deaths of O Jin-U, the first vice-chairman, (February 1995) and Choi Kwang, vice-chairman (February 1997). Four committee members are identified.

    The Party Committee in the People's Armed Forces

    Following a decision by the Central Committee of the Workers' Party in October 1950, North Korea began to install party organizations within the armed forces in an effort to secure the party's control of the military. The party committee in the People's Armed Forces was officially established in 1958 and related rules were added to the party's charter at the 4th general meeting of the Workers' Party in 1961.

    The General Political Bureau, the executive arm of the party committee in the armed forces, controls military commanders at each level and reports to the party Central Committee. The political bureau installs political departments within regiments, and dispatches political committee members to battalions and higher-level organizations and political directors to organizations of sub-regimental levels.

    The posts of political committee members within the armed forces were introduced in 1969. Their power is so far reaching that without their signature, any military plans and commands are have no effect. This system causes conflicts between political officers and military commanders.