North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces

VMAR Kim Yong Chun, Minster of the People's Armed Forces and NDC Vice Chairman (Photo: KCNA)

The Ministry of People’s Armed Forces (MPAF) is the government agency tasked with general administrative and logistical coordination of the Korean People’s Army (KPA).  The MPAF is essentially an umbrella agency gathering the KPA’s logistical, political, personnel components.  The MPAF also has offices which coordinate relations with foreign militaries, as well as regulating KPA-owned SOE’s and other foreign currency earning ventures.

MPAF's main complex in west central Pyongyang (Photo: GoogleEarth)

The two largest organizations within MPAF’s administrative structure are the MPAF General Political Department (GPD), which is also called the General Political Bureau, and the KPA General Staff Department (GSD).

GPD is responsible for the ideological indoctrination of officers and service members in the KPA.  GPD conducts political education, publicity (propaganda) campaigns and conducts surveillance and security.  GPD is controlled by the Party Central Military Committee, the CC KWP Organization Guidance Department and the CC KWP Military Affairs Department.

GSD is responsible for the daily operational planning and management of the KPA’s ground, naval and air commands.  It develops strategy, conducts education and training, conveys the orders and guidance of the KPA Supreme Command and completes certain signals intelligence tasks.  GSD is subordinate the KPA Supreme Command and NDC, although it resides in MPAF.

While GPD and GSD reside in the MPAF organization, department heads report directly to the KPA Supreme Command.

MPAF has subordinate bureaus and departments that coordinate the KPA’s relationships and interactions with foreign militaries and foreign military leadership.  THE MPAF Vice Minister for Personnel (in coordination with OGD) regulates human resources matters.  The MPF General Logistics Bureau manages the KPA’s housing and basic welfare needs.

MPAF also manages several history museums and programs, presumably in conjunction with the central party.  The MPF’s 44th Bureau is responsible for regulating SOE’s other foreign currency earning activities, conducted within MPAF’s administrative structure.  To complete equipment and logistical tasks, subordinate bureaus and departments within MPAF interact with the DPRK’s military industry (via the CMC or NDC)

Minister of the People’s Armed Forces

The Minister of the People’s Armed Forces concurrently serves as NDC Vice Chairman.  Based on the DPRK’s current power configuration, the NDC Chairman (who is concurrently KPA Supreme Commander) issues orders and guidance through the NDC Vice Chairman/Minister of the PAF.  It is not clear if the position Deputy KPA Supreme Commander was restored when VMAR Kim Yong Chun was appointed minister in February 2009.

Prior to Kim Jong Il’s appointment as KPA Supreme Commander, election to NDC Chairman and 1992 and 1998 revisions to the DPRK Constitution, the Minister of the People’s Armed Forces also held the title Deputy KPA Supreme Comander.  As KJI inherited control over the KPA in the early 1990s the Minister of the People’s Armed Forces became a figurehead position, with KJI exercising command, control and guidance through the GSD and its Operations Bureau.

Abbreviated Background

MPAF’s early incarnation, the State Security Agency, (which is also called the National Security Bureau), was organized in February 1948.  MPAF has undergone several administrative migrations and name changes over six decades.   Subordinate bureaus with responsibilities for internal security (in the KPA and DPRK civilian population), leadership security and intelligence collection migrated to other NDC or KWP organizations.

See also:

Baird, Merrily.  Kim Chong-il Agonistes

Bermudez, Joseph S., Jr.  The Armed Forces of North Korea London: IB Tauris, 2001

Gause, Ken. North Korean Civil-Military Trends: Military First Politics to a Point Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute USAWC, 2006

KPA Order of Battle (

Oh, Kongdan, Ed., DPRK Policy Elites (Joseph S. Bermudez; Ken Gause; Ralph C. Hassig; Alexandre Y. Mansourov; David J. Smith) Alexandria, VA: IDA,  2004

Savada, Andrea M. (ed.) North Korea: A Country Study Washington DC: Library of Congress Federal Research Division, 1994

Yonhap News Agency.  North Korea Handbook.  Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe, 2003. p. 670-71

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