Does North Korea have its own legal system?
Yes, absolutely. North Korea has its own laws, and its own system for applying them to the people. In the core of this system lies “Judicial Affairs Explainer”.
A judicial affairs explainer is a post in factories or companies, and anyone selected as a judicial affairs explainer plays a role in legal education, while performing his or her own function in their respective business or organization.
The North Korean encyclopedia defines it as follows:
Judicial Affairs Explainer: a worker who explains, propagates, and educates people on the country’s laws. There are judicial affairs explainers in all state institutions, companies, and social institutions in North Korea. Selected among the workers of their respective organization, they should have such qualifications as loyalty to the party and the revolution, and a strong sense of responsibility. They pursue legal education while performing their own functions in their organizations.… A judicial affairs explainer always works and lives with his or her colleagues, and conducts the business of legal education within the boundary of his/her co-workers in their affiliated institutions, companies, or social institutions.
North Korea takes advantage of international laws by applying their domestic laws in regard to international affairs such as nuclear crisis, or the NLL (Northern Limit Line) dispute. On the surface, North Korea seems to flout international law, but in reality North Korea puts in claims in its own way on the basis of legal logic after making a thorough study on the international laws. The business of legal education centered on its judicial affairs explainers reflects such confidence
The legal education in North Korea–called Law-abiding Education(준법교양) in the country–is the state policy applied to all members of the nation, not just to its legal profession. Any other legal education excluding the Socialist Constitution has not become a regular subject, but they are naturally educated through activities offered by various curricula starting from kindergarten, people’s school through secondary school until university.
North Korea emphasizes in its legal education that by abiding to their legal education, they are living up to the will of “Great Leader”, and that they should obey the country’s law unconditionally.
However, a judicial affairs explainer does not always perform their legal education according to the preset guidelines. North Korea tends to keep away from the “Formalism”; a judicial affairs explainer should find ways to fit individual’s needs through his or her own method, and apply them to every individual, as humans will have different characters according to their sex, educational background, or age.
As stated above, the basic role of judicial affairs explainer is essentially legal education of all members of the country to ensure everyone abides by the law, however it is not confined to the Socialist Constitution but goes well beyond to cover the “Forest Protection Act,” “Traffic Regulations,” as well as “methods to improve productivity.” It was warned, however, workers seem to have difficulty in having a break for education session as the schedule of legal education is not clearly set up. The aim is to ensure there is no decrease in productivity or labor morale amid such frequent legal education.
What lessons can we learn from the distinctive legal education system in North Korea? We, South Koreans, do not seem to feel comfortable with the law. I think a lot of people consider that laws are only for the elite group, such as law students, making it seem accessible. Moreover, as law students tend to focus only on tests such as the bar examination, it is still uncertain whether they can apply laws to their daily lives. As mentioned above, however, there is a difference between legal education to train legal professionals and that for laymen. We should recognize the law of our country. And to live as a member of the nation who puts the country first, it is necessary to change our attitude toward laws. We must also modify our legal education system to receive North Korean defectors or North Korean people after the reunification in the future. To do so requires us to first establish good law education policy that can be practiced in the daily life.
Korea Encyclopedia Vol. 28, Pyongyang: Paekkwasajeonchulpansa, 1999, p.30
Youngtae Kwon, Legal Education in North Korea: Korean Studies Information Co. Ltd, 2009