Workers' Party of Korea
|Eternal General Secretary||Kim Jong-il (deceased)|
|Founded||30 June 1949|
|Merger of||Workers' Party of North Korea and Workers' Party of South Korea|
|Headquarters||Kim Il-sung Square, Pyongyang, North Korea|
|Youth wing||Kimilsungist-Kimjongilist Youth League and Young Pioneer Corps|
|Armed wing||Korean People's Army|
|Membership (1988)||3 million|
|National affiliation||Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland|
|International affiliation||International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties|
|Anthem||"Long Live the Workers' Party of Korea"|
|Supreme People's Assembly||
607 / 687
|Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the WPK Central Committee|
|Workers' Party of Korea|
|Revised Romanization||Joseon Nodongdang|
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
The Workers' Party of Korea (WPK)[note 1] is the foundational political party of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), and the largest party represented in the known as the Supreme People's Assembly (although the country's elections are widely considered to be fraudulent and the SPA a rubber stamp body with no real political power). The WPK is the sole governing party of North Korea, although it nominally coexists de jure with two other legal parties making up the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland, which is regarded as merely a means to appear superficially democratic to citizens and foreigners. It was founded in 1949 with the merger of the Workers' Party of North Korea and the Workers' Party of South Korea.
The WPK is organized according to the Monolithic Ideological System and the Great Leader, a system and theory conceived by Kim Yong-ju and Kim Jong-il. The highest body of the WPK is formally the Congress; however, in practice a Congress occurs infrequently. Between 1980 and 2016, there were no congresses held. Although the WPK is, in theory, organizationally similar to other communist parties, in practice it is far less institutionalized and informal politics plays a larger role than usual. Institutions such as the Central Committee, the Executive Policy Bureau, the Central Military Commission (CMC), the Politburo and the Presidium have much less power than that formally bestowed on them by the party's charter, which is little more than a nominal document. Kim Jong-un is the current WPK leader, serving as First Secretary and CMC chairman.
The WPK is committed to Juche, and at the 4th Conference (held in 2012) the party charter was amended to state that Kimilsungism–Kimjongilism was "the only guiding idea of the party". At the 3rd Conference (held in 2010) the WPK removed a sentence from the preamble expressing the party's commitment "to building a communist society", replacing it with a new adherence to Songun, that is, "military-first", policies.[not verified in body] Party ideology has recently focused on perceived imperialist enemies of the party and state, and on legitimizing the Kim family's dominance of the political system.
- 1 History
- 2 Governance
- 3 Organization
- 3.1 Party leader
- 3.2 Congress and Conference
- 3.3 Central Committee bodies
- 3.4 Lower-level organization
- 4 Ideology
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Founding and early years (1945–1953)
On 13 October 1945 the North Korean Bureau of the Communist Party of Korea (NKB–CPK) was established, with Kim Yong-bom its first chairman. However, the NKB–CPK remained subordinate to the CPK Central Committee (headquartered in Seoul and headed by Pak Hon-yong). Two months later, at the 3rd Plenum of the NKB, Kim Yong-bom was replaced by Kim Il-sung (an event probably orchestrated by the Soviet Union). In spring 1946 the North Korean Bureau became the Communist Party of North Korea, with Kim Il-sung its elected chairman. On 22 July 1946 Soviet authorities in North Korea established the United Democratic National Front, a popular front led by the Communist Party of North Korea. The Communist Party of North Korea soon merged with the New People's Party of Korea, a party primarily composed of communists from China. On 28 July 1946 a special commission of the two parties ratified the merger, and it became official the following day. One month later (28–30 August 1946) the party held its founding congress, establishing the Workers' Party of North Korea (WPNK). The congress elected former leader of the New People's Party of Korea Kim Tu-bong as the first WPNK chairman, with Kim Il-sung its appointed deputy chairman. However, despite his formal downgrade in the party's hierarchy Kim Il-sung remained its leader.
Party control increased throughout the country after the congress. From 27–30 March 1948, the WPNK convened its 2nd Congress. While Kim Tu-bong was still the party's formal head, Kim Il-sung presented the main report to the congress. In it he claimed that North Korea was "a base of democracy", in contrast to South Korea (which was, he believed, dictatorial). On 28 April 1948 a special session of the Supreme People's Assembly approved the constitution (proposed and written by WPNK cadres), which led to the official establishment of an independent North Korea. It did not call for the establishment of an independent North Korea, but for a unified (communist) Korea; the capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) would be Seoul, not Pyongyang. Kim Il-sung was the appointed head of government of the new state, with Kim Tu-bong heading the legislative branch. A year later, on 30 June 1949, the Workers' Party of Korea was created with the merger of the WPNK and the Workers' Party of South Korea.
Kim Il-sung was not the most ardent supporter of a military reunification of Korea; that role was played by the South Korean communists, headed by Pak Hon-yong. After several meetings with Joseph Stalin (the leader of the Soviet Union), on 25 June 1950 the North Koreans invaded South Korea; this began the Korean War. With American intervention in the war the DPRK nearly collapsed, but it was saved by Chinese intervention in the conflict. The war had the effect of weakening Soviet influence over Kim Il-sung and the WPK. Around this time, the main fault lines in early WPK politics were created. Four factions formed: domestic (a group of WPK cadres who had remained in Korea during Japanese rule), Soviet Koreans (Koreans sent from the Soviet Union), Yanan (Koreans from China) and guerrillas (Kim Il-sung's personal faction). However, Kim would be unable to further strengthen his position until the end of the war.
