North Korea convenes series of party meetings to bolster internal solidarity


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North Korea held a plenary session of the ruling party’s central committee on Wednesday to discuss the country’s “new orientation,” following a smaller politburo meeting that stressed the country’s economic development and self-reliance.

More than 230 party officials gathered for Wednesday’s meeting “in order to discuss and decide the new orientation and ways of struggle in line with the need of the prevailing revolutionary situation,” the Korean Central News Agency said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over a meeting of the Political Bureau of the Workers’ Party’s Central Committee on Tuesday. (Korean Central News Agency-Yonhap)

On Tuesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presided over the Political Bureau of the Workers’ Party Central Committee and urged leading officials to boost “the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance and fortitude” to “follow through on the new strategic line of the party under the prevailing tense situation.”

The plenary session of the ruling party central committee involves major policy decision making. North Korea announced a “new strategic line” in April last year during the plenary session of the Workers’ Party Central Committee, which focused on economic development following the completion of its nuclear weapons development.

In a rare move, the single-party state held the two meetings on two consecutive days prior to the meeting of the country’s parliament, the Supreme People’s Assembly, scheduled to convene Thursday.

Kim’s remarks during the political bureau meeting, which outlines Pyongyang’s policy direction, appear to be aimed at strengthening internal solidarity amid external pressure.

“As its internal and external environments remain challenging with sanctions in place, Kim is pushing officials to generate economic results by themselves,” said Goh Yoo-hwan, a professor at Dongguk University in Seoul.

The series of meetings, which are usually held in April, come as President Moon Jae-in flew to Washington to meet with US President Donald Trump in an effort to break the deadlock in talks between the US and the North.

Kim’s inspections of economic-related project sites last week, including a modern-looking department store in Pyongyang and the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Area, could indicate his eagerness to revive the North’s stagnant economy on its own instead of waiting for the lifting of sanctions.

Cheong Seong-chang, vice president of research planning at the Sejong Institute, said Pyongyang is unlikely to announce a new strategy regarding its nuclear weapons program during the meetings.

“The North is unlikely to reveal a new direction in place of the Byungjin and economic concentration route, as Trump has been expressing his willingness to continue dialogue with Kim,” he said.

Byungjin, or parallel development, is a policy of advancing nuclear arms and the economy, which Kim Jong-un had declared in 2013. In April 2018, he declared a new strategic line focusing on the economy.

Goh of Dongguk University held a similar view. As the door for dialogue between the US and North Korea remains open, announcing nuclear policies in haste could be restrictive.

“It wouldn’t jump right to a conclusion. North Korea seems to acknowledge that the nuclear talks with the US cannot be resolved immediately,” he said.

By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)


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