North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Central Military Commission

Graphic of current members of the Party Central Military Commission (Photo: Michael Madden/NK Leadership Watch).

Graphic of current members of the Party Central Military Commission (Photo: Michael Madden/NK Leadership Watch).

updated 16 January 2011

The Party Central Military Commission [CMC] is responsible for the development and implementation of the Korean Workers’ Party’s [KWP] military policies.  In coordination with the National Defense Commission [NDC], it commands and controls the North Korean military and directs the country’s military defense industries.  The CMC links with the KPA General Political Department, the KWP Military Department,  the KWP Machine-Building [Military Industries] Department.  The CMC also links to the KWP Civil Defense Department for guidance and indoctrination of the DPRK’s reserve military training units.

The CMC was first established in June 1950, by the Supreme People’s Assembly to establish government control over the military.  Its technical mission was to ensure compliance with the instructions of the Supreme Commander.  The CMC was disbanded after the Korean (Fatherland Liberation) War.  It was revived in the 1960s between the 4th Party Congress and 2nd Party Conference.  It established Kim Il-song’s 4 Military Lines and gained political control over the KPA.  Until the 1990s the CMC was responsible for command and control of the KPA.

According to Section 27 of the KWP Charter:

The Military Committee of the party Central Committee discusses and decides on the party’s military policy and methods of its execution; organizes work to strengthen military industries, the people’s militia, and all armed forces; and directs the military establishment of the country.

At the 3rd Party Conference and September 2010 CC KWP Plenum the membership numbers on the CMC were expanded by one.  The position of Vice Chairman was restored and split between VMar Ri Yong Ho, chief of the KPA General Staff, and Kim Jong Un.  After the 4th Party Conference on April 11, 2012, Kim Jong Un was promoted to CMC Chairman, filling the vacancy left by Kim Jong Il’s death.  KWP Secretary Choe Ryong Hae was elected CMC Vice Chairman, joining VMar Ri and replacing Kim Jong Un.  In the days prior to the 4th Party Conference, Choe had also been appointed director of the KPA General Political Bureau.

All but three CMC Members (KCI; Kim Yong-chun and Kim Myong-kuk) elected between 1980 and 1997 were retained in September 2010.  VMar Cho Myong-nok migrated to the CC KWP Political Bureau Presidium; Mar Kim Chol-man and Mar Yi Ul-sol retired from the CMC, but retained membership on the Party Central Committee (CC KWP).  VMar Yi Ha-il (former director of the CC KWP Military Department) retired.  Neither Col Gen Kim Kang-hwan nor Col Gen Choe Sang-uk appeared on lists of CMC Members or CC KWP Members or Alternate Members.

See also:

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

Chong, Bong-uk (editor).  A Handbook on North Korea (Seoul: Naewoe Press, December 1996) p. 145

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

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