State Security Department

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State Security Department
Chosŏn'gŭl 국가안전보위부
Hancha 國家安全
Revised Romanization Gukga anjeon bowibu
McCune–Reischauer Kukka anjŏn powibu

The State Security Department of North Korea or the Ministry of State Security is an autonomous agency of the North Korean government reporting directly to the Supreme Leader.[1][2] It was established in 1973 and serves as the secret police of North Korea. It also is involved in the operation of North Korea's concentration camps and various other hidden activities.[3] It is reputed to be one of the most brutal secret police forces in the world, and has been involved in numerous human rights abuses.[2]

It is one of two agencies which provides security or protection to North Korean officials and VIPs alongside the Supreme Guard Command.[2][4]


Some defectors and sources have suggested that unlike its Eastern Bloc Counterparts, State Security functions are actually conducted by several larger and different security bodies that operate under the Party or the Army, each with its own unique responsibilities and classified names that are referred to by code (i.e. Room 39), and that the Agency is little more than a hollow shell used by the elite to coordinate their activities and provide cover for them.

The post of Security Department head was left vacant after Minister Ri Chun-su's death in 1987, although it was de facto if not de jure controlled by Kim Jong-il and the WPK Organization and Guidance Department he headed.[5] In 1998, the SSD migrated under the National Defence Commission, also chaired by Kim Jong-il.[5] Finally, in 2007, it was transferred under the WPK Administration Department, whose first vice director became responsible of the SSD daily work, but it continued to have obligations towards the Organization and Guidance Department.[5]

In November 2011, it was reported that General U Tong-chuk had been appointed permanent minister of State Security,[6] the first of this kind since 1987, filling a post left unoccupied for 24 years. This was almost concurrent with General Ri Myong-su's appointment as minister of People's Security. Other sources also claimed that Kim Jong-un worked at the State Security Department before and/or after his anointment as heir apparent in September 2010.[7] Kim Won-hong was appointed minister in April 2012 as the position was restored following Kim Jong-il's death.[8]


Various U.S. expert authorities on the North Korean government appear to disagree on the name and place of the force within the North Korean government. The CIA World Factbook refers to the organization as the civil security forces, and says it is part of the Korean People's Army. However, this may be a misreading of the Factbook, as it does not appear to refer to a specific force, merely the numerous civilian security bodies.

The Library of Congress Country Studies, the Federation of American Scientists,, and Joseph Bermudez, in his book The Armed Forces of North Korea all refer to the organization as the State Security Department. They further say that it is not part of the Korean People's Army (the North Korean armed forces), and instead reports directly to the Supreme Leader.


  1. Library of Congress Country Studies
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Kirby, Michael Donald; Biserko, Sonja; Darusman, Marzuki (7 February 2014). "Report of the detailed findings of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea - A/HRC/25/CRP.1". United Nations Human Rights Council. Archived from the original on Feb 27, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Bermudez (2001), pg 198–203.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 U Tong Chuk Appointed Minister of State Security. North Korea Leadership Watch, 12 November 2011. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "nklw" defined multiple times with different content
  6. General U Upped. Intelligence Online, 10 November 2011.
  7. NDC: Kim Jong-un in charge of intelligence. North Korean Economic Watch, 21 April 2011.
  8. "Top 4 N.Korean Military Officials Fall Victim to Shakeup". Chosun Ilbo. Nov 30, 2012. Retrieved 1 December 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Bermudez, Joseph S. (2001). Shield of the Great Leader. The Armed Forces of North Korea. The Armed Forces of Asia. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86448-582-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>