The Meaning of the Delegates’ Meeting

North Korea announced over the weekend that there is to be a Chosun Workers’ Party delegates’ meeting early in September, the first such meeting for 44 years. This has led to predictions that Kim Jong Eun is on the verge of stepping out of the shadows and into the public eye.

The Chosun Central News Agency released the news on Saturday, June 26th, quoting a decision handed down by the Politburo whereby it “summons a delegates conference of the Chosun Workers’ Party at the beginning of September, 2010 to elect the leading apparatus of the Workers’ Party and reflect new demands for the revolutionary development of the Party, which is facing critical changes in bringing about the strong and prosperous socialist state and Juche revolutionary achievements.

At such delegates’ meetings, pressing issues of party line, policy, and strategy are supposed to be discussed and decisions taken covering the time between one Party Congress (officially the highest Party decision making body) and the next, nominally five years. Under article 30 of the Workers’ Party regulations, delegates’ meetings are also empowered to conduct elections to fill vacancies if/when members of the Central Committee of the Party or other key officials cannot or do not fulfill their duty. Procedures and agendas for such meetings are the sole preserve of the Central Committee of the Party.

This decision is therefore being interpreted in some quarters as representing the wholesale intent of the elite to trumpet the Party’s 65th anniversary by restoring its leading organs, which have been suffering from benign neglect of the first water since the 6th Party Congress in 1980.

However, the Politburo statement limits the reasons for the holding of the delegates’ meeting to “electing the Party’s highest organs”, suggesting instead that it is by no means a sign of reorganization in advance of a Party Congress, for example, but simply a move to prepare the minimum decision making structure for the succession of Kim Jong Eun.

Regardless of which, attention is centering on whether the younger Kim will make his official bow at the meeting. In the case of Kim Jong Il, the 6th Party Congress conferred upon him the titles member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Central Committee, secretary of the Secretariat of the Central Committee and member of the Military Committee, thus formalizing his role. In the case of Kim Jong Eun, he stands at the very least to become a member of the Central Committee of the Party, in addition to conceivably taking over as Guidance Department director, or in an extreme case even becoming General Secretary of the Workers’ Party.

If Kim Jong Eun’s seizure of Party authority were formalized at the meeting, it could easily be said that the succession will have been completed “according to official procedure,” i.e. without the need for a Party Congress. Especially given that a delegates’ meeting is only convened to place its rubber stamp on items submitted by the Central Committee of the Party, some suggest that both succession and Party leadership remodeling must already have been completed.

Either way, taking into account recent measures enhancing and reinforcing the authority of the National Defense Commission, official internal succession processes for Kim Jong Eun seem to be accelerating.

North Korea increased the status and role of the National Defense Commission via a revision of the constitution last year, and promoted Jang Sung Taek, the only member of the Kim ‘royal family’ among politicians of influence in North Korea, to Vice Chairman of the National Defense Commission during the 3rd meeting of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly earlier this month.

According to which, the assessment has it that the organizational foundations of Kim Jong Eun’s succession are all being or have been completed in advance of the official succession coming out party, and that the succession plan is based around the notion of Party succession→ Chosun People’s Army succession→ national leadership.

In addition to which, due to the recent poor health condition of Kim Jong Il there is the fact that the succession of Kim Jong Eun appears to be progressing in a speed battle manner, mimicking public works mobilization projects symbolized by the 150-Day Battle of 2009.

Won Se Hoon Director of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service told the Intelligence Committee of the National Assembly what his organization believes on the 24th, “North Korea is concentrating on establishing the succession system at an early stage due to Kim Jong Il’s health issues,” Won said. “The idolization process for Kim Jong Eun, such as idolizing poetry, songs for the ‘Captain’ and the hosting of a recitation competition are being conducted for the general public.”

Meanwhile, Open Radio for North Korea recently reported on the practical progress of the succession, saying, “Portraits of Kim Jong Eun have been in production at the Mansudae Art Studio since around February, and currently the office of Kim Jong Il is managing the production of 10 million copies.”

By the by, Open Radio also accurately predicted this weekend’s decision of the Politburo last October when it reported, “North Korea will hold a Party Congress or delegate’s meeting in around October of 2010 to formalize the succession of Kim Jong Eun.”