North Koreans Feel Small Measure of Hope

There is some hope among North Koreans that the succession of Kim Jong Eun will bring about substantive economic, foreign and domestic policy changes in North Korea, according to a North Korean foreign affairs source.

The source explained the need for the Delegates’ Conference to The Daily NK on the 22nd, saying, “A leading group is needed to put in place new policies, since the existing elite class is unable to do it,” and added, “This Delegates’ Conference will provide an opportunity for that.”

“We are also waiting with great anticipation,” the source went on. “The motherland living well is intimately connected with our fate.”

But, the source cautioned, “If economic problems are to be dealt with afresh, it is exceedingly obvious that leaders need to appear who can do that.”

The North Korean authorities are rumored to be planning to use this Delegates’ Conference to reveal policies to try and expand support for the succession within the citizenry and shore up the succession plan.

It is noteworthy that major past events, including the six Chosun Workers’ Party Congresses up until 1980 and two previous Party Delegates’ Conferences, have served as starting points for new foreign and domestic policies and economic plans, leading to suggestions that this Delegates’ Conference may also be a watershed moment for North Korea.

For example, in the first Delegates’ Conference in 1958, the Party accepted the “First Five-Year Economic Plan,” and in the second they voted to extend the period of the “First Seven-Year Economic Plan,” which began in 1961, by three years.

On this subject, Hwang Jang Yop, a leading defector and expert, recently agreed, “There is a chance that limited economic reforms will be put in place by this Delegates’ Conference,” and added, “They have the ability to unveil a policy which expands the scope of the private economic activities of North Korea’s traders.”

However, Hwang added, reaffirming Kim Jong Il’s priorities, “Only as long as he has confidence that even if he implements limited economic reforms he will still be able to maintain his dictatorial rule, is there a chance that he will take such measures.”

Kim Young Hwan, a member of the research committee of the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights, took a similar line, explaining, “As long as the most serious assignment of the successor, Kim Jong Eun, is stabilizing the people’s livelihoods and the political system, limited reforms may happen.”

For example, he went on, “There may be certain changes within the collective farming system.”