Archive for the ‘Worker’s Party’ Category

North Korea’s Cabinet and Worker’s Party decide to enhance economic cooperation

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2012-11-15

The Choson Sinbo, a Japan-based pro-North Korean newspaper, reported on November 9 that the role and the authority of the North Korean cabinet are increasing, especially in the planning and implementation of North Korea’s economic policies.

“North Korea is establishing new order and actions to maximize the potential of its national economy. The cabinet-government system and the cabinet-oriented system are being strengthened as economy-related matters are decided in cooperation with the cabinet,” the newspaper said.

The newspaper also commented that many North Korean news outlets are reporting on DPRK Premier Choe Yong Rim’s activities in detail, including his frequent visits to economic units, saying that “the central and regional party committees are committed to provide support and encouragement to the cabinet and various administrative and economic institutions so the workers can assume responsible roles in the economy.”

Putting the cabinet in charge of the economic sector is a major break from the past, where the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) enforced strict restrictions and control over all administrative and economic institutions.

In addition, the news also suggests that the recent economic revitalization efforts are being stressed at a different level than in the past. The report also mentions that North Korea is promising to “boldly go forward with all projects beneficial to the people of North Korea.”

Many high ranking economic officials from the cabinet are quickly moving in to take high-ranking positions in the WPK. Typically, economic experts remain in the cabinet for many years to develop their expertise.

However, this is quickly changing, as can be witnessed from recent appointments in the WPK. Han Kwang Bok, the former vice premier and minister of electronics industry was recently appointed as a director in the central committee of the WPK. Kwak Bum Ki, who was the vice premier of the cabinet (from September 1998 to June 2010) was recently promoted to the position of party secretary and director of the WPK’s Finance and Planning Department (since this past April’s Party Conference).

These recent promotions in the economic departments of the WPK show that people are being replaced by high-ranking and experienced officials from the cabinet, particularly in the departments of light industry, finance and planning, and science and education.

These changes and promotions of economic experts suggest that heavier emphasis is being placed on economic development and improvement of the people’s livelihoods.

North Korea’s recent changes in the cabinet and the WPK — although limited only to the economic sector — indicates a major shift in the decision-making process. The WPK normally creates policy and the cabinet executes it. However, by placing officials equally across these two bodies, it appears as though efforts are being made to minimize the friction between the two organizations and increase the effectiveness of the economic policy through cooperation.

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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
2012-5-23

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Farming Regions in State of Tension

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

According to the Daily NK:

This year, the North Korean authorities are once again emphasizing the need to strive for greater food production as the farming season begins, launching the annual 40-day total farm mobilization period with the words “Let’s mobilize the whole party, the whole nation and all the people to reach the grain production targets.”

Rodong Shinmun published editorials on the subject on both the 11th and again on the 12th, reflecting the emphasis being optimistically placed on solving food security issues in 2012. Kim Jong Eun also emphasized the same in his major statements on the 6th and 27th of last month, understandably so given that farm productivity has the potential to play such a decisive role in stabilizing the first full winter of his rule.

Inside sources say that the mobilization atmosphere is unusually intense this year in farming villages. Cadres and people alike are feeling the strain of Kim Jong Eun’s first season in charge, with the assumption being that this year could see severe punishments meted out for any wrongdoing.

A South Hamkyung Province explained to Daily NK yesterday, “The whole nation is out there supporting the farms, including enterprises affiliated with state agencies, upper middle school and college students and military bases. People are not allowed to be at home or in the streets. Restaurants are not open either. Everybody is out on the farms. It’s just like martial law, really brutal.”

“5 or 6 safety agents have set up a desk in the street and are stopping people passing by, confiscating their identifications and the bikes they are on and sending them to nearby farms,” he went on. “People can only pass if they have a confirmation slip from a cooperative farm management committee.”

“The markets are only allowed to open from 5PM to 8PM after farm work is done for the day, so excluding preparation and organizing time, there is only an hour or so that the market is open. Buyers and sellers are all super busy,” he added.

During the 40-day total mobilization period, school classes are halted and students sent off to farms for forty days carrying their food and bedding. Laborers, workers in administrative organs and members of the Union of Democratic Women all commute from home to local collective farms until the planting and seeding is done.

North Korea has had the policy in place since 2006. Prior to that, students still had to farm every day, but full-time workers and members of the Union of Democratic Women went out just twice or three times a month.

