Kim Kwang-jin on the KWP conference

Kim Kwang-jin, a defector from Pyongyang and research fellow at the US-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, offers his thoughts on the status of the Worker’s Party conference:

From the perspective of Western world and media, the delay of Party Representative Conference in North Korea, if there really is any, is interpreted and speculated as very unusual. For us in the West, such “long delay” is unusual because we convene meetings to hear our different views, not orchestrated by the regime.

For North Korea, who have a system of full guidance and instruction, it is usual to fix things in order before having a final performance. The so-called delay is actually time to coordinate Party representatives’ roles in the event and instruct them what to do.

It is a stretch to assume that the North Korean elite is far less united now and some fractions are unhappy about the meeting and the result, and Kim Jong-il is growing more unable to exercise full power, as has been suggested.  More speculation of logistical problems, floods, and Kim Jong-il’s inability for reasonable judgment and rational decisions are added. But these are not the real components of North Korea’s usual efforts at orchestration of an event. This is a celebration, not a discussion.

There may be a delay in securing enough gifts to reward the participants.  This is the most important element for both Kim Jong-il and the representatives, in a system of enforcing a decision and celebrating a political decision. Getting all the gifts together would be a real reason for such a delay.

North Korea itself never announced the exact date of the meeting. And finally, let us remind ourselves that North Korea loves drawing international attention and is very good at it. This time, their tactics already succeeded in producing an extreme reaction, not thanks to their skill but to the western way of thinking and approach.

Additional information:

1. See Andrei Lankov’s thoughts about the conference here and here.

2. The Daily NK asserts that the conference is affecting food prices.


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