Korean Workers' Party - Party Congress
North Korea is a communist state under the one-man leadership of Kim Jong Un, chairman of the National Defense Commission - the nation's "highest administrative authority," supreme commander of the Korean People's Army (KPA), and general secretary of the Korean Workers' Party (KWP). The National Defense Commission (chaired by Kim Jong Un) is a more powerful body than the Standing Committee of the Central Committee of the Korean Workers Party. In orthodox Marxism-Leninism, the Party retains control of the military. Kim Jong Un runs the party with few formal meetings.
In principle, the Party is governed democratically according to the general will of its members. Therefore, the body where the general will is heard (the Party Congress) is the highest deliberative authority in North Korea. Because the functions of the Congress are delegated to a permanent body called the ‘Central Committee’, it is this Committee that actually heads the Party. The Central Committee is made of the Politburo, which is the highest executive body in North Korea and the Secretariat. Working-level departments for organization/guidance, propaganda/agitation, external affairs, etc. are supervised by the Secretariat.
The official supreme body for the WPK’s decision-making is the Party Congress. As defined by the WPK rules, it makes basic decisions on party lines, policies, strategies and tactics. In truth, however, the Party Congress plays only a perfunctory role of rubber-stamping the decisions made by the Central Committee or Political Bureau. 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, followed by a hiatus for 30 years. 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.
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.
The Conference of Party Representatives is a platform held between Party Congresses to discuss and decide important issues, including party lines, policies, strategies and tactics. At this time, members of central organs are summoned, and by-elections held to fill vacancies. At the 3rd Conference of Party Representatives in 2010, key issues such as the re-election of Kim Jong-il as Party General Secretary, the revision of WPK rules, and the election of central organ members were discussed. As a result, the hereditary transfer of power to Kim Jongun became official and leadership positions of the Central Committee, Political Bureau, Secretariat, and Central Military Commission underwent a reshuffle. Meanwhile, the WPK rules were revised to mandate rights to the Conference of Party Representations, regarding the election of members of supreme guiding organs and the authority to revise and supplement the party rules.
Korean Workers' Party - 8th Party Congress
South Korea’s intelligence agency has predicted North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could be promoted to grand marshal, the highest rank in the North Korean military, early in 2021. During a parliamentary audit on 04 November 2020, the National Intelligence Service(NIS) forecast a restructuring of the North Korean leadership during the Eighth Congress of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party set for January, including possible promotion of Kim, who was appointed marshal in 2012.
His father and predecessor Kim Jong-il was promoted posthumously as a grand marshal only in 2012, 20 years after he became a marshal, while his grandfather and the regime’s founder Kim Il-sung acquired the rank of grand marshal in 1992 nearly four decades after becoming a marshal. The NIS said Kim’s younger sister Yo-jong, who is now the party's First Deputy Director, will also likely be promoted during the upcoming congress, adding she is now handling not only foreign affairs and security issues but also other state affairs.
Assessing that the forthcoming party gathering could become a major inflection point for the North Korean power system, the South Korean spy agency also observed an ongoing generational shift in the North Korean military, including the replacement of 40 percent of the military's leaders.
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