North Korea’s Shadowy Congress Meets For The First Time In A Generation


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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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The last time the Korean Worker’s Party met, dictator Kim Jong-un was not even born. The young despot will meet with the country’s elite Friday in its seventh national congress in an attempt to shore-up his power.

Historically, the congressional meeting has been purely symbolic, but this time experts expect Kim to use the opportunity to strengthen his position as leader. In his keynote address, the 33-year-old is expected to announce his plans to continue the country’s fledgling nuclear program, improve the economy and, most importantly, install a younger, more loyal generation of leaders.

“The North’s survival over nearly 70 years in power is difficult for the outside world to grasp,” wrote Jonathan Pollack, a specialist in East Asian politics at the Brookings Institution, in a recent report. “The Kim family has relied on guile, manipulation, historical mythology, surveillance, and unimaginable repression to sustain a uniquely adversarial system that is both dynastic and totalitarian.”

Pollack believes that it is likely that North Korea will engage in its fifth nuclear test around the same time the congress convenes, fulfilling a promise he made in March.

Kim is expected to officially outline the implementation of his government’s policy, known as “byongjin,” during the convention. The policy aims to simultaneously progress the economy and North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, a difficult proposition considering North Korea has been increasingly isolated from the international community in recent months as a result of its January nuclear test and other aggressive actions. Pollack noted in his piece that few analysts believe Kim could realistically achieve both objectives.

“Kim’s more immediate and pressing agenda is to install in power a younger generation of leaders who are loyal to him and have the requisite skills to somehow advance North Korea’s parlous economic circumstances,” said Pollack.

The power struggles in North Korea politics since the start of Kim’s tenure in 2013 are hardly a secret. A purge of senior leadership last May, including the execution of a defense minister via anti-aircraft cannon, shows that the young Kim is willing to do whatever it takes to entrench himself.

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