Research Group on 'Korean Peninsula' FY2021－# 1
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The Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) revised its Party Rules at the 8th Party Congress in January 2021. It was announced at this Party Congress that the Rules had been revised to stipulate, for example, that future Party Congresses would be held every five years, but the details were not disclosed. The South Korean government later obtained the text of these amendments, and the South Korean media reported the details in early June. The author also obtained a copy of the revised Rules, which contained the following points: the proper nouns and achievements of President Kim Il Sung and General Secretary Kim Jong Il had been significantly reduced; "carry out the task of National Liberation Democratic Revolution" had been deleted from the Party's purpose; and the term "Party Central Committee" had been inserted numerous times. It also revealed that, among the major revisions made, were provisions establishing the responsibility of the Party's First Secretary to serve as the "agent" of the Party's General Secretary in the Party's Central Committee. North Korea is a nation led by the WPK, and its Rules in a sense carry more weight than the constitution that sets out the norms for the state. I would like to consider the meaning of these latest revisions and the future direction of the Kim Jong-un administration. Incidentally, this is the ninth time that the Workers' Party of Korea has revised the Party Rules, the last revisions having been made at the 7th Party Congress in May 2016.
Deletion of the proper nouns and achievements of President Kim Il Sung, General Secretary Kim Jong Il, and emergence of "independent" intention
In the previous revision of the Rules at the 7th Party Congress in May 2016, the "preface" ran about 100 lines of 40 characters each. About 30 of these lines praised the achievements of President Kim Il Sung and General Secretary Kim Jong Il. However, with the recent revision, most of them have been deleted and replaced by the simple expression "The Workers' Party of Korea is the core unit and vanguard of the working class and the workers, which will forever hold the great leaders in high esteem and remain firmly united in terms of organizational ideology around the leader." Except for terms such as "Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism", the proper nouns of the previous supreme leaders and their revolutionary achievements have been deleted. At the same time, the proper noun "Kim Jong-un" was also deleted and, as will be discussed later, the term "Party Central Committee" appears frequently.
The Kim Jong-un administration is a hereditary administration. For this reason, Kim Jong-un praised the achievements of President Kim Il Sung and General Secretary Kim Jong Il at the start of his administration and emphasized that he was their successor to solidify his power base.
Kim Jong-un's administration has entered its 10th year, and recently there has been a tendency to simplify memorial events and central report meetings for President Kim Il Sung and General Secretary Kim Jong Il. The fact that the names of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, as well as the praise for their achievements which had occupied so much space, were erased, can be interpreted as a sign of confidence that the Kim Jong-un administration can manage the nation without borrowing the "authority" of its predecessors, indicating the "independence" of the Kim Jong-un administration. In a manner of speaking, the WPK Rules were amended to the "Party Rules of the Kim Jong-un Era". However, it should be noted that this does not mean the administration will deny the achievements of its predecessors; these will continue to be used when their "authority" is needed.
This can thus be said to be an expression of the intent to move on from the Kim Jong-un era as the "successor" to President Kim Il Sung and General Secretary Kim Jong Il to build a new era by transcending the achievements of predecessors on the 10th anniversary of the administration's inauguration; the Party Rules were thus rewritten to become those of the Kim Jong-un era.
Deletion of "carry out the task of National Liberation Democratic Revolution"
The previous WPK Rules stated in the preface, "The immediate purpose of the Workers' Party of Korea is to build a strong socialist nation in the northern half of the Republic and to carry out the task of National Liberation Democratic Revolution on a nationwide scale. The ultimate goal of the Party is to make all societies Kimilsungist-Kimjongilist societies and to fully realize the independence of the people."
This part has been revised to read "The immediate goal of the Workers' Party of Korea is to build a wealthy and civilized socialist society in the northern half of the Republic and to realize the voluntary and democratic development of society nationwide. The ultimate goal is to realize a communist society in which the people's ideals are fully realized."
The text preceding the word "nationwide" indicates the Party's posture vis-à-vis South Korea (RoK), and the approach to South Korea was changed from "carry out the task of National Liberation Democratic Revolution" to "realize the voluntary and democratic development of society".
According to North Korea's "Encyclopedia of Korea, Simplified Edition" (2004), the "national liberation revolution" is described as "a revolution to get out of ethnic slavery and regain national autonomy" and "for victory, we must strengthen the main body of the revolution. and while making armed struggle the basic form of struggle, we must combine the all-people struggle here." In other words, the "National Liberation Democratic Revolution" in the previous WPK Rules meant liberating South Korea from the enslavement of US imperialism and establishing a "people's democratic government" in an all-people resistance based on armed struggle. This was the "immediate goal" of the Labor Party.