Kim Il-sung's consolidation of power (1953–1980)
Relations worsened between the WPK and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) when Stalin's successor, Nikita Khrushchev, began pursuing a policy of de-Stalinization. During the Sino–Soviet conflict, an ideological conflict between the CPSU and the Communist Party of China (CPC), Kim Il-sung maneuvered between the two socialist superpowers; by doing so, he weakened their influence on the WPK. By 1962 Kim Il-sung and the WPK favored the CPC over the CPSU in the ideological struggle, and "for a few years North Korea almost unconditionally supported the Chinese position on all important issues." The primary conflict between the WPK and the CPSU during this period was that Kim Il-sung did not support the denunciation of Stalinism (including Stalin's cult of personality), the creation of a collective leadership and the theory of peaceful coexistence between the capitalist and socialist worlds. Kim Il-sung believed peaceful coexistence synonymous with capitulation, and knew that de-Stalinization in North Korea would effectively end his unlimited power over the WPK. The result of the souring of relations between the CPSU and the WPK was that the Soviet Union discontinued aid to North Korea. As a result, several industries were on the brink of disaster; China was unwilling to increase aid to North Korea. Mao Zedong began the Cultural Revolution shortly thereafter, an event criticized by the WPK as "left-wing opportunism" and a manifestation of the "Trotskyist theory of a permanent revolution." Relations towards the CPSU and the CPC stabilized during the 1960s, with the WPK making it clear it would remain neutral in the Sino–Soviet conflict, thus resulting in the 1966 launch of the Juche program aimed at national self-determination at all levels. This, in turn, strengthened Kim Il-Sung's position in the WPK.
Beginning in the 1960s, Kim Il-sung's cult of personality reached new heights. It had been no greater than Stalin's or Mao's until 1972, when his birthday on April 15 became the country's main public holiday and statues of him began to be built nationwide. Kim became known as "Great Leader", the "Sun of the Nation", "The Iron All-Victorious General" and "Marshal of the All-Mighty Republic" in WPK and state publications; official propaganda stated that "burning loyalty to the leader" was one of the main characteristics of any Korean.
Kim Il-sung and his guerilla faction had purged the WPK of its opposing factions during the 1950s and the 1960s, to the dismay of both the CPC and the CPSU. The domestic faction was the first to go (in 1953–55), followed by the Yan'an faction in 1957–58 and the Soviet Koreans (along with anyone else deemed unfaithful to the WPK leadership) in the 1957–62 purge. According to historian Andrei Lankov, "Kim Il-sung had become not only supreme, but also the omnipotent ruler of North Korea—no longer merely 'first amongst equals', as had been the case in the late 1940s." After purging his WPK opposition, Kim Il-sung consolidated his power base with nepotism and hereditary succession in the Kim family and the guerilla faction. Beginning in the late 1980s, "a high (and increasing) proportion of North Korean high officials have been sons of high officials." Since the 1960s, Kim Il-sung had appointed family members to positions of power. By the early 1990s, a number of leading national offices were held by people in his family: Kang Song-san (Premier of the Administrative Council and member of the WPK Secretariat), Pak Song-chol (Vice President), Hwang Jang-yop and Kim Chung-rin (members of the WPK Secretariat), Kim Yong-sun (Head of the WPK International Department and member of the WPK Secretariat), Kang Hui-won (Secretary of the WPK Pyongyang Municipal Committee and Deputy Premier of the Administrative Council), Kim Tal-hyon (Minister of Foreign Trade), Kim Chan-ju (Minister of Agriculture and Deputy Chairman of the Administrative Council) and Yang Hyong-sop (President of the Academy of Social Sciences and chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly). These individuals were appointed solely because of their ties to the Kim family, and presumably retain their positions as long as the Kim family controls the WPK and the country. The reason for Kim's support of nepotism (his own, and that of the guerrilla faction) can be explained by the fact that he did not want the party bureaucracy to threaten his—and his son's—rule, as it did in other socialist states.
It was first generally believed by foreign observers that Kim Il-sung was planning for his brother, Kim Yong-ju, to succeed him. Kim Yong-ju's authority gradually increased, until he became co-chairman of the North–South Coordination Committee. From late 1972 to the 6th WPK Congress, Kim Yong-ju became an increasingly remote figure in the regime. At the 6th Congress he lost his Politburo and Central Committee seats, and rumors that Kim Il-sung had begun grooming Kim Jong-il in 1966 were confirmed. From 1974 to the 6th Congress, Kim Jong-il (called the "Party centre" by North Korean media) was the second most powerful man in North Korea. His selection was criticized, with his father accused of creating a dynasty or turning North Korea into a feudal state.
Kim Jong-il's apprenticeship and rule (1980–2011)
With Kim Jong-il's official appointment as heir apparent at the 6th Congress, power became more centralized in the Kim family. WPK officials began to speak openly about his succession, and beginning in 1981 he began to participate in (and lead) tours. In 1982 he was made a Hero of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and wrote On the Juche Idea. While foreign observers believed that Kim Jong-il's appointment would increase participation by the younger generation, in On the Juche Idea he made it clear that his leadership would not mark the beginning of a new generation of leaders. The WPK could not address the crisis facing Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il's leadership at home and abroad, in part because of the gerontocracy at the highest level of the WPK and the state.
