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Korean Workers' Party - Party Congress

In theory, according to Article 21 of the Rules and Regulations of the Korean Workers' Party as revised in October 1980, the national party congress is the supreme party organ. The party congress approves reports of the party organs, adopts basic party policies and tactics, and elects members to the KWP Central Committee and the Central Auditing Committee. The election, however, is perfunctory because the members of these bodies are actually chosen by [when he was alive, by Kim Il Sung] and his few trusted lieutenants.

Until the party rules were revised at the 3rd Conference of Party Representatives, the Central Committee was required to convoke a Party Congress once every five years, but this was rarely enforced. The 1st Party Congress was convened in 1946 and six more were held until 1980, but as of 2015, one had not been held since the Sixth Party Congress.

The 3rd Conference of Party Representatives was held on September 28, 2010, the first of its kind in 44 years. At this time, North Korea scrapped the clause regarding five-year intervals, thereby enabling the Central Committee to convoke a Party Congress at its own discretion, on the condition that it announce the date at least six months in advance.

Party congresses are attended by delegates elected by the members of provincial-level party assemblies at the ratio of one delegate for every 1,000 party members.

During the interval period, the Central Committee assumes the role of North Korea’s supreme governing body to supervise all party activities, and all of its members are required to convene at least once a year. When the plenum of the Central Committee is out of session, however, the supreme governing role is transferred to the Political Bureau and its Standing Committee. The Central Committee is comprised of members and alternate members elected at the Party Congress, and they participate in plenary sessions to discuss and make decisions on the internal and external issues of the WPK.

These plenary sessions also conduct elections for members of the Political Bureau and its Standing Committee, Secretaries of the Central Committee, and Central Inspection Committee, in addition to having the authority to organize the Secretariat and Central Military Commission. Nonetheless, such plenary sessions were also suspended from the 21st session of the 6th Central Committee in 1993 up until September 2010.

While the Party Congress and Central Committee plenum remained closed, the most powerful apparatus in the WPK’s decision-making structure were the Political Bureau and its Standing Committee. Accordingly, the 3rd Conference of Party Representatives on September 28, 2010 was held upon the decision of the Political Bureau.

1st Party Congress Aug. 28-30, 1946

The provisional committees of the Korean Communist party in the five northwest provinces and the ‘zealot assembly’ were convened on October 10, 1945 for the proclamation of the the North Korean Branch of the Communist Party. This body was renamed the ‘North Korean Communist Party’ in April 1946. In August 1946, the NKCP joined with the Shinmin Party, which mainly consisted of former anti-Japan activists in China, to form the ‘North Korean Workers’ Party’. Kim Il-sung was elected Vice Chairman of the North Korean Workers’ Party at the 1st Congress. Trained as a special ops agent by Soviet forces, he had returned to North Korea as a major in the Red Army following the end of WWII.

2nd Party Congress Mar. 27-30, 1948

The 2nd Party Congress (pre-North Korea Regime) Party Statutes did not clarify any ideology but merely set out the goals of establishing an independent state and enhancing the political/economical/cultural standards of living for the public in general.

In the 3rd meeting of the People’s Assembly (Nov. 18~19), a Provisional Constitutional Committee was organized. By December 20 1947, a draft of the constitution had been drawn up and was validated by a special Assembly meeting (April 28, 1948) as the ‘Constitution of the People’s Republic’. On August 25, elections were held to appoint the first 212 members of the SPA (Supreme People’s Assembly, resulting in a 99.97% voter turnout and 98.49% affirmative votes. North Korea also announced that 360 more members to the SPA had been elected at the conference of the ‘South Korean People’s Representatives’. The first meeting of the SPA of 572 members was held in Pyongyang (Sep. 2~10), during which the constitution was officially validated and the government of the ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’ was proclaimed, with Kim Il-sung as Chairman. (Sep. 9)

3rd Party Congress Apr. 23-28, 1956

At the 3rd Party Congress, Article 1 of the Party Statues was amended, specifying Marx-Leninism as the general ideological guideline for all Party activities. The operational objective of the party was to ‘accomplish the glorious task of implementing a nationwide democratic revolution against imperialism and feudalism’, to the ends of realizing the ‘final goal of building a communist society’.

Amid what was likely the most difficult juncture of his political life, Kim Il-sung succeeded in winning the June 1956 Party Central Committee election, upon which he further strengthened his authority by purging faction leaders (Kim Du-bong, Choi Chang-ik, Park Chang-ok, etc.).

