August 3, 2021

North Korean Labor Party sets up ‘number 2’ post

The revision of the statutes of the Labor Party of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), adopted in January during the 8e Congress but which had not been made public until now, indicates important amendments in the functioning of the regime as well as in its position vis-à-vis South Korea and Japan. These new statutes, extensively commented on by specialists in Seoul, have just been partially translated into English by the specialized site NK News.

The most important change is the creation of a post of first secretary of the central committee of the party who will make, de facto, whoever will occupy it the “number 2” of the regime. Until now, he had avoided creating such a function in order not to cast a shadow on the “supreme leader” and not to promote the play of internal rivalries in the upper echelons of power by bringing out a possible successor. . This new position formally sets up a figure who can take the reins in hand in the event of the incapacity of the “leader”. An institutional innovation that could give the regime a less personalized character.

Read also Kim Jong-un elected general secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party in North Korea

During the 8e Congress, Kim Jong-un was promoted to party secretary general. Until then, he had been designated as “first secretary” (his father Kim Jong-il having retained the title of secretary general). The new position was formally created at 8e congress (art. 26). At the moment, it is vacant. The person who will occupy it will become “A kind of deputy secretary general and may in case of incapacity of the secretary general assume his interim”, says Cheong Seong-chang of the Séjong Institute in Seoul.

Kim Jong-un’s state of health

In a comment posted by NK News, Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University, also in Seoul, sees in “The emergence of a de facto“ number 2 ”of the party, a sign that, for one reason or another, the ruling circle intends to set up a process of succession in the event of the death or incapacity of the“ leader ” “.

Kim Jong-un’s repeated absences have raised questions about his state of health. In April 2020, he had been absent during the anniversary ceremonies of the birth of his grandfather Kim Il-sung, founder of the nation, and he had not reappeared for several weeks. Then he was gone again during the month of May. He reappeared at the plenary meeting of the central committee on June 15, apparently having lost some of his plumpness.

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