With the death of O Jin-u on 25 February 1995, Kim Jong-il became the sole remaining living member of the Presidium of the Politburo (the highest body of the WPK when the Politburo and the Central Committee are not in session). While no member list of the WPK Central Military Commission (CMC, the highest party organ on military affairs) was published from 1993 to 2010, there were clear signs of movement in the military hierarchy during 1995. For the WPK's 50th anniversary, Kim Jong-il initiated a reshuffling of the CMC (and the military leadership in general) to appease the old guard and younger officials. He did not reshuffle the WPK Central Committee or the government, however, and during the 1990s the changes to its membership were caused mostly by its members dying of natural causes. Beginning in 1995, Kim Jong-il favored the military over the WPK and the state. Problems began to mount as an economic crisis, coupled with a famine in which at least half a million people died, weakened his control of the country. Instead of recommending structural reforms Kim began to criticize the WPK's lack of control over the economy, lambasting its local and provincial branches for their inability to implement central-level instructions. At a speech celebrating the 50th anniversary of Kim Il-sung University, he said: "The reason why people are loyal to the instructions of the Central Committee is not because of party organizations and workers, but because of my authority." Kim Jong-il said that his father had told him to avoid economics, claiming that it was better left to experts. After this speech, the WPK's responsibility to control the economy was given to the Administrative Council (the central government). By late 1996 Kim Jong-il concluded that neither the WPK nor the central government could run the country, and began shifting control to the military.
On 8 July 1997, the three-year mourning period for Kim Il-sung ended. Later that year, on 8 October, Kim Jong-il was appointed to the newly established office of General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea. There was considerable discussion by foreign experts of why Kim Jong-il was appointed General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, instead of succeeding his father as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea. In a clear breach of the WPK charter, Kim Jong-il was appointed WPK General Secretary in a joint announcement by the 6th Central Committee and the CMC rather than elected by a plenum of the Central Committee. Although it was believed that Kim Jong-il would call a congress shortly after his appointment (to elect a new WPK leadership), he did not. The WPK would not be revitalized organizationally until the 3rd Conference in 2010. Until then, Kim Jong-il ruled as an autocrat; only in WPK institutions considered important were new members and leaders appointed to take the place of dying officials. The 10th Supreme People's Assembly convened on 5 September 1998, amended the North Korean constitution. The amended constitution made the National Defense Commission (NDC), previously responsible for supervising the military, the highest state organ. Although the new constitution gave the cabinet and the NDC more independence from WPK officials, it did not weaken the party. Kim Jong-il remained WPK General Secretary, controlling the Organization and Guidance Department (OGD) and other institutions. While the central WPK leadership composition was not renewed at a single stroke until 2010, the WPK retained its important role as a mass organization.
On 26 June 2010 the Politburo announced that it was summoning delegates for the 3rd Conference, with its official explanation the need to "reflect the demands of the revolutionary development of the Party, which is facing critical changes in bringing about the strong and prosperous state and chuche [Juche] development." The conference met on 28 September, revising the party charter and electing (and dismissing) members of the Central Committee, the Secretariat, the Politburo, the Presidium and other bodies. Kim Jong-un was confirmed as heir apparent; Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho and General Kim Kyong-hui (Kim Jong-il's sister) were appointed to leading positions in the Korean People's Army and the WPK to help him consolidate power. The following year, on 17 December 2011, Kim Jong-il died.
Kim Jong-un's rule (since 2011)
After Kim Jong-il's death, the North Korean elite consolidated Kim Jong-un's position; he was declared in charge of the country when the official report of his father's death was published on 19 December. On 26 December 2011, official newspaper Rodong Sinmun hailed him as supreme leader of the party and state. On 30 December a meeting of the Politburo officially appointed him Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army, after he was allegedly nominated for the position by Kim Jong-il in October 2011 (the anniversary of Kim Jong-il's becoming general secretary). Despite the fact that he was not a Politburo member, Kim Jong-un was named to the unofficial position of supreme leader of the Workers' Party of Korea.
After celebrations for Kim Jong-il's 70th birth anniversary, during which he was elevated to the rank of Taewonsu — usually translated as Grand Marshal or Generalissimo — on 18 February the Politburo announced the 4th Party Conference (scheduled for mid-April 2012, near the 100th birth anniversary of Kim Il-sung) "to glorify the sacred revolutionary life and feats of Kim Jong-il for all ages and accomplish the Juche cause, the Songun revolutionary cause, rallied close around Kim Jong-un".
At the 4th Party Conference on 11 April, Kim Jong-il was declared Eternal General Secretary and Kim Jong-un was elected to the newly created post of First Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea and the Politburo Presidium. The conference proclaimed Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism "the only guiding idea of the party".
In December 2013, the party experienced its first open inner struggle after decades with the purge of Jang Song-taek.
After staging a huge military parade in celebration of the party's 70th anniversary on 10 October 2015, the Politburo announced that its 7th Congress will be held on May 6, 2016 after a 36-year hiatus. The congress announced the first Five-Year Plan since the 1980s and gave Kim Jong-un the new title of Chairman, which replaces the previous office of First Secretary.
Unlike orthodox Marxism–Leninism, which considers material forces as the driving force of historical progress, North Korea considers humanity the driving force of history. "Popular masses are placed in the center of everything, and the leader is the center of the masses". Juche is an anthropocentric ideology in which "man is the master of everything and decides everything". Unlike man in orthodox communist thought, in which their decisions are inextricably linked to his or her relationship to the means of production (a concept known as relations of production), in Juche thought man is independent and self-determining. Like Marxist–Leninist thought, Juche believes that history is law-governed but only man drives progress: "the popular masses are the drivers of history". However, for the masses to succeed they need a Great Leader. Marxism–Leninism argues that the people will lead, on the basis of their relationship to production. In North Korea a Great Leader is considered essential, and this helped Kim Il-sung establish a one-man rule.
This theory makes the Great Leader an absolute, supreme leader. The working class thinks not for itself, but through the Great Leader; he is the mastermind of the working class and its only legitimate representative. Class struggle can only be realized through the Great Leader; difficult tasks in general (and revolutionary changes in particular) can only be introduced through—and by—him. Thus, in historical development the Great Leader is the leading force of the working class; he is a flawless, incorruptible human being who never makes mistakes, is always benevolent and rules for the benefit of the masses. For the Great Leader system to function, a unitary ideology must be in place; in North Korea, this is known as the Monolithic Ideological System.
