The Korean Workers' (Communist) Party, the ruling party of the DPRK, was formed on 10 October 1945 through a merger of the Communist Party and the New Democratic Party. By the mid-1980s, party membership was estimated to have risen to over 3 million, or about 16% of the population, the largest percentage of any Communist country. The principal party organ is the National Party Congress. The Congress adopts the party program and approves the political line set by its Central People's Committee. The party constitution states that a congress is to be convened every four years; however, as of 2003, no party congress had convened since 1980.
To guide the party between sessions of the National Party Congress, the Congress elects a Central People's Committee and a Central Auditing Commission, which looks after the party's financial affairs. The Central People's Committee elects the 10 members of the Politburo or Political Bureau. At the top of the party hierarchy is the Presidium of the Politburo, of which the only remaining member is Kim Jong Il. The other members either died or were dismissed, and a new Politburo could not be appointed because the party congress has not met. In October 1997, Kim Jong Il was also named to succeed his father as general secretary of the party.
A "united front" policy confers nominal status on two ostensibly non-Communist political parties: the Korean Social Democratic Party, founded in 1945 and known as the Korean Democratic Party until 1981, and the Friends Party, founded in 1946 for adherents of the Ch'ondogyo faith.