North Korea functions as a highly centralized, single-party republic. According to its 2009 constitution, it is a revolutionary Socialist state "guided in its activities by the Juche idea and the Songun idea". The Korean Workers' Party has an estimated 3,000,000 members and dominates every aspect of North Korean politics. It has two satellite organizations, the Korean Social Democratic Party and the Chondoist Chongu Party which participate in the KWP-led Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland. Another highly influential structure is the independent National Defence Commission (NDC). Kim Jong-un of the Kim family heads all major governing structures: he is First Secretary of the KWP, First Chairman of the NDC, and Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army. Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994, is the country's "Eternal President", while Kim Jong-ilwas announced "Eternal General Secretary" after his death in 2011.
The unicameral Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) is the highest organ of state authority and holds the legislative power. Its 687 members are elected every five years by universal suffrage. Supreme People's Assembly sessions are convened by the SPA Presidium, whose president (Kim Yong-nam since 1998) also represents the state in relations with foreign countries. Deputies formally elect the President, the vice-presidents and members of the Presidium and take part in the constitutionally appointed activities of the legislature: pass laws, establish domestic and foreign policies, appoint members of the cabinet, review and approve the state economic plan, among others. However, the SPA itself cannot initiate any legislation independently of Party or state organs. It is unknown whether it has ever criticized or amended bills placed before it, and the elections are based around a single list of KWP-approved candidates who stand without opposition.
Executive power is vested in the Cabinet of North Korea, which is headed by Premier Pak Pong-ju. The Premier represents the government and functions independently. His authority extends over two vice-premiers, 30 ministers, two cabinet commission chairmen, the cabinet chief secretary, the president of the Central Bank, the director of the Central Statistics Bureau and the president of the Academy of Sciences. A 31st ministry, the Ministry of the People's Armed Forces, is under the jurisdiction of the National Defence Commission
How is there a democracy when it's a single party rule ?
North Korea is widely accused of having one of the worst human rights records in the world. North Koreans have been referred to as "some of the world's most brutalized people" by Human Rights Watch, because of the severe restrictions placed on their political and economic freedoms. The North Korean population is strictly managed by the state and all aspects of daily life are subordinated to party and state planning. Employment is managed by the party on the basis of political reliability, and travel is tightly controlled by the Ministry of People's Security. Amnesty International also reports of severe restrictions on the freedom of association, expression and movement, arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment resulting in death, and executions. North Korea also applies capital punishment, including public executions. Human rights organizations estimate that 1,193 executions had been carried out in the country by 2009.
The State Security Department extrajudicially apprehends and imprisons those accused of political crimes without due process. People perceived as hostile to the government, such as Christians or critics of the leadership, are deported to labor camps without trial, often with their whole family and mostly without any chance of being released. Based on satellite images and defector testimonies, Amnesty International estimates that around 200,000 prisoners are held in six large political prison camps, where they are forced to work in conditions approaching slavery. Supporters of the government who deviate from the government line are subject to reeducation in sections of labor camps set aside for that purpose. Those who are successfully rehabilitated may reassume responsible government positions on their release.
North Korean defectors have provided detailed testimonies on the existence of the total control zones where abuses such as torture, starvation, rape, murder, medical experimentation, forced labor, and forced abortions have been reported. On the basis of these abuses, as well as persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, forcible transfer of populations, enforced disappearance of persons and forced starvation, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry has accused North Korea of crimes against humanity. The International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK) estimates that over 10,000 people die in North Korean prison camps every year.
North Korea had an life expectancy of 69.8 years in 2013. While North Korea is classified as a low-income country, the structure of North Korea's causes of death (2013) are unlike that of other low-income countries. Instead, it is closer to worldwide averages, with non-communicable diseases - such as cardiovascular disease and cancers - accounting for two-thirds of the total deaths.
A 2013 study reported that communicable diseases and malnutrition are responsible for 29% of the total deaths in North Korea. This figure is higher than those of high-income countries and South Korea, but half of the average 57% of all deaths in other low-income countries. Infectious diseaseslike tuberculosis, malaria, and hepatitis B are considered to be endemic to the country as a result of the famine.
Cardiovascular disease as a single disease group is the largest cause of death in North Korea (2013). The three major causes of death in DPR Korea are ischaemic heart disease (13%), lower respiratory infections (11%) and cerebrovascular disease (7%). Non-communicable diseases risk factors in North Korea include high rates of urbanisation, an aging society, high rates of smoking and alcohol consumption amongst men.
A free universal insurance system is in place, but quality of medical care varies significantly by region. Preventive medicine is emphasized through physical exercise and sports, nationwide monthly checkups and routine spraying of public places against disease. Every individual has a lifetime health card which contains a full medical record.