Archive for the ‘Socialist Youth League’ Category

North Korea’s ‘organizational life’ in decline

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

A quick note related to the story below: I have located on Google Earth the Workers’ Party headquarters, headquarters of the Democratic Women’s Union of Korea, headquarters of the Kim Il-sung League of Socialist Working Youth, and the headquarters of the General Federation of Trade Unions of Korea. The headquarters of the Union of Agricultural Workers of Korea, however, eludes me.  If you have any idea of its location please let me know…

Andrei Lankov writes about the purposes of these organizations in the Asia Times:

In the early 1980s, when the present author was a student at the Soviet University, my teacher often described North Korea as a “country where meetings never end”. Having grown up in Stalin’s Russia, he knew a thing or two about meetings and indoctrination, but the North Korean standards appeared excessive even to him.

The more I interact with North Koreans, the more skeptical I become about how outsiders understand the working of a repressive system.

For outsiders, regime repressiveness is usually associated with an omnipresent political police, but it appears that other, less sinister-looking, institutions have played a major role in shaping the consent of the North Korean populace.

Read more of the article below…

Since its foundation in the late 1940s, the North Korean state has followed a zero tolerance approach in its dealings with dissent. The authorities strive to discover and punish/correct even minor deviations from the prescribed way of thinking.

But the political police only get involved in rare and extreme cases. In most cases, the real and alleged offenders are disciplined by their own peers and immediate supervisors within their “organization”.

Indeed, so-called “organizational life” has been a peculiar and omnipresent feature of North Korean life since the 1960s, even though it has declined in the past two decades.

Every single North Korean must belong to a cell of one (and only one!) organization, and this cell, usually consisting of one or two dozen people, has multiple opportunities to control and correct his/her behavior. There are five such organizations in the North, with each having easily definable and mutually exclusive membership – the Korean Workers’ Party (KWP), the Youth Union, the Trade Union, the Farmers Union and the Women’s Union.

Once a North Korean turns 14, he or she is expected and, indeed, required to join the Kim Il-sung Youth Union and stay there until the age of 30 (unless he or she is lucky enough to be admitted into the KWP at young age).

After 30, the lucky and socially ambitious can still theoretically join the party (not an easy undertaking), while the rest become members of the Trade Union or Farmers Union, depending on whether they work in the fields or on a production line. Even housewives, without a job, are not left out, since they are required to be members of the Women’s Union.

The rules are simple and unambiguous. An industrial worker in his late 20s will attend meetings and other activities of the Youth Union in his work place. Once he turns 30, he is required to switch membership to the Trade Union. He might marry a woman from the same factory, but if she decides to become a housewife (a very common occurrence), she would switch membership to the Women’s Union.

Typically, every organization holds three meetings every week, each one lasting between one and two hours. Two of the three weekly meetings are indoctrination sessions. Their participants are lectured about the greatness of the Kim family, the glories of the socialist economy and the depraved nature of the pro-American South Korean puppet regime, as well as about other similarly lofty, ideologically useful topics.

The content of the lectures is supposed to be memorized and tests are occasionally held, but examiners are not excessively strict.

This system makes sure that propaganda messages are delivered to every Korean. It is possible that people do not read newspapers (because North Korean newspapers are seriously boring) or do not listen to official radio, so the major ideas of propaganda are delivered straight to their workplace.

But it is another weekly function that seems to constitute the true core of North Korea’s organizational life – the so-called “self- and mutual criticism sessions”. In most cases, such sessions are usually held on a weekly basis.

During a criticism session, every member of an organization – in other words, every adult North Korean – is supposed to deliver something akin to public penitence and confession. He or she must admit some improper acts that he or she committed in the previous week.

Serious deviations are seldom admitted and discussed; people usually limit themselves to relatively trivial matters like, say, being a few minutes late for a job or not taking proper care when cleaning the shop floor.

Every act of public confession should be accompanied by a proper quote from Kim Il-sung (leader from 1948 to 1994) or his son Kim Jong-ll (leader from 1994 until his death in 2011).

Then a repentant sinner must be criticized by another member of the same organization. Usually both confession and criticism are kept short, taking hardly more than a minute or two per person.

In most cases, these sessions are essentially performances where people admit the sins they know to be relatively minor and hence harmless.

It is also known that future participants of the Saturday performance (“self- and mutual criticism sessions” tend to be scheduled for Saturdays) sometimes make preliminary deals and agree on who should criticize whom and for what.

Nonetheless, there is always the small but real risk of a public denunciation, a situation getting out of control, and therefore the sessions do exercise significant pressure over organization members.

If something more improper has taken place, a more specialized session can be conducted within the organization (often called “the ideological struggle session”).