Some pundits claim that "to realize the voluntary and democratic development of society" in the new WPK Rules is merely a softer expression, with the term "voluntary" essentially having the same meaning as the national liberation policy. But it is a view that looks at the North Korean stance too fixedly and the deletion of the term "national liberation" likely deserves some appreciation.
At the very least, it seems the policy of "Red Integration by force" as seen in the Korean War in 1950 was abandoned.
In the "7.4 Joint Statement" of July 1972, North and South Korea agreed "not to hurt or despise each other, not to engage in armed provocation on any scale, and to take positive measures to prevent unexpected military conflicts." Despite this agreement, North Korea orchestrated the Rangoon terrorist bombing in October 1983 and the Korean Air terrorist blast in November 1987.
There is a view that North Korea has abandoned the policy of a Korean War-like Red Integration by force because North Korea advocated "the Democratic Federal Republic of Koryo" at the 6th Party Congress in 1980. But what must be noted is that the Party Rules revised at the 6th Party Congress stated that "national liberation and the revolutionary work of people's democracy must be completed on a nationwide scale and the ultimate goal is to make the Juche idea prevail in the whole society and create a communist society", even as North Korea advocated the "Democratic Federal Republic of Koryo"--so North Korea did not abandon the "national liberation" line at that time.
South Korean conservatives have insisted that, even if North Korea shows a conciliatory stance toward South Korea, the Red Integration policy toward South Korea would remain the same as long as the "national liberation" route remains in the Party Rules. It is meaningful that North Korea has deleted this expression on its own. Furthermore, the phrase "We must actively struggle to accelerate the reunification of our country" in Article 4-5 ("Obligations of Party Members") has been deleted, too.
Whether this is a policy change linked to abandoning terrorist acts and armed provocations such as the 2010 bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island will have to be monitored in the future.
Heading towards accepting "two Koreas"?
North Korea has virtually abandoned "one Korea" and accepted the "two Koreas" policy since it joined the United Nations at the same time as South Korea in 1991. On the other hand, the Party Rules retained the "national liberation" and Red Integration policies.
However, the third Supreme Leader, General Secretary Kim Jong-un, is of a generation born with "division" as a matter of course. He has no experience of the Korean War. Instead, as the economic disparity between the North and the South widens, it can be said that the Korean Peninsula faces a greater possibility of "absorption unification" by the economically superior South Korea rather than "Red Integration" by North Korea.
Under such circumstances, North Korea began to emphasize an "our-state-first principle" from the end of 2018, and Kim Jong-un himself advocated this "our-state-first principle" in his 2019 New Year's address. Since this idea puts the state of North Korea first, it entails the implication that the emphasis toward a "unified Korea" must necessarily recede.
This is a different idea from that of his father, General Secretary Kim Jong Il, who advocated a "Korean nation-first principle" that included a "national liberation" policy. North Korea itself would argue that the "our-state-first principle" is an extension of the "Korean nation-first principle," but the author thinks that there is a big difference in the intentions embodied in each principle.
North Korea's removal of the "national liberation" policy from the Party Rules seems to suggest that this may not be just a matter of the Party Rules rhetoric but rather a turning point in North Korea's acceptance of "two Koreas".
"Appropriation of the Party" by General Secretary Kim Jong-un
The phrase "Party Central Committee" began to appear frequently in the WPK's official newspaper Rodong Sinmun and other North Korean media from the middle of 2020. Rumors of Kim Jong-un's ill health were first heard around April of the same year, and there was a view in South Korea that this "Party Central Committee" might refer to his younger sister Kim Yo-jong.
Behind this assertion lies the fact that after Kim Jong Il had been effectively designated as successor at the 8th Meeting of the Party's 5th Central Committee in February 1974 and until the 6th Party Congress in 1980, the term "Party Central Committee" was used to refer to Kim Jong Il inside North Korea. Because of this background, it can be said that the phrase "Party Central Committee" carried the connotations of a successor in North Korea.
However, Rodong Sinmun published a front-page article titled "Shining Word of the Era: the Desperate Spirit of Defending the Party Central Committee" on June 18, 2020, explaining the term "Party Central Committee." The article points out that "the desperate spirit of defending the Party Central Committee is a term of its era, reflecting the spirit of our people who devote their lives to defending the personal safety and authority, thoughts and achievements of the Supreme Leader." It therefore clarified that the "Party Central Committee" meant the Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un.
North Korea held the 1st Short Course for Chief Secretaries of City and County Party Committees on March 3-6, 2021 and, at this course, Jo Yong-won, former secretary in charge of organizational affairs for the Party Central Committee, gave a lecture entitled "More Thoroughly Establishing the Unified Leadership System of the Party Central Committee" on March 6. This indicates that "Party Central Committee" here refers not to the Party Central Committee of the WPK, but to Kim Jong-un, General Secretary of the Party.