In 2006, five provincial Party cadres from North Hamkyung Province were caught enjoying a spa during the period. They were summarily kicked out of the Party and sent into internal exile with their families.

“Until last year we were able to get confirmation of attendance from farm management committee cadres by giving a bribe, but with this year being the first under Kim Jong Eun, those tricks are unlikely to work,” the source concluded.

Read full story here:

Farming Regions in State of Tension
Daily NK
Choi Song Min
2012-5-15

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Army Founding Day a source of stress

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

According tot he Daily NK:

The North Korean authorities have called on the people to provide supplies for care packages to be given to military units on People’s Army Foundation Day, which falls today. It is not a new burden, but is relatively larger this year, according to a source.

The source from Chongjin in North Hamkyung Province told the Daily NK yesterday, “The people feel seriously burdened by the project going on nationwide to gather support supplies ahead of the military holiday. Each household is required to offer up towels, soap, toothpaste, socks and underwear.”

“Usually they collect around 1,000 won from each family, but this year they told us to give 10,000 won,” the source went on. “Since even providing food for the family is not easy, many people are playing a waiting game on this.”

The source explained that societal organizations (the Union of Democratic Women, General Federation of Korean Trade Unions etc) have also been gathering care packages for delivery to local military units by ‘People’s Delegations’ consisting of municipal and county Party cadres.

“Middle school classes are also suspended while students prepare and perform ‘People’s Army Comfort Concerts’ at art centers and in military camps, and the Union of Democratic Women are preparing art performances,” she added.

Problematically, the various April holidays also mean that markets are closed more often than normal, and this is driving down household incomes.

For the Day of the Sun, the markets were closed from the 14th through the 17th. The markets are also closed today for Army Foundation Day today. Moreover, they were also closed on the day Kim Jong Eun was elevated to 1st Secretary and the day of the mass rally organized to denounce the Lee Myung Bak administration, to name but two.

As such, the source concluded, “April is a hectic month. Aside from the fact that the people are exhausted because of the pressure from the authorities their income has dropped by around half so many will likely end up in debt.”

Read the full story here:
Army Founding Day a Source of Stress
Daily NK
Choi Song Min
2012-04-25

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Korean Workers’ Party (KWP) 4th Delegates’ Conference

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Pictured Above: Kim Jong-un’s official party photo.

UPDATE 20 (2012-4-21): 38 North has posted three articles on the Party Conference and SPA meeting in Pyongyang.  Read the articles byJames ChurchAidan Foster-Carter, and Bruce Klinger.

UPDATE 19 (2012-4-19): Stephan Haggard, Luke Herman, and Jaesung Ryu on the Party conference.

UPDATE 18 (2012-4-11): In addition to honoring Kim Jong-il and promoting Kim Jong-un, KCNA also reported other party personnel changes:

Pyongyang, April 11 (KCNA) — Members of the party central guidance body were elected to fill vacancies, elected and appointed at the 4th Conference of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Choe Ryong Hae was elected member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the Party Central Committee, Kim Jong Gak, Jang Song Thaek, Pak To Chun, Hyon Chol Hae, Kim Won Hong and Ri Myong Su members of the Political Bureau of the Party Central Committee, Kwak Pom Gi, O Kuk Ryol, Ro Tu Chol, Ri Pyong Sam and Jo Yon Jun alternate members of the Political Bureau of the Party Central Committee to fill vacancies.

Kim Kyong Hui and Kwak Pom Gi were elected secretaries of the Party Central Committee.

Choe Ryong Hae was elected vice-chairman of the Party Central Military Commission and Hyon Chol Hae, Ri Myong Su and Kim Rak Gyom were elected members of the Party Central Military Commission to fill vacancies.

Members and alternate members of the Party Central Committee were elected to fill vacancies.

Kim Yong Chun, Kwak Pom Gi and Pak Pong Ju were appointed as department directors of the Party Central Committee.

Members of the Party Central Auditing Commission were elected to fill vacancies.

Previous posts on the party conference below…

(more…)

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Aidan Foster-Carter on the DPRK’s 2012

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

Aidan Foster-Carter wrties in the Asia Times:

The first quarter of 2012 is almost over. Where did it go, so fast? And for those parts of the world where the calendar is marked by four distinct seasons – which doesn’t apply to much of Asia, but very much includes the Korean peninsula – spring has begun to arrive. Welcome warmth and relief, after the rigors of chilly winter: an especially harsh one in North Korea.