When this is to be done, the offender is subjected to one or two hours of a verbal harangue, often of a quite offensive and rude nature. Usually, this is the way in which an organization deals with offenses that are too trivial to be dealt with by the police, but are nonetheless seen as relatively serious – like, say, frequent absence from work without sufficient reason, or traveling to another part of the country without obtaining a proper permit (and being caught there).

Through organizational life, the state ensures that every single North Korean is exposed to the official ideology and also gets regular training in the politically correct ways of conduct.

The slow but unstoppable disintegration of Kim Il-sung’s “national Stalinism” in the past two decades seriously undermined the foundations of organizational life. Nowadays, a majority of North Koreans make a living outside the official state economy and they have now become much less dependent on their workplaces and supervisors.

Increasingly, they see organizational life as a troublesome and time-consuming formality. They can nowadays negotiate a deal with their supervisors, getting permission to be absent from the workplace, if they pay a contribution to the factory’s budget – this is known as an “August 3 contribution” (after the date of a government decree that allowed such practice).

Tellingly, this contribution frees the payer not only from attending his/her workplace but also from time-consuming indoctrination and mutual criticism sessions – after all, the average adult North Korean is supposed to spend three to five hours a week attending these functions.

When the functions are conducted, they are much easier than was the case in the 1970s and 1980s. The meetings are shorter nowadays, and absenteeism – once almost unthinkable – came to be ignored if it remained relatively infrequent (or if the “August 3 contribution” had been paid).

This relaxation seems to be especially pronounced in the Women’s Union, since most North Korean housewives are much involved with the black market economy and hence, if compared to workers of state factories, have less time for the boring activities of their local Women’s Union cells.

Like many institutions of the “old North Korea”, organizational life is seemingly on the decline. But this decline is by no means complete, and a majority of North Koreans are still taken care of by their organizational supervisors. And these people make sure that even minor deviations from what is considered to be correct are likely to be discovered and censured.

Read the full story here:
North Korea’s ‘organizational life’ in decline
Asia Times
Andrei Lankov


Kim Jong Il’s Ten Principles: Restricting the People

Monday, October 13th, 2008

Daily NK
Namgung Min

The Chosun (North Korean) Workers’ Party controls and restricts all types of people: from party members to non-members, from the upper-class to the proletariat.

As the Party rules over the state, it coerces people to follow not the socialist constitution of the DPRK, but the party’s Ten Principles for the Establishment of the One-Ideology System (hereafter referred to as the Ten Principles).

The Ten Principles that the Party uses to restrict the people are something that everyone born in North Korea has to memorize and follow at home, work and school for their whole life.

The framework for the Ten Principles was laid by Kim Jong Il in his role as Party Secretary. Later he declared the principles throughout North Korea in February, 1974.

With the Ten Principles Kim Jong Il set standards for North Koreans’ daily lives and their daily activities.

Supervision and Restriction through Regular Party Evaluation Meetings

The Party’s regular evaluation meetings are the tools most typically utilized to monitor all affairs related to the work and personal lives of Party members.

According to Article 8, Section 5 of the Ten Principles, party members are required to “actively attend the Party’s regular evaluation meetings that are held every other day or every week in order to train oneself to become a revolutionary and to continuously rebuild oneself through criticism using the standards of the Leader’s teaching and the Party’s policies as a guide.”

During the regular evaluation meetings, first members within a certain period of time are to confess flaws and mistakes they or others made in their work or personal lives; what they said and did; and, one’s ways of thinking. Then they criticize themselves and one another.

These evaluation meetings are held weekly. There also are monthly and quarterly evaluation meetings, which vary in subject and scope.

If one tries to hide or minimize one’s mistakes during these evaluation meetings, then the level of criticism gets stronger.

“You can pass an evaluation meeting safely only when you seem to be repentant by showing tears and exaggerating even when the flaws are not that serious,” explained Mr. Kim, who defected in 2006.

The quarterly meetings sometimes last a half a day or a day.

Especially after reciprocal criticisms during the evaluation meetings, upper-level cadres of the Party submit the results to Kim Jong Il or the Guidance Department of the Central Committee of the Party for review. Later, the results of the evaluation are announced to the people involved.

The evaluations (similar to a South Korean court decision) can result in comparatively light sentences such as a warning, a severe warning or suspension of one’s qualifications. However, at times, severe punishments are given out such as mining work, farm labor without pay, suspension of one’s titles, banishment to remote regions, or referral to the National Security Agency. If charged and prosecuted, one may be sentenced to intensive labor or re-education camps.

Supervision through Various Forms of Guidance and Education

The Workers’ Party supervises and restricts the people by brainwashing them using various forms of instruction and lectures.

According to Article 4, Section 5 of the Ten Principles, everyone must “attend meetings, lectures and lessons without missing any to learn the Great Father Kim Il Sung’s revolutionary ideology and actively study the rules for more than two hours everyday.”

