Multiple sources say the North Korean military has commenced preliminary work for participation in the Eighth Party Congress, which is scheduled for January.

According to a military source in North Pyongan Province on Tuesday, a general assembly of party cells and elementary party branches has been underway since Saturday. Convened at the order of the Korean People’s Army Party Committee, the assembly has been reviewing tasks from the Seventh Party Congress and recommending candidates to send to the Eighth Party Congress.

A military source in Yanggang Province also told Daily NK that a general assembly of party cells to discuss the Eighth Party Congress has been underway since last Saturday and will convene until Thursday in accordance with “conditions” set by the political departments of individual military units. The assembly must make a final report of its decisions to the General Political Bureau’s Organization Department by Saturday.

Taken as a whole, these reports from sources inside the country suggest that the meeting focused on reviewing tasks the military received during the Seventh Party Congress.

Based on reports from the sources, the assembly looked at whether the military had “completed preparations for war based on the party’s strategic intentions while protecting the socialist Fatherland as its iron wall,” and whether it had “carefully armed itself with the Party’s military strategy” based on “modernizing” training and making it more scientific and battle-focused.

The assembly reportedly focused on whether the military had maintained its “full combat posture” against the “reckless war provocations of the hostile forces of the US imperialists and South Choson [South Korea],” and whether units had established “knife blade-like military discipline” by “realizing anti-Japanese guerilla unit-style management methods of unit command.”

meeting wartime territorial waters
Kim Jong Un speaking at the Third Expanded Meeting of the Central Military Commission in December 2019. / Image: Rodong Shinmun

That is to say, each unit is being carefully evaluated on not only whether it improved its fighting power, but also on its level of ideological commitment. Units that scored well reportedly received more slots to send participants to the Eighth Party Congress.

Based on the sources’ accounts, Pyongyang has ordered units to prioritize political officers and soldiers “who have accomplished great achievements in this year’s flood recovery efforts, closing the border and the 80-day campaign” in their recommendations for participation in the Congress.  

This means that besides the “ex officio” commanders that are core cadres of unit party committees (i.e., army political personnel and officials such as unit political committee members and heads of unit political departments), ordinary soldiers and officers may also be accredited to participate in the Congress based on recommendations. This is a way to encourage loyalty.

However, corruption has reportedly been rampant in the selection process. Thanks to rumors that participants in the Eighth Party Congress will not only have an opportunity to pose in a commemorative photo with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but also receive plenty of gifts, the buzz is that a lot of bribery is taking place to get in.

Moreover, after the holding of the Eighth Party Congress was announced, unit political departments and upper-level unit party committees set their eyes on party-affiliated soldiers and officers based on blood ties, friendships, student-teacher relationships, school ties, and other personal relationships. During the general assembly, they are reportedly maneuvering so that their selections seem like recommendations by their organizations. 

Meanwhile, units are organizing their party ranks ahead of the Eighth Party Congress as well. That is, orders are being handed out to “lift the punishments” of party members who have been censured for “insincerity in their Party lives,” including those who have received “warnings and severe warnings.”

Ideological education is also reportedly underway so that party members who were punished this year by party organizations for infractions such as desertion, going AWOL, lax military discipline and “anti-socialist” activities “reward with loyalty” the “faith and confidence of the ‘mother party organization’” by using the Eighth Party Congress as “an opportunity to receive forgiveness.”

*Party cells are the lowest rung party organization, composed of anywhere from five to 30 members. They review how members have carried out party duties and organizational life as laid out in party regulations. They must carry out weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly reviews of members as well as carry out regular general assemblies. Elementary party branches, meanwhile, consist of 31 members or more.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.
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Jeong Tae Joo is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He focuses on North Korean military matters. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.