In the revised Party Rules, the term "Party Central Committee" appeared in 17 places and in two patterns. The first pattern is that of rewriting "Party" as "Party Central Committee." Of the 17 "Party Central Committee" mentions, 12 represent rewrites from "Party" to "Party Central Committee". This cannot be called anything but an "appropriation of the Party" by General Secretary Kim Jong-un.
The earlier version of Article 1 of the Party Rules defined the WPK's membership: "The members of the WPK are proactive revolutionaries who devote everything and struggle under the guidance of beloved comrade Kim Jong-un for the great achievement of Juche revolution and socialism pioneered and led by the great leader Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il." This article has been revised to "The members of the WPK are proactive revolutionaries who are thoroughly armed with the revolutionary thought of the Leader, faithful to the Party organization's disciplinary rules, and devote everything and struggle under the guidance of the Party Central Committee for the new victory of our-style socialism and the final triumph of Juche revolution."
Under the previous rules, members of the WPK were supposed to devote everything to the "feats" created by President Kim Il Sung and General Secretary Kim Jong Il. But under the revised rules, they have been described as revolutionaries who devote everything to the victory of "our-style socialism" and "Juche revolution" armed with the theory of revolution of the Leader (General Secretary Kim Jong-un), and under the guidance of the Party Central Committee (General Secretary Kim Jong-un). Rather than carrying on the legacy of earlier leaders, they are ordered to devote everything to the "feats" of the current Supreme Leader. Furthermore, the Rules make clear that "Party Central Committee" is becoming a word nearly synonymous with "Leader".
In addition, the term "the unified leadership of the Party" has been replaced with "the unified leadership of the Party Central Committee" in Article 7 on sanctions toward Party members who violate disciplinary rules, Article 35 on province, city, and county Party committees, Article 45 on base-tier Party organizations, and Article 49 on Party organizations in the Korean People's Army.
Moreover, this term "the unified leadership of the Party Central Committee" was added to Article 31 on the Party Central Auditing Commission that was strengthened: "(the Commission) supervises and investigates Party discipline violations that give alienation to the realization of the unified leadership of the Party Central Committee".
The second pattern is to change the proper noun "Comrade Kim Jong-un" to the expression "Party Central Committee". Five of the 17 cases were of this pattern. This is believed to be because an expression of loyalty to "Kim Jong-un" gives greater strength to a cult of personality, whereas an expression of loyalty to the "Party Central Committee" transforms it into an image of loyalty to the institutionalized Supreme Leader. This does play down the cult of personality (although a de facto cult of personality persists), and in a sense the wording represents a changeover to an institutionalized expression (this might also prove a risky expression if someone else replaces Kim Jong-un as Supreme Leader - not a practical possibility for the time being - but this revision from "Kim Jong-un" to "Party Central Committee" could be said to indicate confidence in his control of the government).
Article 4 of the previous Rules covers "the duties of Party members", stating that "the Party members praise the great President Kim Il Sung and comrade Kim Jong Il as the sun of the eternal Juche and must serve the leadership of beloved comrade Kim Jong-un with sympathy." However, the revised Rules state that "Party members must be endlessly loyal to the leadership of the Party Central Committee." References to President Kim Il Sung and General Secretary Kim Jong Il have been deleted, and "beloved comrade Kim Jong-un" has been replaced by "the Party Central Committee."
In the latest revision of the Rules, the proper nouns of President Kim Il Sung and General Secretary Kim Jong Il have been deleted, and the proper noun of Kim Jong-un has been deleted and replaced with the word "Party Central Committee." North Korea is aiming to be an "ordinary socialist nation" and, in that sense, it can be said that North Korea has accepted in terminology a style of Party Rules for a normal socialist nation while strengthening the personal dictatorship of Kim Jong-un.
In this revision of the Rules, the leadership of the WPK as an organization has been replaced by the leadership of the Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un, and the authority and power of Kim Jong-un has been strengthened. It can be said that the unified leadership system (individual dictatorship) has been further strengthened.
In addition, Article 24 of the previous Rules stated that "The Chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea is the supreme leader of the Party. The Chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea represents and leads the whole Party." In the revised version, this description was rewritten as "the General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea is top of the Party. The General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea represents the Party and organizes and leads the whole Party. " The phrase "organizes...the whole Party" was inserted, further strengthening the authority of the Party's General Secretary. At the same time, the clause "the Chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea will be the Chairman of the Party's Central Military Commission" was deleted, but the clause "the General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea will be the Chairman of the Party's Central Military Commission" was newly added to Article 30 of the revised Rules. In other words, there was no change in the fact that the Party's General Secretary also serves as Chairman of the Party's Central Military Commission.
