It has been confirmed that over one month in February and March this year, the Chosun Workers’ Party replaced the membership of all male party members over 60 and women over 55 with ‘honorary membership’.
It reportedly took just a month for the plan to be implemented from the Central Party down through provincial, city and county levels.
Honorary members are not required to attend weekly, monthly and quarterly self-criticism sessions in their areas of residence. In addition, honorary membership grants the right to absent themselves from frequent official meetings including study sessions, Party lectures, meetings for the dissemination of Party orders etc.
Honorary members are also exempt from a 2% deduction from wages for Party membership dues. Hitherto, cadres were still required to pay their Party dues even when the enterprises to which they had been dispatched were not operating due to shortages of raw materials, and even in retirement (usually after turning 60) Party members were still required to pay dues to local Party organizations.
On the other hand, honorary membership does still mandate presence at important events including reporting meetings or events to commemorate the birthdays of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.
Many newly-honorary members are understood to have welcomed the new measure. One source from Pyongan Province told Daily NK, “When they heard it, elder Party members were calling it ‘another act of kindness from the great General’.”
However, some of the targeted cadres are less happy with having their wings clipped. A source from North Hamkyung Province said that some irritated elderly members of the Union of Democratic Women are leaving before being pushed, putting in minimum effort or simply not attending events at all.
Elsewhere, while senior Central Committee, Cabinet and other central government organ staff are holding onto their administrative duties for now, many apparently believe they know which way the wind is blowing.
Looking at the situation today, one high level official who defected to South Korea in May this year commented to Daily NK, “It is a message to all the veterans that they need to leave because this is the Kim Jong Eun era.”