The Yomiuri Shimbun
North Korea cannot maintain regime with anachronistic idolatry of leader
The North Korean leader has made it clear that he will reign over the country with an anachronistic approach — setting himself up as an icon and maintaining his unifying power through fear of a purge.
The ruling Workers’ Party of Korea has ended its first congress in 36 years following the decision to bestow a newly created title on the first secretary, Kim Jong Un, of “party chairman.” The chairman thus unveiled his political intention to shift his power base from the military to the party.
The change in Kim’s title is aimed at not only showing North Koreans the start of a new era, but also making them realize that the leader will follow in the dictatorial footsteps of his grandfather Kim Il Sung, who served as the chairman of the party’s Central Committee.
For personnel affairs, the party gave important positions to Kim Jong Un’s close aides, including Hwang Pyong So, director of the General Political Bureau of the North Korean People’s Army, and Choe Ryong Hae, secretary of the party, both of whom were named to the Politburo, the country’s top leadership.
An aging Kim Yong Nam, head of the presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, was kept as a standing committee member. These personnel appointments indicated the party preferred to avoid a generation shift that could destabilize the regime.
In his speech on the achievements of the party during the congress, Kim Jong Un mentioned the so-called byongjin policy of pursuing the parallel goals of building up the economy and developing nuclear weapons, declaring that the party will “maintain this permanently and strengthen nuclear weapons programs.” This cannot be overlooked.
This policy was included in the party’s platform. The young leader also announced a policy for improving the investment environment. Does this, however, not contradict his pursuit of nuclear weapons development?
The international community has not recognized North Korea’s attempt to make possessing nuclear weapons a fait accompli. It is important for the rest of the world to strictly implement sanctions to urge Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear development.
Kim also described North Korea as a “responsible nuclear state,” emphasizing that his country “will sincerely work to realize the denuclearization of the world.” It is ridiculous for him to promise his country’s “efforts” even though it has repeatedly ignored international agreements and resolutions from the U.N. Security Council.
Kim urged the United States to convert the Korean War armistice into a peace accord. While militarily confronting South Korea, Kim also called for talks to be held between the militaries of the neighbors to improve relations. There is no way Washington or Seoul would take the proposals seriously.
The congress was also made to serve as an opportunity for Kim to promote his cult of personality.
TV coverage showed senior party members hailing the young leader’s achievements, in addition to a massive parade to celebrate him.
The party’s paper described Kim as “the great sun of the 21st century,” based on the figurative expression used to compare his grandfather to the sun.
The young Kim failed to present any concrete measures to improve the economy, which is a pressing issue for North Koreans. He announced a five-year strategy to boost the economy by 2020, yet only listed issues such as “solving electricity problems.”
Kim has established his power base by executing or purging many party executives, most notably his uncle Jang Sung Taek, vice chairman of the National Defense Commission. During the congress, the leader announced the party will maintain efforts to “fight corruption,” issuing an apparent warning that he will show no mercy to anyone who challenges his authority.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 11, 2016)