North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Basic Party Organizations

Basic Party Organizations

(Photo: NK Leadership Watch graphic).

(Graphic: NK Leadership Watch).

Party Cells 

The party cell consists of between five (5) and 30 party members and candidate party members and is the “the starting point of party life” and “a fighting unit that carries out the party line and policies by uniting the working masses around the party.”  Party cells are party of the provincial and local party system or can be part of a specific DPRK institutions (such as the military and security forces, government agencies and cultural organizations).

According to an essay published in Rodong Sinmun in 2013:

Party cells are well aware of the concrete ideas and sentiments, mental state and tendency, living conditions and environment, and the like of the people. The masses come to feel the breath of our party and the link ties of blood with the party through the party cells. Only when we strongly build party cells and improve their function and role can we deepen the trust of the masses toward the party, awaken and organize the broad masses, and thereby firmly unite the masses around the party.

Party cell meetings are held at least once a month and are led by a party cell secretary and a deputy (vice) secretary.  If a party cell under a city (municipal) or county party committee has more than 20 members, then the party cell elects a Party Cell Committee and this committee elects a secretary and deputy secretary.  The Party Cell Committee meets at least once a month.

According to the WPK bylaws, if a residential unit has less than five party members or candidate members then it may attach itself to a party cell of another residential unit, or two residential units with few than five party members or candidate members can form one party cell “taking into account the nature of their activities and geographical propinquity.”

The party cell is where applications for membership to the Workers’ Party of Korea are submitted Prospective party members submit their membership application (iptang poju’ngso’) to their local party cell along with letters of recommendation (notice of qualifications guarantee) from two other party members with at least two years of party membership.  A member of the Kim Il Sung Youth League can substitute one of these letters of recommendation from a party member with one submitted by their local youth league committee.

The letter of introduction states that the party members personally know the applicant and his/her background (“past and present social and political activities”).  The letter also “bears responsibility” for the recommendation “before the party” for the applicant.  The application is then reviewed, with the applicant, at the party cell’s general meeting and forwarded to the county or city (municipal) party committee which must act on the application within a month.  If approved, the applicant becomes a candidate party member with a probationary period of up to one year.  The party cell is obligated to “concretely guide and assist” the candidate member to qualify for party membership.

After one year has elapsed, the candidate member’s application is then decided by the party cell and ratified by the city (municipal) or county party committee.  The candidate member’s probationary period can be extended for another year by the party cell.  In the event that candidate member does not qualify after another probationary period “due to his/her personal qualities,” the party cell then expels the candidate member from party cell activities.

The party cell is the primary means through which all party and candidate party members are subject to evaluations of their individual Party Life, which is called Party Life Critique.  Meetings of Party Life Critique are determined by the party cell of which they are members.  Depending on the job, social status or background of the party cell members,  Party Life Critique can happen once a week or every two days.  The critique consists of the party member or candidate party member disparaging his/her own actions and behavior in the context of the teachings of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, the Ten Principles of the Monolithic Leadership System and other WPK and DPRK theoretical ideologies.  This is commonly known as Self Criticism. After the party member or candidate party member has engaged in self criticism, the other members of the party cell or participants at the evaluation meeting then engage in criticism of that individual.

Party Life Critique occurs within the other basic party organizations (see below), but the party cell is the primary organization through which such evaluations and criticisms are conducted.

Special and Temporary Basic Party Organizations

If there is a residential or work unit (such as those for DPRK citizens living or working abroad) with less than five party members and a party cell cannot be formed or if party members have relocated, then party members and candidate party members can form a “party team” or some other temporary party organization with the approval of the WPK Central Committee.

Primary Party Organizations, Branch Party Organizations and Sub-primary Party Organizations

The primary party organization consists of more than 31 party members and candidate party members.  Branch party organizations (a sectional party organization) are established at workplaces and production sites (“functional units”) with more than 31 party members and candidate party members.  If local party members and candidate party members cannot be organized based on the “organizational formula” of the party cell, primary party organization and branch party organization then a sub-primary party organization is established.

The primary party organization, branch party organization and sub-primary party organization hold a general membership meeting (also called a party conference) every three months.  Primary party organizations with more than 500 party members and candidate party members can hold a general membership meeting (party conference) once a year.

The general meeting includes a summary of the party organization’s work and activities.  It also elects a party committee.  The primary party, branch party and sub-primary party organization committees then elect a secretary and deputy secretary.  These party organization committees meet twice a month.

Primary party organization committees and sub-primary party organization committees, particularly those with higher membership numbers, can also elect a separate executive committee. In primary and sub-primary party organization committees that have executive committees, then the primary and sub-primary party organization committee meets once a month and the executive committee meets twice a month.

Mission and function of basic party organizations

Basic party organizations are required to submit regular reports to city (municipal) and county party committees and provincial party committees.  They are also tasked to recruit members and participate in military and ideological training in civil defense through the DPRK’s reserve military training units, particularly the Worker-Peasant Red Guards and Young Red Guards.

Basic party organizations should also:

  • establish the party’s monolithic leadership and unity among party members and the general DPRK population
  • strengthen and enhance the WPK’s guidance over government and economic work
  • carry out mass movements
  • provide organization and guidance and direct Party Life activities including the study of ideological works, the party’s bylaws and charter, political education and study and Party Life Critique
  • educate party members and the general DPRK population in party ideology including Chuch’e, So’ngun (military-first) politics, party and national loyalty, patriotism, optimism and faith, morality and fight against “capitalism, feudalistic Confucianism, revisionism, dogmatism, flunkeyism, factionalism, provincialism, nepotism and negative and non-Socialist phenomena”
  • recruit new party members, train and guide candidate party members and new party members
  • strengthen workers’ and social organizations and help “them carry out their duties correctly”



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