15.02.2024 Author: Konstantin Asmolov

On the January session of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK. Part Three. Continued management innovation

On the January session of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK. Part Three. Continued management innovation

While preparing the material, the enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the WPK was held on January 23–24, 2024, where Kim Jong-un’s proposed strategy for the development of local industry began to take shape. The Politburo meeting lasted for two days, which is rather rare. The meeting structure suggests that there was significant conceptualization taking place. The composition of the observers suggests that it was a nationwide planning meeting. The meeting included “members of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee, members, and alternate members of the Political Bureau. Officials of the relevant departments of the WPK Central Committee, chief secretaries of provincial, city, and county Party committees and people’s committee chairpersons, heads of the organizational departments of the provincial Party committees, officials of provincial designing organs and the Cabinet related to the construction of regional industrial factories, and officials of the relevant ministries and national institutions, including the State Planning Commission and major commanding officers of the Korean People’s Army, were on hand as observers.”[1].

Kim Jong-un gave a speech that partly echoed his previous one at the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA). He used harsher language to describe the current situation, as evidenced by key quotes.

  • “Today, failure to satisfactorily provide the people in local areas with basic living necessities including condiments, foodstuff and consumption goods has arisen as a serious political issue that our Party and government can never sidestep.” The Party’s “regional development 20×10 policy,” which was clarified as a administrative policy at the recent session of the Supreme People’s Assembly on the basis of the acknowledgment of such realities, “is a great epochal line grounded in the guarantee for its planned execution.”
  • “Now that the overall regional economy is in a terrible situation without elementary conditions and there are severe imbalance and huge gaps between regions in terms of their geographical circumstances, economic potential and living circumstances. Specific plans and correct methods with a good chance of practice should be put forward before being accurately implemented according to scientific calculation, so that we can bring about a substantial change with which to raise the living standards of basic material and cultural life of regional people to a higher level throughout the country in a short period of time,” he said. 

After the general debate, “the Politburo of the Party Central Committee organized two-day meetings of sectoral sections to take economic and business measures to implement the ‘periphery development policy of 20 counties × 10 years’.” All “observers” as well as Political Bureau members voted in favor of the final draft decree “on vigorously pursuing the Party’s policy of developing local industry” at the suggestion of Kim Jong-un. This is an interesting point. A significant law that initiates a crucial campaign for reorganization “on the ground” has been formally adopted by not only the highest officials of the country but also by those responsible for its implementation.

This step is significant for the author as it confirms their notion that Kim Jong-un’s rule is moving away from the classic charismatic type of leadership, which relies on faith in the ruler and their unique qualities. The author draws a comparison to Max Weber’s [2] concept of the three types of legitimate authority. His style of governance is rational and based on laws and functioning state institutions.

However, it appears that the observers concluded that local forces alone would not be able to handle the situation, and the army is becoming involved, which serves not only as a military force but also as a universal personnel reserve in the DPRK. Pak Jong Chon, secretary of the Party Central Committee. read out Kim Jong-un’s order as the Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea, “On mobilizing units of the People’s Army for the struggle to implement the resolution of the 19th Enlarged Meeting of the Political Bureau of the 8th Central Committee of the WPK on bringing about a regional industrial revolution.”

Furthermore, although Kim generally strives to subordinate all economic activity to the cabinet, in the case of this “national project” in Russian terms, it is supervised by party structures from top to bottom. Each member of the Political Bureau is responsible for one city and one county. The Organizational and Instructional Department of the Central Committee will establish a management sector for local industry construction. The responsible secretaries of trade union committees, city committees, and district committees of the Party are the direct organizers and executors of the periphery development policy.

The author raises concerns about the Taean system of industrial management in the 1960s in DPRK. This system was based on mobilizing the enthusiasm and creative initiative of the masses. Kim Il Sung believed that economic leadership should not be entrusted solely to professionals who base their assessments solely on objective calculations. Due to their professional obligations, they cannot demand that people give their best or do the impossible. As a result, the factory was managed not by the director, but by the secretary of the party committee. Whether the DPRK will find the right line between self-financing and party leadership is a good question. There is a chance to learn from the mistakes of the previous round.

In his closing speech, Kim Jong-un confirmed that the Political Bureau meeting had initiated a new revolution aimed at ending the century-long backwardness of the periphery within the next 10 years and fulfilling the cherished wish of the local people.

Additionally, the leader of North Korea made several practical suggestions. When choosing a site for a factory, “it is necessary to consider at the beginning whether it would fully meet such conditions necessary for operation of the factory as the supply of electricity and industrial water, and whether it is favorable for transportation and whether it would cause inconvenience of inhabitants, in particular.” He emphasized the importance of timely provision of construction materials, responsible inspection, and control over the entire construction process. These may seem like trivial matters, but there is one crucial point. The leader’s words transform the job description from a mere piece of paper into invaluable guidelines that must be followed.

Kim Jong-un has taken on a serious task. Hopefully, fulfilling it will not turn into a campaign. Pyongyang’s nuclear program was once dismissed as a joke, but it is now a serious concern.


Konstantin Asmolov, a leading researcher at the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute of China and Modern Asia of the Russian Academy of Sciences, wrote this article for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

[1] Quotations are given by: Report on the 19th Enlarged Meeting of the Political Bureau of the 8th C.C., WPK, Pyongyang, January 25, 2024 (KCNA) URL
[2] Weber Max. Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. Zweite, vermehrte Auflage. Verlag von J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck). Tübingen, 1925. S. 122-170. [translated into Russian] // Personality. Culture. Society. Issue 1(40). 2008 URL (дата обращения: 29.04.2022).
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