The Kim dynasty began with Kim Il-sung, the first leader of the WPK and North Korea. The official ideology is that the North Korean system functions "well" because it was established by Kim Il-sung, whose successors follow his bloodline. Every child is educated in "the revolutionary history of the Great Leader" and "the revolutionary history of the Dear Leader" (Kim Jong-il). Kim Il-sung's first choice as successor was Kim Yong-ju, his brother, but he later decided to appoint his son Kim Jong-il instead; this decision was formalized at the 6th Congress. Kim Jong-il appointed his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, as his successor at the 3rd WPK Conference in 2010, and his son succeeded him in early 2011. Because of the familial succession and the appointment of family members to high office, the Kim family has been called a dynasty and a royal family. Suh Dae-sook, the author of Kim Il Sung: The North Korean Leader, notes that "What he [Kim Il-sung] has built in the North however, resembles more a political system to accommodate his personal rule than a communist or socialist state in Korea. It is not the political system he built that will survive him; it is his son [Kim Jong-il], whom he has designated heir, who will succeed his reign."
Monolithic Ideological System
Ten Principles for the Establishment of a Monolithic Ideological System are a set of ten principles and 65 clauses which establishes standards for governance and guides the behaviors of the people of North Korea. The Ten Principles have come to supersede the national constitution or edicts by the Workers' Party, and in practice serve as the supreme law of the country.
Songbun is the name given to the caste system established on 30 May 1957 by the WPK Politburo when it adopted the resolution, "On the Transformation of the Struggle with Counter-Revolutionary Elements into an All-People All-Party Movement" (also known as the May 30th Resolution). This led to a purge in North Korean society in which every individual was checked for his or her allegiance to the party and its leader. The purge began in earnest in 1959, when the WPK established a new supervisory body headed by Kim Il-sung's brother, Kim Yong-ju. The people of North Korea were divided into three "forces" (hostile, neutral or friendly), and the force in which a person was classified was hereditary. Hostile forces cannot live near Pyongyang (the country's capital) or other major cities, or near North Korea's border with other countries. Songbun affects access to educational and employment opportunities and, particularly, eligibility to join the WPK. However, its importance has diminished with the fall of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the collapse of the North Korean economy (and the Public Distribution System) during the 1990s.
|This section needs to be updated. (May 2016)|
The party has been led by four offices during its existence: Chairman of the Central Committee (1946–1966), General Secretary of the Central Committee (1966–1994, vacant until 1997), General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (1997–2012) and First Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (since 2012). The office of Chairman of the Central Committee was established at the 1st Congress (held in August 1946), and elected Kim Tu-bong (who was not a member of the Kim family) to the office. It was replaced at the October 1966 2nd Conference by the General Secretary of the Central Committee; through this office, Kim Il-sung became the formal head of the party's Secretariat. After Kim Il-sung's death in 1994, the post was vacant for three years. On 8 October 1997, Kim Jong-il was appointed to the new office of General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea in a joint announcement by the Central Committee (CC) and the Central Military Commission (CMC) of the Workers' Party of Korea: "[The CC and the CMC] pronounce comrade Kim Jong-il as general secretary of the party, based upon the wishes of the entire People's Army, people, and the members of the party." At the 3rd Conference, the party charter was amended to require the general secretary to concurrently chair the Central Military Commission. When Kim Jong-il died the WPK left the post of General Secretary vacant at the 4th Conference, making him "Eternal General Secretary". Kim Jong-un was elected to the office of First Secretary (later that of Chairman as of 2016) of the Workers' Party of Korea, which was established to "represent and lead the whole party as its head and ... materialize the ideas and lines of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il."
Congress and Conference
The party congress is the WPK's highest body. Although a congress was formerly mandated to be convened every five years, the September 2010 3rd Conference revised the party charter to state that the Central Committee could convene a congress as desired with six months' notice to the party.
The charter, commonly known as the Rules and Constitution, contains the party's by-laws. It was revised at the 3rd Conference (its first revision since the 6th Congress in 1980) to require the party's First Secretary to also hold the office of Chairman of the party's Central Military Commission. The WPK's ultimate goal was changed from "build[ing] a communist society" (although Marxism–Leninism was still mentioned) to "embody[ing] the revolutionary cause of Juche in the entire society". This was elaborated at the 4th Conference, where Kimilsungism–Kimjongilism became "the only guiding idea of the party". The article requiring a party congress every five years was amended, and two new chapters were added: "The Party and the People's Power" and "The Party Logo and Flag of Party".
Although the charter is the party's highest document de jure, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il breached party protocol during their rule by not convening party congresses or Central Committee plenums. The charter is, in fact, powerless since there is no oversight of central-level compliance.
The Central Committee is, according to the party's charter, elected by delegates to a party congress; in practice, however, this has not been the case. During Kim Il-sung's rule, he and the rest of the central leadership chose the Central Committee; delegates approved a preconceived list. Since no party congress has been held since then, the 6th Central Committee still remains in session. The 3rd Conference (held in September 2010) elected a new Central Committee; however, the power to give it a new term is held by the party congress. The Central Committee and its apparatus was weakened greatly under Kim Jong-il, with several vacant offices unfilled. Beginning in 2005 he took several steps to revitalize the party, appointing senior officials to new posts. Pak Nam Gi was appointed head of the Planning and Finance Department, and Jang Song-thaek was appointed head of the Administrative Department. Overseeing all security matters, Jang was indirectly restored to his duties and responsibilities as head of the Organization and Guidance Department. It is generally believed that the bid to strengthen the party has continued under Kim Jong-un.
