Up until his death, Kim Jong Il maintained a strong national military-first political system that equated stability with military power. Kim Jong Un continues to carry on the militarized political style of his father, but with less commitment to complete military rule. Since he took power, Kim Jong Un has attempted to move political power away from the KPA and has divided it among the WPK and the cabinet. Because of his political lobbying, the WPK's Central Committee has vastly shifted power in April 2012: out of 17 members and 15 alternates of the Committee, only five members and six alternates derive from military and security sectors. Ever since, the economic power of the WPK, the cabinet, and the KPA has been in a tense balance. The KPA has lost a significant amount of economic influence because of the current regime, which continually shifts from what Kim Jong Il built his regime on, and may cause later internal issues.[31]


Does political lobbying exist in North Korea? If so, in what form? Because there's no election, I feel there might not be any political lobbying in North Korea. However, this Wikipedia article says that Kim resorted to political lobbying, so now I am wondering if political lobbying exist and in what form, and if corporations can do political lobbying, or it's heavily restricted.

  • 19
    Do you know what "lobbying" means? It means talking to a politician to persuade him/her to adopt a particular policy. Is your question "Do people talk to political leaders in NK?" I suspect you think lobbying is some kind of nefarious business, like a type of bribery or something. Well sometimes it is, but that's not what it really means.
    – James K
    Sep 3, 2023 at 17:48
  • 10
    Only once per lifetime per private citizen :-( Sep 3, 2023 at 23:02
  • 3
    You need to define lobbying to make the question make sense. I would define it as any unofficial influence of a government decision, but that makes the answer trivially yes. There are always many ways to influence a leader, some of them unofficial. Others would define it as a commercial firm that engages in that kind of influence. The system might prohibit saying that is what you do, but I would guarantee it goes on. Please clarify the question. Sep 4, 2023 at 4:00
  • 7
    Lobbying has little to do with elections. More so, lobbying is actually the opposite of elections, whereby special interests directly approach people in power outside of regulated elections
    – Hobbamok
    Sep 4, 2023 at 8:41
  • 2
    The term "palace intrigue" seems to better fit what you are asking about.
    – DrSheldon
    Sep 5, 2023 at 0:45

4 Answers 4


In a closed system like North Korea or China or Saudi Arabia (and, to some extent, Russia), political lobbying still happens between the power players. Yes, they all have one leader at the highest post who wields absolute power. But that one leader still has to share power with others to run the country. And only idiotic dictators believe they know everything and don't listen to counsel from others.

So most actually have a political system where those who are trusted by the leader and who share the powers to run the state can talk among themselves (like a party or government council) to best utilise that political power. A good leader will not bluntly push their political ideas if there is some disagreement on it within the council. And they will rather choose to lobby the ideas to get a majority in the council to support their idea. Depending on the dictator's leadership style, other political players too may feel comfortable to lobby their political ideas provided it doesn't politically threaten the "dear, glorious leader".

(For example, even in the USSR, there were some Russian politicians who advocated for a friendlier relation with the west. And ultimately Gorbachev, who also believed in that idea, came to power and successfully lobbied the idea to the others, despite the many objections he faced. Another good example is Saudi Arabia's king creating a separate women-only township for women to work – clearly a political compromise with the religious leaders he had to make because he also derives his legitimacy to be in power as the "custodian of the holy city of Mecca and Medina" and thus cannot have religious leaders publicly opposing his actions.)

Of course, due to the nature of such political systems, where a dictator can lose their life if they lose their political power, such lobbying within the council is very cautiously done so that it is not mistaken as a challenge to the dictator's power. But others more close to, and trusted by, the "dear glorious leader", like his sister Kim Yo-jong, may feel more courageous in lobbying their political ideas without much fear. There are other power players in North Korea who may also have the ability to indulge in political lobbying, depending on their political positions and closeness to the "dear, glorious leader".

  • 4
    I don't think I would have used the term 'lobbying' for factional and patronage politics in North Korea. But it is important to realize that some writers use language in a more poetic way than others. Insisting on the literal meaning does not even work in contract negotiations, let alone wikipedia articles.
    – o.m.
    Sep 3, 2023 at 14:49
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    @o.m. I partly agree with you. Wikipedia's description for it is quite apt though - In politics, lobbying or advocacy, is the act of lawfully attempting to influence the actions, policies, or decisions of government officials, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies, but also judges of the judiciary. It's common enough within political parties where leaders try to include their political ideas into the party ideology. And note that globally, political lobbying is not as pervasive as it is like in the US, where it is even a business.
    – sfxedit
    Sep 3, 2023 at 15:05
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    In the pre-modern era "lobbying" was called "court politics" and lobbying is very much an apt term because it involved informal persuasion of people who are already in power rather than means of changing who is in power via an electoral system or otherwise.
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 3, 2023 at 15:49
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    See also The Rules for Rulers: What stops two or three of the dictator's most useful allies from plotting to kill the dictator? Not a lot. So the dictator must ensure they have nothing to gain by doing so, because he's already giving them most of what he can give - and this applies a few levels down the hierarchy. Sep 4, 2023 at 0:51

Without any specific insight into North Korean affairs: In a political system where all official proceedings are a charade, politics consist to a large extent of lobbying.

