Guest Column: The Organization and Guidance Department

Thursday 27th June, 2013

The following is a guest post from Nicolas Levi, on North Korea’s all-important Organization and Guidance Department. The views below are those of the author, not of NFI.

The heart of the North Korean system is the Organization and Guidance Department of the Central Committee of the Korean Workers Party (CC KWP).

This is probably the most important department of the Korean Workers Party Central Committee as it’s responsible for organising the whole Party. Originally part of the Department for General Matters of the KWP, it was created in 1946.

The OGD focuses on the four topics listed below. In the 80s, due to the growing influence of the North Korean Army, Kim Jong Il ordered the creation of a desk focusing on military issues. The long-term idea was to put civilians at the head of the Army, which was realized in the 2000s with the appointment of Jang Song Thaek, Kim Kyong Ok and others as generals.


According to the former secretary, Hwang Jang Yop, North Korea’s top leaders belong to the OGD – though we must emphasise that the OGD remains under the control of the Kim family. This decision was probably taken in the 70s. In those times, Kim Yong Ju (Kim Il Sung’s younger brother) was the OGD director. Thereafter, Kim Jong Il was appointed head of the OGD in 1973 and held the position until his death. Kim Yong Ju stepped down because he was ill, and was sent for treatment abroad (probably in Romania).

Following the death of Kim Jong Il, we may wonder who has taken over as the current director of this institution. It’s my judgment that the OGD is under the control of Jang Song Thaek and Kim Jong Un. However, they are probably working closely with a number of associates.

Those who generally accompany Kim Jong Un on his public inspections also appear to belong to the OGD department, as trusted advisors of the Kim family. These are likely to include Kim Ki Nam, Choe Thae Bok, Kim Kyong Ok, Ri Chol, Kim Kuk Thae and others.

It also seems probable that some younger people are engaged in the management of the OGD. These people are in their 40s and 50s (for instance, Mun Kyong Dok, the Pyongyang Secretary of the KWP). These associates were sometimes seen during Kim Jong Il’s inspections and they are probably proteges of the prominent civilians previously mentioned. They are likely to be connected to Jang Song Thaek, who is thought to have stood in for Kim Jong Il when he was very ill in 2011.

According to Michael Madden at, some responsibilities of the OGD were transferred from the OGD to the Administrative Department. This was not only decided by Jang Song Thaek, but also by other some other elites who re-appeared after the death of Kim Jong Il (or during 2011). Despite the growing role of the National Defense Commission, I believe that we cannot under-estimate the nature of the OGD, which is still holding on to some of its power.

In conclusion, I would like to say that in trying to determine who is at the head of North Korea, we cannot only rely on public appearances of the North Korean leadership. There are also important people who are out of the main picture -especially the younger people who manage the OGD.

Nicolas Levi is a researcher at the Polish Academy of Sciences and an analyst on Korean Issues at the Poland Asia Research Center ( He received a PhD regarding the North-Korean leadership, and his personal website ( focuses on North Korean issues.

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