Party Calls on Jang to Run Sports Commission

There was a meeting of the extended Chosun Workers’ Party Central Committee on Sunday, Chosun Central News Agency (KCNA) reported last night. According to KCNA, the formal purpose of the meeting was to create a new committee charged with developing North Korean sport.

Assuming that the North Korean state media reports every instance of a full Central Committee meeting being held, then this was the first such meeting since June, 2011, when the Committee was convened to adopt the decisions that resulted from Kim Jong Il’s official visit to China in May of that year.

According to KCNA, the meeting this weekend adopted “a decision of the Politburo ‘On Forming the State Physical Culture and Sports Guidance Commission.’”

The newly created State Physical Culture and Sports Guidance Commission is a 37-member agency chaired by Jang Sung Taek, the vice-chair of the National Defense Commission. Vice-prime minister and alleged reformist element Roh Du Cheol plus two top officials with long histories of working on North Korean sport, Choi Pu Il and Ri Yong Su, are to act as vice-chairs.

KCNA, citing the text of the decision, explained the Commission’s role as, “increasing social concern for physical culture and sports, putting it on a mass basis, making it part of daily life, putting sports science and technology on a world level and training sports persons on a long-term basis, improving the training of players and national teams training for international games, vitalizing domestic sport and ensuring the delivery of material supplies to sport.”

To do so, it went on, “The decision specified that the physical culture and sports guidance commissions be organized in provinces, cities, counties and armed forces institutions.

They shall manage the work of developing sports work of relevant areas and units under the guidance of the State Physical Culture and Sports Guidance Commission.

They shall have chairpersons and vice-chairpersons, and their members shall consist of leading officials of the relevant units of the sports field.”

The decision to form the Commission and place Jang Sung Taek at its head indicates that sport is to be a key feature of state propaganda going forward. Such a step fits well with the mood of the times; North Korea enjoyed a successful London Olympics (winning four gold and two bronze medals), while the Kim Jong Eun regime has been focusing on recreational elements in emphasizing Kim’s role as a ‘People’s Leader.’

However, given the status and role of the Party Central Committee, not to mention the rarity of its meetings, there is a good chance that attendees also discussed more sensitive affairs of state, with the formation of the State Physical Culture and Sports Guidance Commission being employed as a politically acceptable foil by which to report the meeting’s occurrence.