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United Front Department

United Front Department
WPK Emblem.svg
Emblem of the Workers' Party of Korea
Agency overview
JurisdictionNorth Korea–South Korea relations, Propaganda, front organizations, espionage
HeadquartersJunseung-dong, Moranbong District, Pyongyang, North Korea
Agency executive
Parent agencyCentral Committee
United Front Department
Revised RomanizationTongil jeonseonbu
McCune–ReischauerT'ongil chonsonbu[1]
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The United Front Department (UFD,[2] Korean통일전선부; MRT'ongil chonsonbu) is a department of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) tasked with relations with South Korea. It conducts propaganda operations and espionage and manages front organizations, including the powerful Chongryon.


The United Front Department (UFD) is one of the most longstanding and important departments of the party.[3] It was initially known as the Culture Department (munhwabu). It was one of many organizations tasked with targeting South Korea at the time. In 1977 its operations were revived and it got its current name.[4]

During the rule of Kim Jong-il, the department had its ups and downs.[3] UFD is known to have meddled in the 1997 South Korean presidential election and tried to prevent the election of Kim Dae-jung.[5] It was the subject of major purges 2006, 2007,[3] and 2008.[6] There were apparently issues with corruption and lack of oversight.[7]


Administratively, UFD is under the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK).[8] UFD is in change of espionage, diplomacy, and policy-making concerning South Korea.[2] It is the primary organization of all state and party organizations that are tasked with relations with South Korea. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for instance, does not address relations with the South.[9] Of the other organizations dealing with South Korea, the UFD differs in conducting its activities in the open.[10] It also controls North Korea's religious organizations,[11] including the Korean Christian Federation.[12]

UFD is part of a shadowy group of Central Committee organizations known as the "Third Building". Not much is known about these organizations because South Korean intelligence services have been reluctant to release information out of security concerns. Out of the "Third Building" organizations, UFD is specifically tasked with maintaining ties with front organizations in both North and South Korea and with overseas Koreans. One of the most powerful of these, the Chongryon representing pro-Pyongyang Zainichi Koreans in Japan, is controlled by the UFD.[13] Other front organizations controlled by the UFD include the Korean Association of Social Scientists,[14] Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, National Reconciliation Council,[15] and the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland. North Korea typically deals with front organizations instead of the South Korean government which lacks legitimacy in its eyes.[16] UFD also sends spies to Japan.[17] Accordingly, it is sometimes classified as an intelligence agency.[15]

UFD is based in a complex in Junseung-dong in the Moranbong District of Pyongyang. It shares the complex with the Social Culture Department and Operations Department.[8] It has about 3,000 employees.[18] Certain members are among the most influential people in North Korea.[19] The current director is Kim Yong-chol.[20]

UFD handles affairs of the Kaesong Industrial Region. It tends to view the region as a manageable risk with a high profit, which is not universally agreed upon in the North Korean administration.[21] UFD is also normally tasked with the Mount Kumgang Tourist Region. When relations with South Korea take a turn for the worse, other organizations are known to take UFD's responsibilities. For instance, in 2008 the National Defence Commission took over relations with the South.[22]


UFD controls broadcasts that target South Korea.[23] Its methods include psychological warfare through the radio and TV, loudspeakers, leaflets, visual displays,[24] and websites. According to reports, "The United Front Department wages its cyber psychological warfare through some 140 sites with servers based in 19 countries. In 2011, North Korean agents posted 27,090 items of propaganda materials against the South, and in 2012 some 41,373". It also maintains a team of internet trolls with the Reconnaissance General Bureau.[25] The radio station targeting South Korea, Voice of National Salvation [ko], is directly controlled by the UFD instead of the Korean Central Broadcasting Committee that normally manages external broadcasting.[26]

UFD often releases statements that are considered to be authoritative comments of the regime.[27] It also fabricates praise of the Kim family that it attributes to foreigners and then disseminates in North Korean media.[28]