The Central Committee is not a permanent body; it must convene, according to the party's charter, at least once every six months. However, no Central Committee plenum (meeting) was held between 1993 and 2010. From 1948 to 1961 an average of 2.4 meetings per year were held, about the same rate as the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Meetings held during this period frequently did not exceed one day. The Central Committee's power lay not in how often (or for how long) it met but in its apparatus; controlled by the Politburo rather than the Central Committee, the apparatus was the nominal government of North Korea under Kim Il-sung. The Central Committee consists of full members (who can vote at plenums) and candidate members (who can participate—but not vote—at meetings, unless they are taking the place of a full member unable to participate).
Central Committee bodies
The Politburo, formerly the Political Committee, was the highest body of the WPK when the Central Committee was not in session. The Politburo is the second-highest body when the Central Committee is not in session; the highest is the Presidium of the Politburo. The Politburo has full (voting) and candidate (non-voting) members, and acts as the party's executive and legislative branch when the Central Committee is not in session. Until the 3rd Conference, the Politburo was elected by the Central Committee immediately after a congress. Although the party charter specifies that the Politburo should meet at least once a month, there is little evidence that this actually happened. Politburo members may serve concurrently on party or state commissions, as members of the Secretariat, the Central Committee, the government or the Central Committee apparatus. Evidence suggests that the Politburo functions much like the CPSU Politburo under Stalin, with Politburo members acting as the party leader's personal staff rather than as policy-makers. This has not always been the case; before Kim Il-sung purged the party opposition, the Politburo was a decision-making body where policies could be discussed. Since Kim Il-sung's consolidation of power, the Politburo has turned into a rubber stamp body. Leading members have disappeared without explanation; the last was Kim Tong-gyu, in 1977. Politburo members under Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il lacked a strong power base, and depended on the party leader for their position. Because of this, the Politburo became a loyal servant of the party leader.
Similar to the Central Committee, the Politburo was dormant during much of Kim Jong-il's rule; however, the 3rd Conference elected new Politburo members. While many foreign observers believed it would signify a generational shift, it did not; the youngest member was 53 years old, and the average age was 74 (with 12 over age 80). The majority of new members were aides to Kim Jong-il or Kim family members. Kim Kyong-hui (Kim Jong-il's sister) and Jang Song-thaek (Kim Kyong-hui's husband) were appointed full and candidate member, respectively. Several of Jang's proteges were elected candidate members, including Chu Sang Song (Minister of People's Security), U Tong-chuk (First Deputy Director of the State Security Department) and Choe Ryong-hae (Secretary for Military Affairs). Pak Jong-su (First Deputy Head of the Organization and Guidance Department), a leading facilitator of Kim Jong-un's succession, was appointed a candidate member. Most of the new members were cabinet members, military officials, party secretaries or officials from the security establishment. Ten members from the National Defense Commission and three deputy premiers were appointed to the Politburo. Leading economic experts (such as Hong Sok-syong and Tae Jong-su) and foreign experts (such as Kang Sok-chu, Kim Yong-il and Kim Yang-kon) became members. At the 4th Conference, one-third of the Politburo was dismissed in unannounced retirements and dismissals. Jang Song-thaek, Pak To Chun and Vice Marshal Kim Jong-gak were promoted from candidate to full membership; Hyon Chol Hae, Kim Won Hong and Ri Myong Su, all members of the Central Military Commission, were appointed to full Politburo membership. Kwak Pom Gi, O Kuk Ryol, Ro Tu Chol, Ri Pyong Sam and Jo Yon Jun were elected candidate members.
The Presidium of the Politburo was established at the 6th Congress in 1980, and became the highest WPK body when the Politburo and the Central Committee were not in session. With the death of Oh Jin-u in 1995, Kim Jong-il remained the only member of the Presidium still alive; the four others (Kim Il-sung, Kim Il, Oh Jin U, and Lee Jong-ok) died in office. Between Oh Jin-u's death and the 3rd Conference, there were no reports indicating that Kim Jong-il or the central party leadership was planning to composition of the Presidium. Stephan Haggard, Luke Herman and Jaesung Ryu, writing for Asian Survey in 2014, contended that the Presidium "was clearly not a functioning institution!"
The 1990s (especially after Kim Il-sung's death) began a period in which any pretense of following the WPK Charter was dropped. The Presidium was revitalized at the 3rd Conference, with four new members appointed: Kim Yong-nam (Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, head of state), Choe Yong-rim (Premier, head of government), Vice Marshal Jo Myong-rok (Director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army) and Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho (Chief of the General Staff). The appointment of two military officers was considered by outside observers to be in line with Kim Jong-il's military-first politics. It was believed that Ri Yong-ho was Kim Jong-un's personal military escort at the time, similar to Oh Jin-u's role during Kim Jong-il's early rule. At the 4th Conference, Chasu Choe Ryong-hae was appointed to the Presidium.
Executive Policy Bureau
The Executive Policy Bureau was established at the 2nd Conference in October 1966, and was similar to its counterpart in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) during the Stalin era. The formal head of the Executive Policy Bureau is the Chairman and it was responsible for overseeing and implementing party policies and supervising party organs. Although the Executive Policy Bureau's degree of independence is unknown, it is probably subservient to the WPK leader (again, similar to the CPSU Secretariat under Stalin). Until 1966, the WPK had no body similar to the Secretariat; this was unusual, since a Secretariat was one of the most powerful bodies in other ruling communist parties. The Secretariat was established during a power struggle as a means of strengthening Kim Il-sung's control over the party's lower-level organizations; for this reason, a large majority of 1st Secretariat members were full or candidate members of the WPK Politburo. After the power struggle ended in 1967–1968, the Secretariat's status waned; this "has been reflected by the lower status of cadres appointed to the Secretariat in recent years", especially at the 6th Congress. At that congress, only three members (out of nine) served concurrently as full Politburo members: Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jung-rin (not a Kim family member).
