On September 26-27, the ninth session of the 14th convocation of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) was held at the Mansudae Palace of Congresses.
As part of anti-Pyongyang propaganda, every news item about this event in the Republic of Korea (ROK, South Korea) central media included the passage that “the Supreme People’s Assembly is the supreme organ of state power in accordance with the North’s constitution, but in reality it only stamps the decisions of the ruling Worker’s Party of Korea (WPK).”
The increased attention to the event by Western experts was due to speculation about whether the country’s Prime Minister Kim Dok Hun, who had previously been publicly criticized by Kim Jong-un, would be removed from office.
A different subject of interest was whether Kim Jong-un would be at the session to deliver any message related to the summit with the Russian president.
The official agenda for the session included the following:
- On introducing amendments and additions to a number of contents of the Socialist Constitution of the DPRK
- On the consideration and adoption of the DPRK Law on Ensuring the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- On the consideration and adoption of the DPRK Law on Irrigation
- On the consideration and adoption of the Law of the DPRK on Employees
- On summing up the implementation of laws in the field of finance of the DPRK
- On the renaming of the State Administration of the DPRK for Space Exploration into the State General Administration of the DPRK for Aerospace Engineering
- Organizational issues
Kim Jong-un, General Secretary of the WPK and Chairman of State Affairs of the DPRK, was present as an observer at the discussion of the first agenda item, but the Chairman of the Presidium of the GNC, Deputy Choi Ryong-hae, made a report on the occasion.
Choi emphasized that since the promulgation of the Law on State Policy on Nuclear Armed Forces, the development of the country’s nuclear missile capabilities and changes in the international arena “have clearly proved the fairness and viability of legislating a state policy on nuclear armed forces.”
The essence of the additions to Article 58 of Chapter 4 of the Constitution is as follows.“The DPRK, as a responsible nuclear state, is accelerating the development of nuclear weapons to guarantee the country’s rights to existence and development, to deter war and to protect peace and stability in the region and the world, and that the mission of the armed forces of the Republic is to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state, the rights and interests of the people, to defend the socialist order and the gains of the revolution, and to guarantee the peace and prosperity of the motherland by powerful military force.”
Then followed a rather lengthy speech by Kim Jong-un, in which the author was interested in two pieces devoted to the economy and the construction of the armed forces.
The DPRK leader noted that in the current year “a rapid leap has been made in the development and introduction of powerful nuclear weapons of our type and new strategic weapons systems, due to which the nuclear strategic armed forces of our Republic have demonstrated their reliability to the whole world and have thrown the hostile forces into insurmountable threat and fear,” and “the strategic force and the power of our state to deter nuclear war have been unusually strengthened, incomparable to the past years and are continuously being strengthened.”
According to Kim, fixing the policy of strengthening the nuclear armed forces in the constitution of the country is “the most just, timely and most important measure, consistently corresponding not only to the regular requirements of the present time, but also to the regularity and prospective requirements of building a socialist state.”And it is an absolutely natural step against the background of the international situation, when, “due to imperialist reactionary forces, frenzied in their passion for domination and the realization of expansionist fantasy, the structure of the ‘second cold war’ is being realized on a global scale and even the existence of sovereign states and the people’s right to exist are seriously threatened.”Here, Kim Jong-un pointed to the establishment of a “nuclear advisory group,” large-scale joint US-ROK military exercises to practice the use of nuclear weapons, and “the establishment of a trilateral military alliance with Japan and the ‘Republic of Korea,’ as a result of which the ‘Asian version of NATO,’ the source of war and aggression, is finally revealing its hideous appearance, this is not a rhetorical threat and imaginary reality, but a real maximum threat.”
In this context, Kim said a very important phrase for the author.“If our Republic, deceived by the hope of the nuclear umbrella of others, had sat idly by in the face of continuously intensified nuclear blackmail, the threat of the United States, and, nourishing illusions about the worthless “kindness” and attractive temptation that the imperialists persistently advertised, had not decided to implement the line on the possession of nuclear weapons, stopped or retreated from the difficult path on which the start was made, it would not have been able to avoid nuclear catastrophe and disasters long ago.”
Indeed, the experience of Iraq and especially Libya speaks well about how the surrender of such programs ends, and therefore, from the point of view of the DPRK leader, as long as the threat to the North from “imperialist violence” remains, “it is by no means necessary to change and give up the current status of a nuclear power, but, on the contrary, it is necessary to continue to further strengthen nuclear armed forces – this is a serious strategic conclusion of our party and government.”And in terms of specifics, “work on increasing the production of nuclear weapons exponentially, on implementing a variety of strike nuclear weapons and putting them on alert for various types of troops should be implemented with all our might.”
In addition, Kim Jong-un emphasized “the need to maintain and strengthen solidarity with the anti-imperialist independent countries that have rebelled against the hegemonic strategy of the United States and the West,” a definition that points not so much to China as to Russia.
