Supreme Leader (North Korean title)

The supreme leader (Korean: 최고령도자; MRCh’oego Ryŏngdoja) of North Korea is the de facto paramount leader of the Workers’ Party of Koreathe state and the Korean People’s Army. The title has not been written into the national constitution as a separate office, however the president of the State Affairs Commission is, de facto, the supreme leader of North Korea. Likewise, according to the WPK Charter, the general secretary of the WPK is the supreme leader of the Workers’ Party. Formerly, under Kim Jong Il, this title was bestowed on the office of Chairman of the National Defence Commission, who was also the WPK general secretary. The first leader of the state prior to the existence of North Korea was Terenty Shtykov who served as the head of the Soviet Civil Administration, the governing authority controlled by the Soviet Union that ruled the northern half of Korea from 1945 to 1948.

The first priority political position of the supreme leader is the leadership of the Workers’ Party. That post was titled as Chairman from the founding of the DPRK in 1948 until 1966, General Secretary from 1966 to 2012, First Secretary from 2012 to 2016, Chairman again from 2016 to 2021, and General Secretary again since 2021. Propaganda workers began calling Kim Il Sung supreme leader in the late 1940s and the term has since been used to describe the status of Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un. Generally however, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il were both referred to as “Great Leader” (위대한 수령) and “Dear Leader” (친애하는 령도자) respectively during their tenures as leader.


PictureNameTitle(s)PeriodTenureIdeological contribution(s)
Kim Il Sung
Premier of the Cabinet of the DPRK9 September 1948 – 28 December 19729 September 1948 – 8 July 1994Juche
Chairman of the WPK24 June 1949 – 12 October 1966
General Secretary of the WPK12 October 1966 – 8 July 1994
President of the DPRK28 December 1972 – 8 July 1994
Kim Jong Il
Chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK9 April 1993 – 17 December 20118 July 1994 – 17 December 2011Kimilsungism
Ten Principles
General Secretary of the WPK8 October 1997 – 17 December 2011
Kim Jong Un
(born 1982)
First Secretary of the WPK11 April 2012 – 9 May 201611 April 2012 – presentKimilsungism–Kimjongilism
First Chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK11 April 2012 – 29 June 2016
Chairman of the WPK9 May 2016 – 10 January 2021
President of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK29 June 2016 – present
General Secretary of the WPK10 January 2021 – present
  • Bold offices refer to the highest positions in the Workers’ Party of Korea, the unique ruling political party of North Korea.

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