The Executive Policy Bureau's prestige continued to decline during Kim Jong-il's rule, with five of its twelve members dying during the interregnum between the December 1993 21st Plenary Session of the 6th Central Committee and the 3rd Conference. Of the seven remaining members, three were retired at the 3rd Conference. The four incumbents were Kim Jong-il, Kim Ki-nam (Head of the Propaganda and Agitation Department), Choe Tae-pok (Head of the International Department) and Hong Sok-syong (Head of the Finance and Planning Department). Seven new members were appointed: Choe Ryong-hae as Secretary for Military Affairs, Mun Kyong-dok as Secretary for Pyongyang Affairs (through his office as Secretary of the WPK Pyongyang City Committee), Pak To-chun as Secretary of Defense Industry, Kim Yong-il as Secretary for International Affairs (assuming Choe Tak-pok's portfolio), Kim Yang-kon as Secretary for South Korean Affairs and Head of the United Front Department, Kim Pyong-hae as Secretary for Personnel and Thae Chong-su as Secretary of General Affairs (through his office as Head of the General Affairs Department). At the 4th Conference, there were no retirements; Kim Kyong-hui (sister of Kim Jong-il) and Kwak Pom-gi were appointed as members and Kim Jong-un, through his office as First Secretary, replaced the late Kim Jong-il.
Central Military Commission
The Central Military Commission was established in 1962. A 1982 amendment to the WPK charter is believed to have made the CMC equal to the Central Committee, enabling it (among other things) to elect the WPK leader. Despite this, some observers believe that at the 3rd Conference the CMC again became accountable to the Central Committee. According to Article 27 of the WPK Charter, the CMC is the highest party body in military affairs; it commands the Korean People's Army (KPA), developing and guiding its weaponry. In practice, however, the CMC is a ceremonial body subordinate to the National Defense Commission. The CMC Chairman is also the WPK First Secretary.
The last public listing of the CMC was at the 21st Plenary Session of the 6th Central Committee in December 1993. By the 3rd Conference, seven of its nineteen 1993 members remained; the other twelve had either died, retired or were purged. The CMC was revitalized at the 3rd Conference, with Kim Jong-un and Ri Yong-ho elected as deputy chairmen. Except for his Central Committee membership, this was Kim Jong-un's only title at this time; in many ways, the CMC enabled him to develop a patronage network. New members included Vice Marshal Kim Yong-chun (Minister of People's Armed Forces), General Kim Myong-ruk (Chief of the Operation Bureau of the General Staff), General Yi Pyong-chol (Commander of the Korean People's Air Force), Admiral Chong Myong-do (Commander of the Korean People's Navy), Lieutenant General Kim Yong-chol, Colonel General Choe Kyong-song (heads of the KPA's special forces) General Choe Pu-il and Colonel General Choe Sang-ryo (members of the General Staff). Civilians, such as Jang Song-thaek (head of the Administrative Department), also had seats on the commission. At the 4th Conference, Choe Ryong-hae was appointed CMC deputy chairman; Vice Marshal Hyon Chol-hae, General Ri Myong-su and Kim Rak-gyom were elected to the commission.
The Control Commission, formerly the Inspection Commission, is elected by the party congress; personnel changes may be made at a party conference or by the Central Committee. With the Organization and Guidance Department and the Cadre Affairs Department, the Control Commission is one of the leading central bodies of the WPK. It "is responsible for regulating membership" of the WPK and resolves disciplinary issues involving party members. Investigative subjects range from graft to anti-party and counter-revolutionary activities, generally encompassing all party rules violations. Lower-level party organizations (at the provincial or county level, for example) and individual members may appeal directly to the commission.
Central Auditing Commission
The 3rd Conference reestablished the Central Auditing Commission (CAC), with Kim Chang-su and Pak Myong-sun elected chairman and deputy chairman respectively and 13 other members elected. Although the 4th Conference elected Central Auditing Commission members to fill vacancies, these new members (and the CAC's general membership) were not disclosed to the public. At the 23rd Plenary Session of the 6th Central Committee in March 2013, the entire CAC was replaced; the identity of these new members was also withheld.
Although under Kim Jong-il's rule the Central Committee apparatus underwent several reorganizations, some departments (mainly those responsible for internal and organizational party affairs: the Organization and Guidance, Propaganda and Agitation and Cadre Affairs departments) were left largely untouched. In contrast, departments responsible for overseeing the economy or South Korean affairs (such as the Administrative Department, which was reestablished in 2006 after being part of the Organization and Guidance Department since the 1990s) were frequently revamped. Although the United Front Department had its ups and downs during Kim Jong-il's rule, in 2006–2007 it was the centre of a purge. The Economic Planning and Agricultural Policy departments were abolished in 2002–2003 to strengthen cabinet control of the economy. Further changes occurred in 2009 with the establishment of the Film and Light Industry Industrial Policy departments; Office 38 was merged into Office 39 (and later reestablished), the External Liaison Department was moved from WPK jurisdiction to the Cabinet, while Office 35 (also known as the External Investigations and Intelligence Department) and the Operations Department were moved from WPK jurisdiction to the KPA Reconnaissance Bureau. By the 3rd Conference, it was known by foreign observers that the Civil Defense Department had been abolished, and certain department heads (Chong Pyong-ho, Kim Kuk-tae and Ri Ha-il, for example) had retired.
- Apparatus-level organs (as of the 3rd Conference)
The WPK has local organizations for the three levels of local North Korean government: provinces and province-level municipalities; special city, ordinary cities and urban districts, and rural counties and villages. North Korea has nine provinces, each with a provincial party committee; their composition is decided by the WPK.