The mandatory Saturday meetings in particular are known to be the basic brainwashing tool; they are thoroughly prepared by the Propaganda and Agitation Department and involve lectures and documentary film lessons.

The brainwashing process that North Koreans have the hardest time with is the catechetical lessons.

The catechetical lessons take the form of a competition and include preliminary, semi-final and final rounds. During these lessons, all cadres, party members and residents have to memorize more than 100 pages of “catechetical lesson material” that have been prepared by the Propaganda and Agitation Department without getting one word wrong.

The catechetical lesson material includes Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il’s works, the Ten Principles for the Establishment of the One-Ideology System, Juche ideology and related philosophical issues, documents that praise the morals and majesty of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, and various poems and songs praising the Kims.

The groups or individuals that win the competition get awards like a television and honor. But those who do not claim victory become the targets of criticism by the organizations to which they belong and the Party apparatus for slacking on studying ideology.

Restricting People Through Various Organizations

In North Korea, all people who are not part of the Workers’ Party must be mandatorily restricted by the Party’s quasi-governmental organizations.

Such organizations include the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League, the General Federation of Trade Unions of North Korea, the Union of Agricultural Working People, the Union of Democratic Women the and Korean Children’s Union.

The Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League (the Youth League) is the biggest and most active political group, the only non-party member group for young people, and includes working youths, students, and military men.

The Youth League, by restricting the ideological culture and organized groups of all youths, monitors any changes in the society’s way of thinking that may happen with the change of generations. It also organizes all youths to be actively involved in production, construction and military service.

The Youth League plays the important role of restricting any form of opposition groups or actions among the youths of North Korea.

Youth League members who have reached the age of 30 but have not joined the Party must join the General Federation of Trade Unions, if one is a laborer or low-ranking manager, the Union of Agricultural Working People if one is a farmer, or the Union of Democratic Women if one is a housewife.

These workers’ organizations are managed by the work departments of the committees and the Central Committee of the Party.

Therefore, non-Party members in North Korea receive double supervision–from the organizations they belong to and from their workplace.

The Chosun Workers’ Party has been strictly restricting and supervising its people for 63 years, which is the period of disgrace of the Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il dictatorships.


Know the Party before Getting to Know Kim Jong Il

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Daily NK
Namgung Min

As rumors regarding Kim Jong Il’s illness surfaced during North Korea’s 60th anniversary celebrations, opinion was divided on whether the military or the Party will rise in power post-Kim Jong Il.

It is true that the power of the military rose post-Kim Il Sung, according to the “military-first” political line. The National Defense Commission (NDC) began leading various agencies and councils, and came to hold greater power because Kim Jong Il was introduced as the National Defense Commission Chairman during North-South Summits.

Thus, the National Defense Commission under military-first politics began to appear to be North Korea’s sole power base, as news on general-level promotions was released publicly by the National Defense Commission.

However, despite military-first politics, it remains the Chosun (North Korea) Workers’ Party that fundamentally controls the North Korean regime. Therefore, in order to understand the North Korean regime, one must understand the Chosun Workers’ Party.

Upcoming October 10th is the founding anniversary of this most important of organizations. The eyes of the world are focused on whether Kim Jong Il will appear on this day or not.

Therefore, it is time to closely examine what the Chosun Workers’ Party does and how it controls the North Korean regime.

The Korean Workers’ Party claims to be the direct heir to the North Korean Branch of the Chosun Communist Party that was established during “The Chosun Communist Party Convention of Leaders and Devotees of the 5 Northwest Provincial Party Committees” held on October 10th, 1945. Hence the founding date is October 10th. In April, 1946 the name was changed to the North Chosun Communist Party, which then became the Chosun (North Korean) Workers’ Party after being merged with Chosun New People’s Party in August of the same year.

North Korea is operated under the leadership of the Chosun Workers’ Party, as previously seen in other socialist countries; the nation’s power is concentrated in the Party. This implies that as the Party controls the country, the country is evolving into a socialist society and from there into a communist society.

The Workers’ Party, venerable as it is, not only holds the highest position of authority in North Korea but thus stands above other national agencies, organizations or the military.

I. The positions and roles of the Chosun Workers’ Party

The positions and roles of the Workers’ Party are described in detail in the “Rules and Regulations of the KWP,” “Ten Principals for the Party’s Unique Ideological System” and the “Socialist Constitution of North Korea.”

It is written in Article 11 of the Socialist Constitution, amended in 1998, that “The DPRK shall conduct all activities under the leadership of the Workers’ Party.” Furthermore, the Workers’ Party is stated to be an organ that controls other agencies and organizations as the highest revolutionary organization leading all other working organs.

However, the socialist constitution and the rules of the Party are only for the purpose of propagating the notion of the rationality and legitimacy of North Korea abroad while concealing a dictatorship. The reality within North Korea is completely different from the actual contents of the constitution.

