Politics in North Korea
(1) Atmosphere among Leaders in an Emergency such as Kim Ilsung's death
¡Û Kim Il-sung once said that the Romanian autocrat Ceaucescu was executed because he failed to control the military. Kim appointed his son Kim Jong-Il as commander-in-chief in December 1991 in order to give him a tight grip on the military.
¡Û When Kim Il-sung died, the core group of people in North Korea were shaken. Yet they were not left with any time to feel or contemplate the crisis, because Kim Jong-il had ruled the country for some time by then and also, they were plagued by excessive demands to vow absolute loyalty to him, by means such as writing their thoughts on his "heroic" activity.
¡Û When Kim Il-sung was pushing to have summit talks between the top leaders of the South and the North in July 1994, he was in a state of excitement, saying that "If I go to Seoul, millions of people would welcome me and that will benefit our goal to achieve unification." North Korea's main objectives were to establish a federal system on the peninsula and to promote economic cooperation with the South.
(2) Strengths and Weaknesses of the North Korean System
¡Û With the extreme idolization of Kim Jong-il, people regard him almost as a divine figure, and the feudal values of allegiance and filialty are still firmly rooted among them.
¡Û High-ranking officials, who live in constant fear of purge and wiretapping, cannot muster the courage to form factions, but have to toady to the powerful for their own safety.
¡Û Same with the ordinary people. They cannot oppose the regime; they just shout 'Hail to Kim Jong-il,' though they live in dire poverty.
¡Û The foremost weakness of the North Korean system is that it is not a socialist system, but a modern version of the feudal system.
¡Û People are growing more and more indifferent to socialist values, and communist ethics have fallen to the ground. Also, corruption is widespread among officials and a growing number of people are turning to aberrant behavior.
(3) Apparatuses of the Party and the Political System
¡Û The Central Defense Committee exists only in name; it has no power over the military. Real power belongs to the Party's Military Council.
¡Û According to the organization chart, the Ministry of Public Service and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are under the jurisdiction of the State Administration Council. Yet in actuality, they are not controlled by the Prime Minister. Instead, Kim Jong-il commands the two Departments as well as the Ministry of People's Armed Forces and the National Security Department.
¡Û Looking at the command structure of the departments handling affairs with South Korea, Secretary Kim Yong-soon is in charge of the United Front Department only, while Kim Jong-il takes direct charge of the Department of Society and Culture and the Department of Foreign Intelligence.
(4) Priorities in Recent Policies
¡Û Since the first appearance in early 1996, Commune Editorial, which is organized by the party, the military and the youth league, has continued to emphasize strengthening the so-called three bases of society, that is, ideology, military and economy. This reflects that North Korea is faced with difficulties, both internal and external.
- It seems that Kim Jong-il's followers systematized what he once mentioned as 'three bases,' and as such, it cannot be regarded as a policy line.
- The North puts great emphasis on the three bases, as it is going through a difficult time. Though the economic base is in bad shape, the military and ideological bases are strong and firm.
¡Û "The Movement of the Three Revolutionary Squads" has been replaced with the "Movement of Collegians' Reality Experience."
- The Three Revolutionary Squads were abolished recently. Instead, all college students have to work in manufacturing plants located in provincial towns for three years after graduation.
- While the squad for the revolution aimed to support Kim Jong-il's policy drive, the Reality Experience Campaign is to relocate the population from Pyongyang to provincial towns and to step up civilian surveillance.
(5) Prospect for Power Structure Change
¡Û Considering that Kim Jong-il is quite whimsical, no one can predict what direction personnel change may take.
¡Û Yet it is anticipated that economic advisers will be replaced with younger ones, as will be vice premiers, who remain inactive due to illness and old age.
¡Û Many members of the Supreme People's Assembly will be replaced, as it has been a while since the last election. The most important criterion of selection will be loyalty to Kim Jong-il.
(6) Possibility of Kim Jong-il's Fall and Replacing Power
¡Û North Korea is on the verge of collapse, with its economy in paralysis and its people in starvation.
¡Û However, one would be wrong if one thinks that it would fall in a couple of years' time, because it has consolidated a totalitarian power base through a long period of isolation and seclusion.
¡Û Having lived for so many years under tight surveillance with their eyes and ears shut and brainwashed for individual idolization, the people of North Korea have unconditional allegiance to their autocratic leader. Therefore, there is no resistance force inside.
(7) Symptoms of Agitation in Core Groups
¡Û Hit with the shortage of food and economic woes, some party members acknowledge that they are in trouble..., but they keep worrying without any plan to get out of it.
¡Û Particularly, high-ranking party members, living in constant fear of wiretapping and political purge, only think about how to survive by showing unquestioned loyalty to Kim Jong-il.