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Score of humility

In the first full week of January 2021, the North Korean metropolis of Pyongyang was the scene of a highly unusual political Performance. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) had not only celebrated its 72nd birthday on 9 September last year, but now also demonstrated the vitality of its ruling party of the work of Korea (PdAK) all over the world.

Highly endowed International “North Korea experts” and endowed analysts of their own respectability of boasting think tanks had already given the people’s Republic an unceremonious end in the wake of the Erosion of real socialism in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union more than three decades ago. However, contrary to such prophecies, the DPRK proved to be a “living corpse” that already survived the era of thirteen US presidents in the White House with the departure of a high-level political mob. A late discovered supposed male friendship between leader Trump and Comrade Kim back or forth.

Right at the beginning of the PdAK’s 8th Congress, which began on January 5, leader Kim Jong-Un presented an unvarnished assessment of the economic situation in the country, which had deteriorated dramatically due to three factors – international sanctions, the Coronavirus pandemic and flood disasters. “Our five-year economic development plan has fallen far short of its goals in almost all areas, “Kim said in his opening speech, adding that the people’s Republic is facing” a series of worst, unprecedented crises.”

When the PdAK held its last Congress in 2016, it was the first such gathering in 36 years and Kim’s first major appearance as head of State. This Congress adopted an ambitious five-year plan to build a “great socialist country” by 2020 that would have both a nuclear arsenal and a growing economy. But in the meantime, in response to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, the United Nations Security Council imposed harsh economic sanctions that, according to estimates by the South Korean Central Bank, caused the country’s economy to contract by 3.5 percent in 2017 and by 4.1 percent the following year, with exports to the people’s Republic of China, North Korea’s main trading partner by far, falling by over 80 percent. After recovering slightly in 2019, the economy collapsed again last year, not least due to the pandemic. According to the Chinese government, North Korea’s imports from China shrank by 76 percent from January to October last year to the equivalent of $ 487 million, while exports fell by 74 percent to $ 45 million in the same period.

Kim Jong-Un’s unusually harsh self-criticism he had already expressed at the beginning of the year, when instead of a public New Year’s speech he addressed his compatriots in a letter in which he apologized for not having fulfilled the expectations placed in him. On January 5, during his party conference speech, he said that he was very sorry and visibly moved, he added: “My efforts and sincerity have not been enough to free our people from the difficulties in their lives.“Despite this self-criticism, Kim Jong-Un was assassinated on June 10. On January 20, the sixth session of the PdAK, he was appointed its “secretary general”, a position previously held by his late father Kim Jong-Il and his grandfather and state founder Kim Il-Sung, thus strengthening his own position of power.

Kim Yo-Jong, the sister of the head of State, whom South Korea’s Secret Service had dubbed her brother’s “de facto deputy” last August, remains a member of the Central Committee. However, she was not accepted into the Politburo, according to lists published by the North Korean state news agency KCNA. Her absence from the Politburo list comes to light after she climbed the leadership podium for the first time at the beginning of the Congress alongside 38 other party leaders. Analysts suspect that Ms. Kim may be entrusted with special tasks.

As far as the attitude towards Washington is concerned, the mutual image of the enemy remains intact until further notice. Propagandistically, Pyongyang refers to the US as the “greatest enemy”, although it has not conducted any major missile tests since the end of November 2017. However, this does not prevent Pyongyang from keeping such an Option open. While the new US leader Joe Biden calls Kim a “thug”, the top North Korean comrade called him a “rabid dog”. What corresponds to a comparatively mild exchange of blows, considering that the former US ruler George W. Bush Kim’s father scolded a “pygmy, “while North Korean Propaganda described the US in a hurried return carriage as a hoard” infested with moral leprosy and decadence.” Since July last year, North Korea’s silence towards the US has been more noticeable. Also, Pyongyang has so far refrained from commenting on Joe Biden’s election victory over Donald Trump. It is not yet clear whether Kim is keeping his options open for dealing with the new US government or whether he already has concrete plans in the drawer.

On January 10, the first plenary session of the 8th Central Committee of the PdAK was held, focusing on strengthening party discipline, KCNA reported on Monday. At the meeting, Secretary General Kim said that the newly regulated role of the party’s central audit committee is to further tighten party discipline and take decisive action against abuse of power, bureaucratic practices, irregularities, corruption, and arbitrary and arbitrary practices. Whereas the head of State had previously propagated the implementation of the “socialist system of responsible corporate management”, the core of his economic reform measures, which give the individual economic units more freedom in the management of their own resources, production and revenue, it remains to be seen whether they will not backtrack or rely on increased centralization. In any case, the North Korean state media has repeatedly sounded the Alarm over the past year that national resources are ineffectively managed and that individual economic entities do not comply with National Economic Laws and instead pursue their own business interests.

In the past, the North Korean party charter stipulated that a party congress should be held every five years. In 2010, this rule was removed from the charter, apparently in recognition of the fact that there had been no Congress for 30 years at that time. Under Kim Jong-Un, who seems to be using the formal structure of party conferences at the highest level, things have obviously fallen back into a more regular rhythm. The last Congress was not quite five years ago, and when the plans for the current 8th Congress were announced. The head of State had called for such congresses to be convened on a regular basis.

What remains as a great unknown is how exactly the political leadership of the DPRK positions itself vis-à-vis the government of Moon Jae-in in South Korea. It is true that Kim Jong-Un hinted at the possibility of renewed bilateral cooperation with Seoul during his speech at the military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the founding of the PdAK last October. But that will depend not least on whether or in what way the South Korean side succeeds in tackling the delicate and cumbersome subject of the so-called Combined Forces Command (CFC). The CFC, which has been in existence since November 1978, contains as its core the fact that a US four-star general residing in Seoul to date, in the event of war on the Korean Peninsula, functions in a personal Union both as commander-in-chief of the South Korean armed forces and of United Nations associations, the latter of which, in the absence of a peace treaty, are responsible for compliance with the armistice agreement that ended the three-year Korean War on 27 July 1953. A topic that is always worth to be appreciated separately on these pages.