(more…)

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DPRK undergoing 2012 calendar recall

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

 

Pictured above (Google Earth): (L) Kumsong Youth Publishers (금성청년출판사), (R) Pyongyang General Printing Factory (평양종합인쇄공장). According to the Daily NK article below, both factories print calendars in the DPRK.

UPDATE 1 (2012-3-23): The Daily NK updates us on the DPRK’s 2012 calendars:

The slogan on the cover of the calendar has been edited from “The Great Leader President Kim Il-sung will always be with us” to “The Great President Kim Il-sung and the Great Leader Kim Jong-il Will always be with us”

The new calendar marks February 16th (Kim Jong-il’s official birthday) as “The Day of the Shining Star”. This same day is also celebrated as the day Kim Jong-il received the title “generalissimo”.

“The Day of the Sun” (April 15th–Kim Il-sung’s birthday) was always there, however, revised text about other dates has been added.

The May picture comes from the DPRK film Petition. The June image comes from The Blessed Land.

 

July – October calendar pages

December 17th 2012 commemorates “Juche 100″. December 17th is the day Kim Jong Il passed away.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-1-10): According to the Daily NK:

North Korea has recalled all 2012 calendars because they do not specify the date of Kim Jong Il’s death (December 17th), and is producing new ones.

A Shinuiju source confirmed for Daily NK on the 5th, “Pyongyang Combined [General] Printing and other printers are creating new calendars marking Kim Jong Il’s death.”

“An order was handed down through Party organs, enterprises and people’s units calling for the return of those calendars which had been distributed. Calendars stored by traders who were planning to go and distribute them outside of North Korea are also being recalled,” the source added.

However, most of those calendars which have already been exported, such as the one obtained by Daily NK [see picture here], will continue to circulate.

The absence of the date of death is not the only problem with the new calendar. There are also problematic messages such as ‘We hope for great leader comrade Kim Jong Il’s good health.’ As such, the new calendar will reportedly both include Kim Jong Il’s official date of death and the latest slogan, ‘Great leader comrade Kim Jong Il is with us forever.’

Official North Korean calendars are designed and published by a number of publishing houses including Keumsung Youth Publishing House and Agricultural Publishing Company on the authority of the Party Propaganda and Agitation Department. They are still distributed to all Party organs, enterprises and military bases, although due to economic and production limitations the paper quality has dropped in recent years, and even this measure has not been enough to stop distribution to households breaking down.

On this, one defector from North Hamkyung Province commented, “There are 28 households in a people’s unit, but only 10 calendars were given to us once.”

Other than the official calendar published for distribution, each of the authorized publishers produces a higher quality 7-page calendar for sale in places like the jangmadang. Some high-quality scroll calendars are also produced by People’s Army Publishing House, People’s Safety Ministry, and National Security Agency etc.

An additional point of interest for the reproduced calendars is whether Kim Jong Eun’s birthday (January 8th) will be made prominent. January 8th, 2012 is a Sunday and as such would typically be marked in red anyway, but usually to emphasize special days the numbers are printed in a bigger font.

Read the full story here:
North Korea in Mass Calendar Recall
Daily NK
Park Jun Hyeong
2012-01-10

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Workers’ Party conference scheduled for April: A turning point for building a powerful nation

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Pictured above (Rodong Sinmun): New propaganda to build awareness of the upcoming KWP conference.

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) (2012-3-7):

North Korea announced the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Conference would be held in mid-April. Regarding the conference, Rodong Sinmun released an editorial on February 29.

The newspaper editorial titled, “DPRK to Greet WPK Conference with High Political Enthusiasm” commented, “the Party conference is of particular significance in the party development and accomplishment of the Juche revolution as it will open at a historic juncture when a new century of Kim Il Sung’s Korea starts.”

The editorial goes on to elaborate on the significance of the party conference:

The WPK has marked a new historic turning point in its development.

Kim Jong Un is standing at the head of the WPK and revolution.

Under his guidance the Korean revolution is making more dynamic advances and registering signal achievements in the efforts to build a thriving nation.

