North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

KPA General Political Bureau


updated 16 January 2011

The KPA General Political Department [GPD] (which is also called the General Political Bureau) is responsible for political and ideological indoctrination of officers and service members of the Korean People’s Army [KPA].  It is also responsible to reinforcing the Korean Workers’ Party’s [KWP] political control of the military.  The GPD operates in coordination with the Party Central Military Commission [CMC] and the CC KWP Organization Guidance Department.

Political military officers (political commissars) exist in KPA units down to the company level, augmented by political instructors who guide political educations and party life in the KPA, track the movements and activities of officers, conduct active surveillance on commanders and direct irregular ideological indoctrination on officers and service members.

Article 51 of the Korean Workers’ Party Charter outlines the role of political bureaus established by the Party Central Committee (CC KWP) in various sectors of DPRK society.

The General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army and its subordinate organs exercise the functions of a political unit of the appropriate party committee and direct the political work of party organizations within the Korean People’s Army.


The GPD has two central bureaus.  The GPD Organization Bureau conducts political and social surveillance of KPA officers.  The GPD Organization Bureau manages a network of political committees and social organizations in the KPA.  The GPD Organization Bureau’s surveillance reports are used in consideration in human resources matters such as promotions and awards.  The GPD Propaganda Bureau manages political education which includes disseminating periodicals and other media, providing ideological guidance and controlling the KPA’s party life.  The GPD Propaganda Bureau also manages psychological warfare against ROK and UN Command.

Other GPD components include the Cultural Liaison Bureau, the Statistics Bureau, the Special Political Section and the Inspection Bureau.


Articles 47, 48, 49 and 50 of the KWP Charter outline the party’s role and function in the KPA:

47. A party organization is organized in every unit of the Korean People’s Army, and all party organizations within the KPA function under the direct guidance of the KPA party committee.  The KPA party committee shall function directly under the Party Central Committee, work under its direction and regularly report its activities to the Party Central Committee.

48.  The functions of every party committee within the KPA are as follows:

a.)    To educate and train the entire armed forces with Juche ideology;

b.)    To make party members and soldiers of the KPA firmly uphold the monolithic ideological guidance system of the party and train and strengthen them as genuine revolutionary fighters who are willing to sacrifice their lives for the party, the Suryong Comrade Kim Il Sung, the fatherland and the Korean people;

c.)    To strengthen  party cadres among military officers, educate officers of the military auxiliaries, organize and direct the party life of those members, preserve their link with the party and strengthen and enlarge party ranks;

d.)    To promote and strengthen the educational program for party members of the KPA, officers and soldiers whose main subjects deal with the Juche ideology, the party charter, the glorious anti-Japanese revolutionary tradition and the class struggle; and, in the process, to instill the virtues of communism and socialist patriotism in the minds of party members of the KPA, officers and soldiers and also consolidate their strength around the party by forging them into the revolution conscious working class;

e.)    To strength the organization of the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League in the  KPA and direct members of the league to improve their fighting and revolutionary capabilities;

f.)      To strengthen party leadership in military works; to carry out military policy of the party and the Juche-oriented military strategy and tactics, arm the military with the revolutionary spirit of one against 100 enemies, nd further develop the 3 Revolution Red Flag Movement and the Red Flag Company Movement’

g.)    To maintain constantly a state of full alertness among party members of the KPA, officers and soldiers, as well as the invincible fighting capabilities among them;

h.)    To promote and preserve the noble revolutionary comradeship and the traditional spirit of unity among party members of the KPA, officers and soldiers

49. Each party committee of the KPA operates in accordance with the directives and approved principles of the Party Central Committee and the party charter

50. Each party committee of the KPA should maintain a close working relationship with local party organizations.  With the approval of the Party Central Committee, the KPA party committee may recommend political and military cadres to become members of the provincial, city or county party committees or the primary party committees where they are stationed.



The KPA General Political Department technically resides in the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces.  Within MPAF, GPD represents the KPA’s political officer corps and the KPA General Staff Department comprising the military’s service branches and commands.

Command and Reportage

The KPA General Political Department works in coordination with the CMC and CC KWP Organization Guidance Department.  The GPD Director historically served as the party’s de facto military secretary and a vice chairman of the National Defense Commission [NDC].  From 1995 to 2010 Cho Myong-nok, KPA VMar, served as GPD Director.  The position is officially vacant.

In the latter years of his service, many of Cho’s tasks were assumed by Kim Chong-gak, a KPA Gen. and previous Vice Minister of the People’s Armed Forces.  Kim was appointed to the newly created position of GPD Senior Deputy Director in 2007.  He is an NDC and CMC Member and an alternate member of the CC KWP Political Bureau.



The KPA General Political Department was established in October 1950.  Its current incarnation  has existed since the 1960s as a mechanism for party control over the KPA.  Kim Chong-il began his political control over the KPA through the GPD in 1975 with a campaign of “Kimilsungism” of the military. Because of its role in regime and succession politics in the 1970s the GPD was subject to bureaucratic infighting.


See also:

Chong, Bong-uk (editor).  A Handbook on North Korea Seoul: Naewoe Press, December 1996)

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

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

Jae, Cheon-lim.  Kim Jong Il’s Leadership of North Korea New York, NY: Routledge, 2009

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

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