A Historic Gathering

  • 来源:北京周报
  • 关键字:Historic,WPK,DPRK
  • 发布时间:2016-05-26 11:08

  The Workers‘ Party of Korea (WPK),the ruling party of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),more commonly known as North Korea,held its full congress for the first time in 36 years.

  The Seventh National Congress of the WPK convened in Pyongyang on May 6-10.Although the party’s constitution used to state that a national congress should be held every five years,in reality,this was the first time it has taken place in almost four decades.This provision was removed from the party’s constitution at a smaller 2010 congressional meeting.

  The seventh congress was seen in North Korea as a pivotal moment for the country’s economic development.The world closely watched the proceedings for any signs of a change in political or economic policies.Though North Korea is relatively closed off to the outside world,a contingent of 128 foreign journalists from 12 countries,including China,were issued visas to visit the country during the meeting.

  The top leader’s new post

  The five-day meeting ended with the current leader,Kim Jong Un,being elevated to party chairman,a new post within the WPK.

  Kim Jong Un’s father,the deceased leader Kim Jong Il (1941-2011),held the last full national meeting in 1980 where he was named as the successor to his father—the country’s founder Kim Il Sung.The WPK convened a meeting in 2010,marking the third non-full congressional meeting in the WPK’s history.During this meeting,the WPK created additional regulations to the succession system for the party’s leadership and officially approved Kim Jong Un to succeed his father as the country’s leader.

  In April 2012,the WPK’s fourth congressional meeting was held in Pyongyang after Kim Jong Un assumed leadership of the country.The meeting officially announced him as the first secretary of the party and named his father as “eternal general secretary of the party.”

  Kim Jong Il never held a congressional meeting of any kind to officially announce his post after becoming the country’s top leader in 1994.The holding of the meeting itself suggests an improvement in the country’s political mechanism.

  In his address during the national congress,Kim Jong Un defined the WPK as “a party upholding the doctrine of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.” He also said that the WPK will usher in a new era for the revolutionary party.The party has successfully led the country’s revolutionary cause,Kim declared.

  The WPK’s leadership was also expanded at the meeting.

  Choe Ryong Hae and Pak Pong Ju have been elected to the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee,raising the number of the committee members from three to five.Previously,the members of the committee included Kim Jong Un,Kim Yong Nam,President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly,and Hwang Pyong So,Director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army.

  Meanwhile,the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee added 19 new members and nine alternate members.

  New national strategy

  The Seventh National Congress was also expected to set a course for national development after decades of poverty and hardship.North Korea is categorized as a “low income” country by the World Bank.

  Many Western observers tend to compare North Korea to South Korea in terms of their economic conditions.Consequently,most analysts are inclined to draw the conclusion that the former is a failure.However,that was not always the case during the 1980s when North Korea would take South Korea’s economic lead from time to time.

  The WPK proposed to initiate a nuclear energy program in 1980 after the sixth national congress.The program was partially aimed at developing the country’s economy.But world events in the 1980s led to a further loss in support for North Korea,particularly after the Soviet Union’s dismantling in 1991.

  Following the end of the Cold War,the United States strengthened its intervention in Korean Peninsula affairs and became involved in the national reconciliation process between North Korea and South Korea.The United States then accused North Korea of developing its nuclear program to disrupt regional security.The Clinton administration subsequently exerted pressure on North Korea by placing various sanctions on it.Additionally,North Korea suffered from a number of natural disasters in the middle of the 1990s,including a nationwide famine.

  The West continued to trigger some drastic changes in the country under this backdrop.Tensions and hardships within the country were further exacerbated after North Korean leader and founder Kim Il Sung passed away in 1994.

  Kim Jong Il,the founder’s son and successor,gave increased priority to national defense and the country’s nuclear program after assuming the top position.But the nuclear program has also led to many nations ending their aid programs to the country.Particularly following the famine in the 1990s,many countries,including China and the United States,have sent food aid to North Korea to help feed its citizens.The United States stopped sending aid after North Korea conducted a long-range missile test in 2012.

  Since Kim Jong Un took office in 2012,North Korea has adopted a dual-approach strategy,focusing on both its nuclear program and economic development.At the seventh national congress,the WPK officially declared the “historic change” in its national strategy from prioritizing defense to giving priority to both its economy and defense.

  Building a stronger country

  The main target of the WPK’s seventh national congress,apart from creating a new leadership post and a national strategy,was to outline a new economic development plan.

  Kim Jong Il first put forward the notion of building a strong and prosperous country in 1998.At a meeting in 2007,the former top leader predicted that the goal would be achieved by 2012.Three years later,the ruling party adjusted the plan,vowing to make North Korea reach the level of a developed country by 2020.The government set up a new department—the General Bureau for National Economic Development—to implement this plan.

  At the recent congress,Kim Jong Un said that the country must spare no effort to implement the national development plan throughout 2016-20,which is the country’s first five-year economic plan since 1980.His speech could imply that the government will take regular and sustained measures to boost economic growth rather than simply promote it as a movement,which was typically the action taken after previous congressional meetings.

  The leader continued in his address to say that the country should work hard to solve its power shortage problem by developing hydroelectric,solar energy and other forms of renewable energy,but he did not specifically mention nuclear power.The leader called the country’s nuclear tests a “great success,” saying they “enhanced the country’s dignity and national power.” In March,the United Nations Security Council approved a resolution imposing strict sanctions against North Korea for its nuclear test and ballistic missile launch.China voted in favor of the sanctions.

  Many observers are wondering just how much the country will be influenced by the sanctions and consequently,how much the country will be forced to reform its economic system.However,this mentality could be deemed as idealistic,as the country has gotten used to decades of living under the economic conditions imposed by the international sanctions.It has adapted to focus more on its domestic economic development rather than relying on international trade.

  At the seventh congress meeting,the WPK issued detailed goals for its national development.It pledged to build the country stronger in five sectors,including politics,military,science and technology,economy and culture.

  By Shi Yongming

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