[Photo] A new oath and Kim Jong Un’s leadership grooming

The author of this piece holds a PhD from Kyungnam University and is originally from North Korea.

The first two clauses in the new North Korean ‘oath’ in the Kim Jong Un era captured by a source inside North Korea. Image: Daily NK

Towards the end of the 1960s, North Korea established the so-called “Ten Principles for the Establishment of the Party’s One Ideology System.” There has been much debate and multiple interpretations of the One Ideology System.

North Korea’s One Ideology System and One Leadership System dominated the country from the early 1970s until the death of Kim Jong Il in 2011, and a plethora of related political slogans and expressions (Juche ideology, Kim Il Sungism, Juche Idealism of the Entire Society) were created during this time.

North Korean society was unified under a single political ideology, and it was a dark period when those harboring political dissent were considered failures and could vanish without a trace.

Kim Jong Il took advantage of his status as successor to Kim Il Sung to seize control of the Workers’ Party, manipulate the public consciousness, and remold individuals. One of the instruments to achieve this was the “oath” dedicated to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il on every holiday and anniversary.

All North Koreans must swear an oath of allegiance at the organization or workplace to which they belong on every holiday and anniversary. Mobilization work can be avoided from time to time without too much difficulty, but failure to attend an oath meeting puts one at risk of instant political ostracization.

The oath consists of 10 articles during which the oath takers acknowledge the greatness of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, and swear to arm themselves with their ideals, to fully realize these ideals in everyday life including organizational life, learning, production, and family life, and to forever dedicate their lives as if they were worth nothing but for the great achievements of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and the Workers’ Party of Korea.

The oath was created in the 1970s and has remain unchanged for over 40 years.

The oath’s revision is forming part of the leadership grooming project for Kim Jong Un

Recent news from North Korea reveals that the content and format of the oath, which had remained unchanged, has now been revised. According to the information obtained, the new version of the oath has reduced the number of articles from ten to five and shortened the time required to swear the oath.

Furthermore, there is little mention of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and only a brief description of their will and spirit, while a verse swearing loyalty to the ideology and leadership of Kim Jong Un was added.

After Kim Jong Un rose to power, his first project was to entirely replace the leadership of the Workers’ Party and military. The leadership of the Workers’ Party, including Jang Song Thaek, suddenly found itself being criticized by newly rising groups, or dismissed from office, and at times there were tragic ends.

Such full-scale replacements are complicated and unusual, and are viewed as being either an attempt to revive revolutionary spirit and eradicate bureaucratic indolence, or a Machiavellian plot to eliminate political rivals.

Subsequently, extensive resources were taken from the countries agricultural and industrial sectors for nuclear weapons development and missile launches, defense investments sharply increased, and spending was suppressed as mass labor was diverted to the development of nuclear weapons. North Korea was criticized by the international community for acts of warmongering, particularly its reckless nuclear tests and missile launches, and became diplomatically isolated by powerful economic sanctions.

More oppression rather than change in progress in North Korea

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un sent a message to the international community that he hoped the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang would provide an opportunity for peace and showed his intent toward denuclearization through the April 27 Panmunjeom talks and June 12 US-NK summit.

However, looking at Kim Jong Un’s recent gestures of peace and the domestic situation on the ground in North Korea, there are very few signs of a clear commitment to change.

The criticism of the market and control over economic decision-making began with Kim Jong Un’s overseas visit. The public was forced to tighten their belts and devote all efforts to construction operations. North Korea was effectively under quasi-martial law during his absence.

The introduction of the new oath and the increased oppression of residents are enough to raise questions as to whether Kim’s desires are indeed for the wealth and prosperity of the North Korean people. North Korea should be aware that it can only be recognized as a normal country when the regime’s promises lead not only to denuclearization and peace, but to the realization of happiness for its people.

The final three clauses in the new North Korean ‘oath’ in the Kim Jong Un era captured by a source inside North Korea. Image: Daily NK