The economic part of the speech clearly had to do with the results of the leadership on the ground described above.The DPRK leader pointed out that “the most urgent task for the government of our Republic is to bring a real change in the economic work of the country and to solve the issue of life of the population.”
In this context, “the Cabinet of Ministers and other state economic governing bodies, provincial, city and county people’s committees should fully take into account the economy of the country as a whole and the situation of economic work in the relevant areas, more thoroughly and dynamically establish the operation and management of the economy in accordance with the changing real conditions.” Thus, “we should more courageously raise the field of agriculture for the consistent implementation of our Party’s program for the realization of the revolution in the countryside,” “vigorously push forward the construction of 50,000 apartment buildings in Pyongyang, construction in the periphery and in the countryside, precisely implement the Party’s policy of raising and educating children, the policy of light industry, and continuously renew the appearance of the national territory and its ecological environment.” Culture, science, education and health care were not forgotten by Kim either.
But then he began to point out the problems more mildly than in the notorious castigation. First, “strengthening discipline and order in the country and establishing a perfect communist state atmosphere in the whole society” should be considered by the Government of the Republic as “combat tasks that cannot be neglected for a moment,” and here again one can remember what the angry Kim paid attention to after the dam bursting.
Second, Kim said from the podium that “recently, serious defects have been found in the government’s work on preventing damage from natural disasters in a concentrated manner.This shows that the work of the state’s governing bodies and leading officials still has deep-seated defects, including disorder, irresponsibility and indifference.”Control over the eradication of “all anti-socialist and non-socialist phenomena” was entrusted to the Government of the Republic, i.e. the Cabinet of Ministers.
The development of this thesis in practice became the agenda item “On summarizing the results of the implementation of laws in the field of finance of the DPRK.” Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the State Planning Committee Park Jong-geun reported, who “analyzed and summarized successes and experiences, biases and lessons in the implementation of the law in the field of finance from the point of view of the importance of the work on raising the state financial system on a scientific basis in accordance with the requirements of the developing reality. He also mentioned the urgent practical issues in the meaningful stimulation of the economic development of the state through further improvement of the unified system of financial economy of the state.” In the further debate, “the determination was expressed to realize the heavy duty to the Party, the state and the people, to work with a hundredfold increased zeal to ensure that all branches, all units consistently observe the requirements of the law in the field of finance in order to reliably guarantee the implementation of the decree of the 8th Congress of the Workers Party of Korea in financial terms.”
Kim concluded his speech with the usual motivational part addressed to the cadres, calling on them to “embody an exceptionally strong sense of patriotism, a sense of love for the people and to fight selflessly for the development of the state and the realization of the people’s interests,” and to “remember the trust placed in you and be examples.”
As for organizational matters, Kim Dok Hun was not removed, although some Cabinet members were changed. Ahn Kyung-geun was appointed Minister of Machinery Industry, Lee Sung-chul was appointed Minister of State Construction Control, Jeong Chul-soo was appointed Minister of Land Management and Environmental Protection, Kim Gwan-jin was appointed Minister of Procurement and Food, and Baek Min-gwan was appointed Chairman of the Central Bank.
Let us now draw some conclusions:
- North Korea is developing nuclear weapons “to guarantee the country’s rights to existence and development, deter war and protect peace, and stability in the region and the world,” and the country believes this is well in line with global trends in nuclear deterrence policy.
- The North has been consistent.In September 2022, the “Nuclear Force Policy Act” was passed, enshrining the state’s right to use nuclear weapons for defense purposes.The new law enshrined a policy to increase the pace and level of development of nuclear weapons in order to protect regional and global peace and security, as well as to deter war and guarantee the State’s right to existence and development.
- The arms race on the peninsula will continue, but the arming of the DPRK is perceived as a reactive measure in response to the actions of the South and Co. in view of their superiority in conventional weapons.At the same time, we will see an emphasis on diversification of nuclear strike means and their deployment in different types of troops and units of the Korean People’s Army (KPA).
- The renaming of North Korea’s State Aerospace Development Office to the State General Office of Aerospace Technology indicates the structure’s elevated status, expansion and reorganization.
- Pyongyang has adopted the term “Asian NATO,” a term previously used mainly in Russia, and the passage about strengthening solidarity with those rebelling against US hegemonism points to a likely increase in cooperation between Pyongyang and Moscow in the context of strengthening security cooperation between Seoul, Washington, and Tokyo.
- Kim Dok Hun has not been ousted, although some practical conclusions have clearly been drawn.Either the DPRK leader showed himself to be a sharp but forgiving person, or the Prime Minister was able to restore order in the structure entrusted to him, because the reshuffling of ministers only partially correlates with the story about the dam.
Konstantin Asmolov, Candidate of Historical Sciences, Leading research fellow of the Center for Korean Studies at the Institute of China and Modern Asia of the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.