In actuality, the socialist constitution and the rules and regulations of the Party defines that all sectors such as government, military, administration, judiciary, and even public prosecutor’s office are led by the Party, while being utilized as the apparatus for Kim Jong Il’s Stalinist dictatorship. That is, the regulations recognize the Party’s leadership of the country and simultaneously state that the Party can only be operated and led by Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

The Workers’ Party in legal terms is an organ that guides North Koreans, but in reality it is only an organ under the iron command of the supreme Leader. Therefore, the Leader stands in the highest position, above the Party, nation and sovereign organs.

II. The structure and functions of the Chosun Workers’ Party

The utmost decision-making organ of the Workers’ Party is the National Party Congress.

According to the rules and regulations of the Party, all decision making of the Party regarding policies, strategies, and tactics should be passed through the National Party Congress. However, in actuality the Party Congress only rubber stamps the decisions that were already made by the Central Committee of the Party.

It is theoretically a ground rule that the Party Congress meets once every 5 years. The first congressional meeting was held in August 1946, the Congress met for the 6th time in October 1980, but has failed to meet since; 28 years. The fact that the Congress is not meeting regularly signifies that the regime system is not operating according to accepted principles of socialist states in the past.

If the Congress fails to meet, the Central Committee of the Party functions as the highest decision-making organ. The Central Committee should meet and discuss issues once every 6 months.

During these meetings, the General Secretary, committee members and the Presidium of the Politburo and committee members of the Central Committee of the Party should be elected. The Central Committee also has the authority to organize the Secretariat and the Central Military Commission.

However, even these twice annual meetings have not been held since the 21st meeting of the 6th cohort in 1993. When the meetings are not held, then the Politburo needs to take authority. However, the Secretariat of the Central Committee, whose General Secretary is currently Kim Jong Il, currently does so.

The highest organ in a communist society is officially the Presidium of the Politburo. In North Korea, Kim Jong Il is the only left in the presidium after the deaths of Kim Il Sung and Oh Jin Woo. This is why North Korea is sometimes called a totalitarian state. In the Chinese government, the Politburo presidium is properly functioning and decisions are made here. From a “democratic” perspective, the Chinese Communist Party and the Chosun Workers’ Party are completely different.

In any case, within the Secretariat of the Central Committee there are specialty departments such as the Guidance Department, Propaganda and Agitation Departments, and the United Front Department, and it also includes departments that supply secret funding to Kim Jong Il such as the 38th and 39th Departments.

The provincial organs of the Party consist of party committees of provinces, cities and counties that even include the most basic low-level party committees such as elementary party committees and sector party committees.

The structure of the Workers’ Party can also be divided into permanent party organs and temporary collective leadership groups. The permanent party organs include all members who work in any specialty departments, from the Central Committee down to low-level provincial party organs. Temporary collective leadership groups signify councils of high-level or low-level leaders of the central and provincial organs, made to implant permanent authority within the society through various meetings.

There are approximately 4,000,000 members of the Workers’ Party, including Kim Jong Il, high-level officials to low-level members, and figures from the legislature, judiciary, and the administration.

III. Main Departments and Their Roles

The main government complex of the Central Committee of the Worker’s Party is located in Changkwang-dong, Joong-district of Pyongyang. There are many buildings in the complex which include Kim Jong Il’s personal office and most of the Central Committee departments.

The second government complex is located in Junseung-dong, Moranbong-district of Pyongyang. The Social Culture Department, United Front Department and Operations Department are included in this complex.

The Workers’ Party has placed all specialty departments under the authority of the Secretariat, to function as restriction and guidance on all areas of the party members, citizens and North Korea. There is a Guidance Department that observes party members then there are other departments that exercise political functions.

The Guidance Department actualizes party guidance and restraint within communities. The department functions as Kim Jong Il’s right hand and as the core department by restraining the lives of all officials, members and citizens within the party.

The Guidance Department sub-divides into the inspection department, official department, party-member registration department, administration department and a communication department that allows direct reports regarding any incident or accident. The Guidance Department also manages the judiciary and the public prosecutor’s office.

The inspection department is responsible for inspecting any anti-party, non-party, undisciplined or unreasonable activities that develop within the regime or leadership of the Party and report to Kim Jong Il. The Guidance Department inspection section is strictly separated from other departments and North Korean party members or officials are all fearful of it.

There are approximately 20 specialty departments such as the Propaganda and Agility Department, the 38th and 39th Departments to supply fund to Kim Jong Il, the United Front Department dealing with South Korea, the International Department, the Science Education Department, and the Operations Department that carry out political activities.

Currently the Korean Workers’ Party is in the middle of the process of replacing 1st or 2nd generation leaders with 3rd or 4th generation, often more practical, personnel.