The party and revolution have a rosier prospect as the bloodline of Mt. Paektu is given steady continuity generation after generation and the center of the leadership and unity remains unshakable.

With Kim Jong Un at the helm of the WPK, it is shedding its rays as a steel-strong party with the greatest dynamism, a revolutionary one with a strong sense of organization and firm unity and principle and as a great mother party genuinely serving the people, deeply rooted among them.

It is the immense pride that the revolutionary comrades-in-arms of Songun are united closer around the Central Committee of the WPK, sharing thought and intention with Kim Jong Un and keeping pace with him.

The forthcoming conference of the WPK will offer an opportunity of increasing its position and role as a powerful political staff for the Songun revolution, steadfast in monolithic ideology and leadership.

The newspaper highlighted the keywords for the upcoming conference will be Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un and the party.

The news also emphasized that teachings of Kim Jong Il, his ideology and achievements will be upheld as the sole principle of the party. In addition, the editorial articulated songun politics will be continued as a way to advance the defense industry with Kim Jong Un as the head of the Central Committee of the WPK.

Lastly, the editorial reiterated “under the leadership of the party, revolution and miracle can be created to improve the lives of the people and to complete the construction of powerful nation.”

The Daily NK also reports that security in Pyongyang has already been tightened.

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A North Korean Corleone

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Sheena Chestnut Greitens writes in the New York Times:

What kind of deal do you make with a 20-something who just inherited not only a country, but also the mantle of one of the world’s most sophisticated crime families? When Kim Jong-un, who is thought to be 28 or 29, became North Korea’s leader in December after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, he became the de facto head of a mafia state.

(more…)

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KWP forms 4.15 gift preparation committees

Monday, March 5th, 2012

According to the Daily NK:

The North Korean authorities have ordered the formation of ‘Day of the Sun Gift Preparation Committees’ at the provincial Party level and subordinate ‘Day of the Sun Gift Subcommittees’ at the city and county scale, Daily NK has learned.

A Yangkang [Ryanggang] Province source who spoke with Daily NK on the 6th explained, “The ‘Day of the Sun Gift Preparation Committee’ was formed at the start of this month by the provincial Party Committee to prepare for the Suryeong’s birthday, and groups of areas were banded together to form the ‘Day of the Sun Gift Subcommittees’.”

“There was no distribution for February 16th,” the source recalled. “Possibly because the central Party received reports of popular discontent about this and asked some searching questions of provincial cadres, now they are running around trying to get ready for April 15th holiday distribution.”

“Enterprise traders are mostly bringing in soy bean oil, soap and towels via Chinese customs. They are printing ‘Day of the Sun 100th Anniversary’ on the towels,” he added.

The formation of the committees has also reportedly had a noticeable influence on levels of public expectation of the April 15th festivities, representing as it does the first time that ‘Gift Preparation Committees’ have been formed since they disappeared without a trace in the mid 1990s.

“They are already saying that each household is going to receive a huge gift for this Day of the Sun, so people are really expecting a lot,” the source said, adding, “The rumor among jangmadang traders is that every house is going to get a DVD player made by Hana Electronics in Pyongyang.”

As the source noted, the move comes following significant public discontent at the lack of gifts on February 16th (Kim Jong Il’s birthday).

On February 21st, Daily NK reported new of that discontent, citing a Yangkang Province source as saying, “There was a flood of criticism about the total lack of holiday distribution for Gwangmyungsung Day, so they began telling every organ, enterprise and people’s unit meeting, ‘That is because we are close to the 100th anniversary of the Suryeong’s birth, and the Party is preparing big gifts for that.’”

North Korea began giving snacks, rice and other foodstuffs to the people every year on the birthdays of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, along with things like school uniforms and blankets every 5th and 10th year, in the 1970s. However, the system ceased to function in the 1990s as the country was gripped by famine and economic disintegration.

Meanwhile, sources also report that with the arrival of the early spring lean season, a time when many people on the Korean Peninsula have traditionally struggled to find sufficient sustenance, prices in the market are beginning to creep up.

According to the Yangkang Province source, “Until late last week the Yuan price was 607 won, but now it is up to 635 won. The price of rice has also gone from 3,300 won to 3,800 won.”

Read the full story here:
North Forms Party 4.15 ‘Gift Preparation Committees’
Daily NK
Lee Seok Young
2012-3-5

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