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6.02.2012

North Korea's constitutional innovations

One doesn't usually think of totalitarian dictatorships as constitutional innovators. But North Korea has just amended its constitution for the second time in two years, changing the preamble to indicate that Kim Jong Il had "transferred the country into an undefeated country with strong political ideology, a nuclear power state and invincible military power." This is a novel mention of nuclear power in constitutions. Issues of translation are crucial here, and I don't have access to the original Korean. It could either be referring to the country as a "nuclear power" which implies the possession of weapons; or it might be referring to a state with nuclear power. But even on a charitable reading, it's an innovation. Many constitutions speak of the need to move toward a nuclear free world; several others provide details of how nuclear power will be regulated. For example, Brazil's Art. 225 assigns nuclear power to federal rather than state jurisdiction. This is the first instance that I know of in which a constitution brags about having nuclear power.

Here is some free advice to the official translators of North Korea: if the newspaper translation is accurate, it suggests that it was Kim Jong Il who transformed the country into being undefeated. This of course implies that his father, Kim Il Sung, the "Eternal President" and Great Leader (수령), had presided over a defeated country. I don't think even the most hawkish American neo-con would agree...

--TG

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