The WPK has two types of membership: regular and probationary. Membership is open to those 18 years of age and older, and is granted after the submission of an application (endorsed by two party members with at least two years in good standing) to a cell. The application is acted on by the cell's plenary session, and an affirmative decision is subject to ratification by a county-level party committee. After an application is approved a mandatory one-year probationary period may be waived under unspecified "special circumstances", allowing the candidate to become a full member. Recruitment is under the direction of the Organization and Guidance Department and its local branches.
The WPK claimed a membership of more than three million in 1988, a significant increase from the two million members announced in 1976; the increase may have resulted from the Three Revolutions Team Movement mobilization drive. Later information on party membership has not been forthcoming. The WPK has three constituencies: industrial workers, peasants and intellectuals (office workers). Since 1948 industrial workers have constituted the largest percentage of party members, followed by peasants and intellectuals. Beginning in the 1970s, when North Korea’s population reached the 50-percent-urban mark, the composition of the party's groups changed; more people working in state-owned enterprises were party members, and the number of members in agricultural cooperatives decreased.
The WPK maintains a leftist image and normally sends a delegation to the International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties, where it receives some support; its 2011 resolution, "Let us jointly commemorate the Birth Centenary of the Great Leader comrade President Kim Il Sung as a Grand Political Festival of the World’s Humankind", was signed by 30 of the 79 attending parties. However, others argue the WPK ideology is xenophobic nationalist or far-right.
Relationship to Marxism–Leninism
Juche developed in a similar fashion to Stalinism (formally known as "Marxism–Leninism" under Stalin's rule): a strong leader took power, presenting himself as the sole defender of ideological orthodoxy. Many North Korean leaders, before and after Stalin's death, viewed Stalinism as the only correct interpretation of Marxism. Although the term "Juche" was first used in Kim Il-sung's speech (published in 1955), "On Eliminating Dogmatism and Formalism and Establishing Juche in Ideological Work", Juche as a coherent ideology did not develop until the 1960s. Similar to Stalinism, it led to the development of an unofficial (later formalized) ideological system defending the central party leadership. Until about 1972 Juche was called a "creative application" of Marxism–Leninism and "the Marxism–Leninism of today", and Kim Il-sung was hailed as "the greatest Marxist–Leninist of our time". However, by 1976 Juche had become a separate ideology; Kim Jong-il called it "a unique ideology, the contents and structures which cannot simply be described as Marxist–Leninist."
At the 5th Congress, Juche was elevated to the same level as Marxism–Leninism. It gained in prominence during the 1970s, and at the 6th Congress in 1980 it was recognized as the WPK's only ideology. During the following decade, Juche transformed from practical to pure ideology. On the Juche Idea, the primary text on Juche, was published in Kim Jong-il's name in 1982. Juche is, according to this study, inexorably linked with Kim Il-sung and "represents the guiding idea of the Korean Revolution ... we are confronted with the honorable task of modeling the whole society on the Juche idea". Kim Jong-il says in the work that Juche is not a creative application of Marxism–Leninism, but "a new era in the development of human history". The WPK's break with basic Marxist–Leninist premises is spelled out clearly in the article, "Let Us March Under the Banner of Marxism–Leninism and the Juche Idea".
Despite Juche's conception as a creative application of Marxism and Leninism, there is little direct connection between Juche theory and the latter. Policies are explained without a Marxist or Leninist rationale, making the identification of specific influences from these ideologies difficult. It is easier to connect Juche with nationalism, but not a unique form of nationalism. Although the WPK claims to be socialist-patriotic, its socialist patriotism is similar to bourgeois nationalism; the chief difference is that socialist patriotism is nationalism in a socialist state. Juche developed as a reaction to foreign occupation, involvement and influence (primarily by the Chinese and Soviets) in North Korean affairs, and may be described "as a normal and healthy reaction of the Korean people to the deprivation they suffered under foreign domination." However, there is nothing uniquely Marxist or Leninist in this reaction; the primary reason for its description as "communist" is that it occurred in a self-proclaimed socialist state. The WPK (and the North Korean leadership in general) have not explained how their policies are Marxist, Leninist or communist; Juche is defined as "Korean", and the others as "foreign".
Juche's primary objective for North Korea is political, economic and military independence. Kim Il-sung, in his "Let Us Defend the Revolutionary Spirit of Independence, Self-Reliance, and Self-defense More Thoroughly in All Fields of State Activities" speech to the Supreme People's Assembly in 1967, summarized Juche:
The government of the republic will implement with all consistency the line of independence, self-sustenance, and self-defense to consolidate the political independence of the country (chaju), build up more solidly the foundations of an independent national economy capable of insuring the complete unification, independence, and prosperity of our nation (charip) and increasing the country's defense capabilities, so as to safeguard the security of the fatherland reliably by our own force (chawi), by splendidly embodying our Party's idea of Juche in all fields."
The principle of political independence known as chaju is one of Juche's central tenets. Juche stresses equality and mutual respect among nations, asserting that every state has the right of self-determination. In practice, the beliefs in self-determination and equal sovereignty have turned North Korea into a hermit kingdom. As interpreted by the WPK, yielding to foreign pressure or intervention would violate chaju and threaten the country's ability to defend its sovereignty. This may explain why Kim Jong-il believed that the Korean revolution would fail if North Korea became dependent on a foreign entity. In relations with fellow socialist countries China and the Soviet Union Kim Il-sung urged cooperation, mutual support and dependence, acknowledging that it was important for North Korea to learn from other countries. Despite this, he abhorred the idea that North Korea could (or should) depend on the two nations and did not want to dogmatically follow their example. Kim Il-sung said that the WPK needed to "resolutely repudiate the tendency to swallow things of others undigested or imitate them mechanically", attributing the success of North Korea on the WPK's independence in implementing policies. To ensure North Korean independence, official pronouncements stressed the need for the people to unite under the WPK and the Great Leader.