Jang Jin-sung, a North Korean defector, worked for the UFD before escaping the country. He has chronicled his work at the department in his book Dear Leader: My Escape from North Korea (2014).[29]

See also


  1. ^ Lim 2008, p. 73.
  2. ^ a b Jang 2015, p. 6.
  3. ^ a b c Gause 2013, p. 37.
  4. ^ Lim 2008, pp. 72–73.
  5. ^ Ryoo Kihl-jae (2005). "The North Wind: North Korea's Response and Policy towards the 2002 Presidential Election in South Korea" (PDF). In Mansourov, Alexandre Y. (ed.). ROK Turning Point. Honolulu: Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. ISBN 978-0-9773246-0-6.
  6. ^ Yang Jung A (16 July 2008). "Mt. Geumgang Incident Is Intentional Provocation". Daily NK. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  7. ^ "North Korea launching massive anti-corruption drive". Yonhap. 9 February 2008. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  8. ^ a b Namgung Min (8 October 2008). "Know the Party before Getting to Know Kim Jong Il". Daily NK. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  9. ^ Deleury & Moon 2014, p. 431.
  10. ^ "DPRK Unification Front envoy tours ROK industries". North Korean Economy Watch. 7 December 2007. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  11. ^ North Korea Quarterly. 76–78. Hamburg: Institute of Asian Affairs. 1995. p. 40. ISSN 0340-014X.
  12. ^ Cho Jong Ik (22 June 2011). "New Religious Strategy Is Needed". Daily NK. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  13. ^ Andrei Lankov (8 October 2009). North of the DMZ: Essays on Daily Life in North Korea. McFarland. p. 261. ISBN 978-0-7864-5141-8.
  14. ^ Daily Summary of Japanese Press. Tokyo: American Embassy. 2005. p. 3. ISSN 0499-2814.
  15. ^ a b Military and Security Developments Involving the Democratic People's Republic of Korea: Report to Congress (PDF). Washington: Office of the Secretary of Defence. 2017. p. 14. OCLC 841588818.
  16. ^ Oh, Kongdan; Hassig, Ralph C., eds. (2002). Korea Briefing, 2000–2001: First Steps Toward Reconciliation and Reunification. M.E. Sharpe. p. 265. ISBN 978-0-7656-0954-0.
  17. ^ Shipper 2010, p. 66.
  18. ^ Vantage Point. 19. Seoul: Naewoe Press. 1996. p. 36n1. OCLC 29800060.
  19. ^ Collins 2015, p. 70.
  20. ^ "Organizational Chart of North Korean Leadership" (PDF). Seoul: Political and Military Analysis Division, Intelligence and Analysis Bureau; Ministry of Unification. January 2018. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  21. ^ Ford 2014, p. 49.
  22. ^ Deleury & Moon 2014, p. 433.
  23. ^ North Korea Handbook. Seoul: Yonhap News Agency. 2002. p. 411. ISBN 978-0-7656-3523-5.
  24. ^ Defense White Paper. Seoul: Ministry of National Defense. 1998. p. 58. OCLC 73081313.
  25. ^ "N.Korea's Vast Cyber Warfare Army". The Chosun Ilbo. 13 August 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  26. ^ "KWP Propaganda and Agitation Department" (PDF). North Korea Leadership Watch. November 2009. pp. 1–2. Retrieved 27 May 2018.
  27. ^ Keck, Zachary (19 October 2014). "North Korea Says US Trying to 'Ignite a Nuclear War'". The Diplomat. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  28. ^ Jang 2015, p. 13.
  29. ^ Haggard, Stephan; Lindsay, Jon R. (May 2015). "North Korea and the Sony Hack: Exporting Instability Through Cyberspace" (PDF). AsiaPacific Issues (117): 4. Retrieved 24 October 2018.

Works cited

Further reading

  • Kim Il-sung (1978). On the Work of the United Front (Excerpts). Pyongyang: Foreign Languages Publishing House. OCLC 469905843.
  • The United Front Movement in Korea. Pyongyang: Foreign Languages Publishing House. 1980. OCLC 1022208093.