News / Asia

Power Shift Detailed in North Korean Party Charter

In this Oct. 10, 2010 file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's son Kim Jong Un attends a massive military parade marking the 65th anniversary of the communist nation's ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang, North Korea
In this Oct. 10, 2010 file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's son Kim Jong Un attends a massive military parade marking the 65th anniversary of the communist nation's ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang, North Korea

Multimedia

Audio

North Korea has revised the charter of its only political party, apparently to ensure a smooth transition of power from father to son in the reclusive communist state.

VOA correspondent Steve Herman has obtained a copy of the document, which has not been made public in or outside North Korea.

North Korea experts say the revised Korea Workers Party charter (PDF), obtained by VOA, appears to create the framework for ruler Kim Jong Il to be succeeded by his son, Kim Jong Un.

North Korea Workers Party Charter

The charter revision is dated September 28th last year, which was when party representatives met in Pyongyang. The following day the state-run news agency announced the charter had been revised to strengthen the party’s leadership and enhance its role in the army.

But specifics were not revealed, nor has the new charter been publicly issued.

Specialists on North Korea, including some in the intelligence community, who have seen the copy of the revised charter, say they have no reason to doubt its authenticity.

Government officials and academic analysts in Seoul say one of the changes to the charter allows the head of the party to also run the Central Military Commission, ensuring that one person is able to control all military and state affairs. Kim Jong Un, who is in his
late 20’s, co-chairs the commission along with 68-year-old Army Chief of Staff, Vice Marshall Ri Yong Ho.

Cheong Seong-chang is a senior fellow at the Sejong Institute, which studies South Korean defense and foreign affairs policy. He says the change means Kim Jong Un will have full authority to control the military and the country should his father suddenly die.

Cheong recalls the late communist Chinese leader Mao Zedong saying political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. Likewise in North Korea’s socialist system, control of the military is decisive. With the revision of the party charter, Cheong says, in effect a political decision has been made giving Kim Jong Un rule over the military.

North Korea follows what it calls a “military first” policy, which gives the country’s armed forces a dominant role in society, and means that whoever controls the army, can control the nation.

Pyongyang maintains one of the largest standing armies in the world – with more than one million in uniform. It also is developing nuclear weapons, despite past pledges that it would not.

A former U.S. State Department adviser on North Korea, Professor Balbina Hwang at the National Defense University in Washington, says something else can be inferred from the charter revision.

"This is a government that has institutions and rules, even though it is ruled by an omnipotent authority. But in fact there is such a thing as domestic politics within the society. It is not monolithic. There are different interest groups. And even the patina or facade of rules and laws actually matter," said Balbina Hwang.

Kim Jong Il’s youngest son, a virtually unknown figure in North Korea until last year, suddenly emerged into the spotlight when he was appointed a four-star general. Since then state media have frequently shown Kim Jong Un at prominent events alongside his father.

Most North Koreans have yet to learn about the changes to the party’s charter. State media, monitored outside the country, have not reported specifics nor released the new charter.

North Korea experts say that is another sign that the elder Kim is proceeding cautiously because of skepticism, domestically and internationally, about transferring power to a third generation of the family. Kim Jong Il succeeded his father, Kim Il Sung, who was North
Korea’s first leader.

North Korea is one of the world’s poorest countries. It has remained technically at war with prosperous South Korea since a 1953 truce halted fighting in their civil war.

You May Like

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Nigerians Await New President With High Hopes

When pomp and circumstance of inauguration end in Abuja, Buhari will sit down to the hard task of governing Nigeria More

India's Restrictions on Several NGOs Raise Concerns

Political analysts link recent clampdown on advocacy groups to report last year that said foreign-funded NGO’s negatively impact economic development More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs