North Korean leader Kim Jong Un conducted an on-the-spot visit to the Mount Kumgang tourist area on Oct. 23, according to Rodong Sinmun. 

During his visit to the mountain, Kim called for the removal of all “shabby” facilities built by South Korea on the basis of an agreement with the “relevant parties” in South Korea, and ordered the building of new, modern facilities that fit the natural environment. 

Following this announcement, North Korea sent a message to South Korea’s Ministry of Unification and the South Korean firm, the Hyundai Asan, on Oct. 25 that demanded they demolish the facilities at a time agreed upon by both sides.

Hyundai Asan spent some KRW 500 billion to build the facilities in exchange for a 50-year-long monopoly on construction in the area. Other South Korean firms invested a combined KRW 400 billion. Now all that investment has gone up in smoke because of a single order handed down by Kim. 


On Oct. 24, 2019, Rodong Sinmun carried an editorial that emphasized the importance of maintaining the “rule of law” in the country. 

It is amazing that the newspaper would emphasize that North Korea actually respects the rule of law when it is clear that only the words of the North Korean leader really matter. 

South Korea’s legal system is made up of laws created by the constitution and National Assembly, the decrees handed down by the president, and regulations put into force by local governments. 

North Korea, however, considers the statements made by Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un the highest laws of the land. Rules set out by the Workers’ Party of Korea and the Ten Principles for the Establishment of a Monolithic Ideological System come next in importance, and only then followed by the country’s Socialist Constitution and various other laws.  


North Korea’s Socialist Constitution states that it “shall be called Kim Il Sung’s Constitution, the codification of the great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung’s Juche-oriented ideas on and exploits in State building.” This means that no laws can ever be higher than statements made by Kim Il Sung and his family. No other constitution in the world places such importance on the statements made by national leaders. 

The editorial does emphasize that the socialist rule of law can only be achieved under the “leadership of the party,” but that does nothing other than acknowledged that North Korea is under the rule of one man because the party simply serves the country’s ruling family. 

All this is why the investments put into Mount Kumgang by both Koreas and South Korean private companies can simply disappear with one order by Kim Jong Un. 

It is my hope that North Korea will quickly demolish its current system of one-man rule and erect in its place a system that is genuinely based on the rule of law.

*Translated by Yongmin Lee

Thae Yong Ho’s most recent column on North Korea’s false propaganda about the Korean alphabet, Hangul, can be found here