I mean this in the sense that for example, all votes in "parliament" etc. are pre-determined and arranged. Instead of discussing suggestions by members, and instead of performing a true vote, the agenda and the result have been fixed "behind the curtains" between the power brokers. Therefore, if, for example, a lawmaker wants anything done, they often cannot simply use official procedures.

Instead, they have to use some back channel to find the attention of somebody, ideally Kim or somebody Kim listens to, who takes a liking to their idea. This will be the case on all levels of government, and also not restricted to lawmakers but to everybody who must fear retribution if they officially put non-approved ideas on the table or deviate from the official doctrine, for example journalists or judges.

These attempts to find the attention of powerful people is a form of lobbying, hence lobbying is probably much more common there than in working democracies.

Before we start to feel too good amid all the lamenting of the terrible state of affairs in North Korea: The mechanism described here is not foreign to entrenched power structures of established parties in Western democracies. Of course, a certain amount of "pre-vetting" of new ideas and proposals serves to prevent chaos and frees resources otherwise concerned with fruitless discussions, and serves to keep up the image of a party in public (which would be damaged by outlandish demands). Nevertheless, backroom deals and top-down control of agendas are essentially pre-democratic and resemble the mechanics of courts in absolutist monarchies or noble houses or mafia family clans. If you have a novel idea you must find somebody the Rois-Soleil, uncle Enzo or, in this case, the Supreme Leader of North Korea listens to, and convince them, one way or another. You must lobby.


Of course it does

Lobbying exists in any larger organization, and authoritarian states are no exception. It's just that the basis for lobbying is slightly different because lobby groups can't threaten to or actively influence the public through PR campaigns to effect elections.

But all the other ways of lobbying: pre-writing (or "consulting on" legislative texts, "donations" (aka definitely not bribery) and implicit promises of some other post-term goodies (like well paid do-nothing jobs at supervisory boards of large companies) are all still possible in some way or another. Playing one official against another could also be an avenue for any lobbying group to exert undue influence (by withholding or providing better information from one official over another)

  • 4
    There is also the age-old form of lobbying where you convince a leader that something you want them to do is actually best for them (and, for extra credit, that it really was their idea all along).
    – xLeitix
    Sep 4, 2023 at 15:15
  • And for extra extra credit, make it so that it really is in their best interest
    – jmoreno
    Sep 4, 2023 at 18:17
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    Lobbying is as old as civilization, indeed, probably older. Machiavelli wrote about it. It was well known in Roman times (in both its democratic and authoritarian phases). The modern word "court" is related to the word "courtiers" which is another name for lobbyists in a feudal system or monarchy.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 30 at 22:23

Yes, and it does not significantly different as we know here on the West. The whole topic is inherently rumor-based and it is hard to grab the known facts, except the "everyone knows"-type ones from internal eyes and mouths.

For example, in the Soviet (and post-soviet) world, the common way of the informal power is that if someone is promoted, he tends to take his "pyramide" with him to the higher level. Influence works mostly by that you can "ask" things from your "protegee" in your pyramide above you, and also you can "ask" things from the guys who you promoted to their current position.

While in the USA, normally circles are known from the same University, helping each other on informal channels.

Very likely, the Hermit Kingdom (and also China) follows the Soviet model, which is also a way to understadt their structures. You should simply check, who was promoted to who by whom. (Side remark: in the today Ukraine, Zaluzhny was promoted by Poroshenko but Budanov is Zelensky's man - now check the news about the trio).

This whole thing is far below any coup attempt or so. Just like, for example, an informal Northrop Grumman contact to various senators / representatives can not and does not want to overthrow the USA system. Instead, he is working on to "help" the powerful guys to make decisions favorable by the Northrop Grumman. What he can do quite effectively if many of these reps were once his classmate on the Uni (or friend in the same 3-character "fraternity").

The difference is only that on the West, the are University circles and on the East, there are competing pyramides.

SU is a special case, because a significant amount of professional historian processing of the available data, and that many mouth were opened after its collapse. What is known about it: there were two major groups "A sector" and "B sector", the first wanted heavy industry and military development. The second wanted light industry and life quality improvements. Also by tracking the promotions (who was promoted by whom to where) is a way to decode them.

As we know, Kims are hardliners of the "A sector"...

  • In today Russia, probably Putin, Yeltsin and Gorbachew were all B-sector guys and this is why their army has surprising troubles to conquer a country 1/7 of them. Stalin was an "A sector" guy, it is already in his name ("steel"). The others... maybe historians could say more.
    – Gray Sheep
    Jan 30 at 20:47

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