4th Party Congress Sept. 11-18, 1961

The 4th Party Congress saw no substantial ideological changes. In 1961, North Korea implemented full-scale planned economy policies based on a socialist economic system. These include the three seven-year plans, during which an additional six-year plan was enacted. The 1st seven-year plan began in 1961 with the objective of improving the people’s livelihoods and building on the industrial foundations laid during the five-year plan of the late 1950s.

At the time, the North Korean economy had reached a basic level of industrialization through previous policies emphasizing heavy industries, such as the manufacture of machinery. However, it quickly became apparent that industrialization to meet domestic demand had its limits.

5th Party Congress Nov. 2-13, 1970

Those opposed to the adoration and idolization of Kim Il-sung, as well as other dissident left-wing opposition leaders, were purged. Some noteworthy cases include the 1967 elimination of the Gapsan faction leaders (Park Geum-chul and Rhee Hyo-soon) on charges of anti-Party factionist movements, and the 1969 elimination of military leaders (‘People’s Guardian Minister’ Kim Chang-bong and KPA Political Bureau Chief Huh Bong-hak) on charges of opposing Kim’s centralized authority.

In November 1970, the 5th Party Congress was held to establish juche as the WPK’s guiding philosophy. The Party Statutes were amended, replacing Marx-Leninism with Kim Il-sung’s ‘Juche (self-reliance)’as the Party’s guiding ideology. Following the 5th KWP (Korea Worker’s Party) assembly of November 1970, the North Korean leadership consisted solely of pro-Kim Il-sung members. Kim’s centralized power and his one-man rule had been completely solidified. North Korea’s ‘dynastic’ system was founded upon this background.

1980 - Sixth Party Congress

The long-delayed Sixth Party Congress, convened from October 10-14, 1980, was attended by 3,220 party delegates (3,062 full members and 158 alternate members) and 177 foreign delegates from 118 countries. Approximately 1,800 delegates attended the Fifth Party Congress in November 1970. The 1980 congress was convened by the KWP Central Committee to review, discuss, and endorse reports by the Central Committee, the Central Auditing Committee, and other central organs covering the activities of these bodies since the last congress.

The Sixth Party Congress reviewed and discussed the report on the work of the party in the ten years since the Fifth Party Congress. It also elected a new Central Committee. In his report to the congress, Kim Il Sung outlined a set of goals and policies for the 1980s. He proposed the establishment of a Democratic Confederal Republic of Kory as a reasonable way to achieve the independent and peaceful reunification of the country. Kim Il Sung also clarified a new ten-point policy for the unified state and stressed that North Korea and South Korea (the Republic of Korea, or ROK) should recognize and tolerate each other's ideas and social systems, that the unified central government should be represented by P'yongyang and Seoul on an equal footing, and that both sides should exercise regional autonomy with equal rights and duties. Specifically, the unified government should respect the social systems and the wishes of administrative organizations and of every party, every group, and every sector of people in the North and the South, and prevent one side from imposing its will on the other.

Kim Il Sung also emphasized the Three Revolutions, which were aimed at hastening the process of political and ideological transformation based on chuch'e ideology, improving the material and technical standards of the economy, and developing socialist national culture. According to Kim, these revolutions are the responsibility of the Three Revolution Team Movement -- "a new method of guiding the revolution, which combined political and ideological guidance with scientific and technical guidance. This approach enabled the upper bodies to help the lower levels and rouse masses of the working people to accelerate the Three Revolutions." The teams perform their guidance work by sending their members to factories, enterprises, and cooperative farms. Their members are party cadres, including those from the KWP Central Committee, reliable officials of the government, persons from economic and mass organizations, scientists and technicians, and young intellectuals. Kim Il Sung left no question that the Three Revolution Team Movement had succeeded the Ch'llima Movement (see Glossary) and would remain the principal vehicle through which the party pursued its political and economic objectives in the 1980s.

The linkage between party and economic work also was addressed by Kim Il Sung. In acknowledging the urgent task of economic construction, he stated that party work should be geared toward efficient economic construction and that success in party work should be measured by success in economic construction. Accordingly, party organizations were told to "push forward economic work actively, give prominence to economic officials, and help them well." Party officials were also advised to watch out for signs of independence on the part of technocrats.

In a 1991 plenary session of the KWP Sixth Party Congress, Kim Il Sung made his son the supreme commander of the KPA. A few months later, the elder Kim named the younger Kim marshal (wonsu) of the DPRK, effectively putting operational control of the military under his son. Kim Il Sung held the National Defense Commission chairmanship until April 1993, when he turned this position over to his son, who assumed full duties only upon the death of his father.

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Page last modified: 07-05-2016 12:15:36 ZULU