Economic independence (charip) is seen as the material basis of chaju. One of Kim Il-sung's greatest fears involved North Korean dependence on foreign aid; he believed it would threaten the country's ability to develop socialism, which only a state with a strong, independent economy could do. Charip emphasizes an independent national economy based on heavy industry; this sector, in theory, would then drive the rest of the economy. Kim Jong-il said:
Building an independent national economy means building an economy which is free from dependence on others and which stands on its own feet, an economy which serves one’s own people and develops on the strength of the resources of one’s own country and by the efforts of one’s people.
Kim Il-sung considered military independence (chawi) crucial. Acknowledging that North Korea might need military support in a war against imperialist enemies, he emphasized a domestic response and summed up the party's (and state's) attitude towards military confrontation: "We do not want war, nor are we afraid of it, nor do we beg peace from the imperialists."
According to Juche, because of his consciousness man has ultimate control over himself and the ability to change the world. This differs from classical Marxism, which believes that humans depend on their relationship to the means of production more than on themselves. The Juche view of a revolution led by a Great Leader, rather than a group of knowledgeable revolutionaries, is a break from Lenin's concept of a vanguard party.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels did not clarify the difference between state and law, focusing on class divisions within nations. They argued that nation and law (as it existed then) would be overthrown and replaced by proletarian rule. This was the mainstream view of Soviet theoreticians during the 1920s; however, with Stalin at the helm in 1929 it was under attack. He criticized Nikolai Bukharin's position that the proletariat was hostile to the inclinations of the state, arguing that since the state (the Soviet Union) was in transition from capitalism to socialism the relationship between the state and the proletariat was harmonious. By 1936, Stalin argued that the state would still exist if the Soviet Union reached the communist mode of production if the socialist world was encircled by capitalist forces. Kim Il-sung took this position to its logical conclusion, arguing that the state (and its oppressive functions) would exist after North Korea reached the communist mode of production until a future world revolution. As long as capitalism survived, even if the socialist world predominated, North Korea could still be threatened by the restoration of capitalism.
The revival of the term "state" in the Soviet Union under Stalin led to the revival of "nation" in North Korea under Kim Il-sung. Despite official assertions that the Soviet Union was based on "class" rather than "state", the latter was revived during the 1930s. In 1955 Kim Il-sung expressed a similar view in his speech, "On Eliminating Dogmatism and Formalism and Establishing Juche in Ideological Work":
What we are doing now is not a revolution in some foreign country but our Korean revolution. Therefore, every ideological action must benefit the Korean revolution. To fulfill the Korean revolution, one should be perfectly cognizant of the history of our national struggle, of Korea's geography, and our customs.
From then on, he and the WPK stressed the roles of "revolutionary tradition" and Korea's cultural tradition in its revolution. At party meetings, members and cadres learned about North Korea's national prestige and its coming rejuvenation. Traditional customs were revived, to showcase Korean-ness. By 1965, Kim Il-sung claimed that if communists continued opposing individuality and sovereignty, the movement would be threatened by dogmatism and revisionism. He criticized those communists who, he believed, subscribed to "national nihilism by praising all things foreign and vilifying all things national" and tried to impose foreign models on their own country. By the 1960s, Juche was a full-fledged ideology calling for a distinct path for North Korean socialist construction and non-interference in its affairs; however, a decade later it was defined as a system whose "fundamental principle was the realization of sovereignty".
Although WPK theoreticians were initially hostile towards the terms "nation" and "nationalism" because of the influence of the Stalinist definition of "state", by the 1970s their definition was changed from "a stable, historically formed community of people based on common language, territory, economic life, and culture" to include "shared bloodline". During the 1980s a common economic life was removed from the definition, with shared bloodline receiving increased emphasis. With a democratic transition in South Korea and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the WPK revised the meaning of nationalism. Previously defined in Stalinist terms as a bourgeois weapon to exploit the workers, nationalism changed from a reactionary to a progressive idea. Kim Il-sung differentiated "nationalism" from what he called "genuine nationalism"; while genuine nationalism was a progressive idea, nationalism remained reactionary:
True nationalism (genuine nationalism) is similar to patriotism. Only a genuine patriot can become a devoted and true internationalist. In this sense, when I say communist, at the same time, I mean nationalist and internationalist.
Allegations of xenophobia
During the 1960s the WPK began forcing ethnic Koreans to divorce their European spouses (who were primarily from the Eastern Bloc), with a high-ranking WPK official calling the marriages "a crime against the Korean race" and Eastern Bloc embassies in the country beginning to accuse the regime of fascism. In May 1963, a Soviet diplomat described Kim Il-sung's political circle as a "political Gestapo". Similar remarks were made by other Eastern Bloc officials in North Korea, with the East German ambassador calling the policy "Goebbelsian" (a reference to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's minister of propaganda). Although this was said during a nadir in relations between North Korea and the Eastern Bloc, it illustrated a perception of racism in Kim Il-sung's policies.
In his book, The Cleanest Race, Brian Reynolds Myers dismisses the idea that Juche is North Korea's leading ideology. He views its public exaltation as designed to deceive foreigners; it exists to be praised rather than followed. Myers writes that Juche is a sham ideology, developed to extol Kim Il-sung as a political thinker comparable to Mao Zedong. In The Cleanest Race, the author writes that North Korean military-first policy, racism and xenophobia (exemplified by race-based incidents such as the attempted lynching of Black Cuban diplomats and forced abortions for North Korean women pregnant with ethnic Chinese children) indicate a base in far-right politics (inherited from Imperial Japan during its colonial occupation of Korea) rather than the far left.
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