North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly in April deleted the word "communism" from the constitution and replaced it with the term "Songun" or military-first ideology. It was the first constitutional revision in 11 years.
Radio Free Asia reported the change Thursday quoting sources in Japan familiar with North Korean affairs. The effect was to boost the status of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. "The constitutional revision contains a sentence that places the Juche (or self-sufficiency) and Songun ideologies side by side," a source said. The source added this seems to put Kim Jong-il on a par with his revered father, former leader Kim Il-sung.
The constitution as revised in September 1998 contained three references to socialism and communism, but the April revision did away with the word "communism" altogether. Already in 1992, North Korea promoted the Juche ideology by deleting the words "Marxism" and "Leninism" from the document. The move came to mark the official launch of the Kim Jong-il regime.
The latest constitutional revision also includes six clauses stating the role and authority of the leader, from "chairman of the National Defense Commission" to "supreme leader," the same status as Kim Il-sung, according to the source. "This can be clearly seen from the powers granted to Kim Jong-il in ratifying or abolishing important treaties, while being granted immunity and sole power to declare emergencies," the source added. "What stands out in the revised constitution is that the chairman of the National Defense Commission guides the entire nation, while the commission draws up major state policies."
In the previous constitution, the commission chairman was only authorized to handle defense matters, although in practice it controls all government. In the latest revision, the commission has become "the supreme governing authority."