Establishment of the post of "First Secretary of the Party"
Article 26, which covers the Party Central Committee's plenary meetings (general meetings), has been modified to state that "the Party Central Committee plenary meeting will discuss and decide on important issues raised by the Party at the appropriate time, and elect the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the Party Central Committee, the Political Bureau of the Party Central Committee, and the First Secretary and Secretaries of the Party Central Committee, and organize the Secretariat of the Party Central Committee, the Party Central Military Commission, and the Party Central Auditing Commission." The post of "First Secretary of the Party", which had not existed before, was newly established.
A new clause was also added to this same article: "The Party Central Committee plenary meeting (general meeting) will set up departments (including non-permanent mechanisms) in the Party Central Committee and, if necessary, will amend and enforce the Party Rules, and submit them to the Party Congress to be approved. The First Secretary of the Party's Central Committee is the agent of the General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea."
The biggest point of interest here is that the newly established "First Secretary of the Party" was designated the Party General Secretary's agent in the Party Rules.
In North Korea, the State Affairs Commission as a national institution has a post called the 1st Vice-President, and Choe Ryong-hae, a member of the Presidium of the Party Central Committee's Political Bureau, holds that position. The Central Military Commission of the Party, which guides the military, has a Vice-Chairman post currently occupied by Ri Pyong-Chol, a member of the Presidium of the Party Central Committee's Political Bureau (it was reported that Ri Pyong-Chol had been punished at the second expanded meeting of the Political Bureau of the 8th WPK Central Committee held on June 29 after the revision of the Rules, so it is unclear whether Ri is still in the post of Vice-Chairman of the Party's Central Military Commission). In that sense, it is possible for the Party to set up a new post to assist the Party General Secretary. However, if the Party Rules expressly specify "agent", the Party's First Secretary would have the responsibilities of a "No. 2", which could even imply "successor".
However, the concept of "agent" here is unclear and ambiguous. It is not clear whether the "agent" is given the same power as the Supreme Leader, or whether the "agent" acts with administrative authority only when the Supreme Leader travels abroad, falls ill or is otherwise unavailable.
The most prominent feature of the past ten years during which General Secretary Kim Jong-un has been in control has been the strengthening of the one-person dictatorship system by Kim Jong-un in what is said to be the "establishment of a unified leadership system". On this point, the revised Party Rules clearly state, "The Workers' Party of Korea pushes the establishment of the unified leadership system as its core work, unifies the whole Party with Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism, strengthens the unity of the Party toward the leader thoroughly, and establishes a strict revolutionary system and order that will move as one according to organizational discipline under the leadership of the Party Central Committee."
In July 2012, the year after he took power, Kim Jong-un purged the highest-ranking military professional - Ri Yong-ho, Chief of the General Staff Department of the Korean People's Army (KPA) - and in November 2013, his uncle Jang Song-thaek, who had been an influential person in the Party as Chief of the Administrative Department. Furthermore, former Director of the KPA's General Political Bureau Hwang Pyong-soo, once regarded as number two, also disappeared from the center of power.
In addition, Choe Ryong-hae, who had competed with Hwang Pyong-soo for the number two spot, resigned as Director of the WPK's Organization and Guidance Department, which was at the center of power, and assumed the position of Chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) Standing Committee. It seems that Choe Ryong-hae's position is becoming similar to that of Kim Yong-nam, who was also Chairman of the SPA Standing Committee and the nominal head of state. At present, Choe Ryong-hae is formally number two but, in terms of real power, former Party Secretary Jo Yong-won seems to have the upper hand.
As mentioned earlier, the major features of this revision of the Party Rules are the strengthening of the authority of General Secretary Kim Jong-un and his appropriation of the Party. However, appointing a "First Secretary of the Party" that can serve as "number two" could lead to the dualization of power, which goes against the trend of strengthening the "unified leadership system" that Kim Jong-un has been promoting for the past ten years.
South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported on June 1 that there is a possibility that Jo Yong-won, a member of the Presidium of the Party Central Committee's Political Bureau, has been appointed as the newly established First Secretary of the Party.
According to Party Rules, only members of the Presidium of the Party Central Committee's Political Bureau can preside over meetings with delegation by General Secretary Kim Jong-un; these members are Chairman of the SPA Standing Committee Choe Ryong-hae, Party Secretary Jo Yong-won, Vice Chairman of the Party's Central Military Commission Ri Pyong-Chol and Prime Minister Kim Tok-hun. The Yonhap News reported that Jo Yong-won, who is Kim Jong-un's closest aide, was likely to be named First Secretary of the Party based on the fact that Jo Yong-won had guided the second day's sitting of the 6th Conference of Cell Secretaries of the Workers' Party of Korea held in April.
There is no doubt that Jo Yong-won enjoys the deep confidence of General Secretary Kim Jong-un and serves as his closest aide, and there are signs that he has been performing some duties on behalf of Kim Jong-un. If Jo Yong-won is appointed the Party's First Secretary, it will prove that he has received the extraordinary trust of Kim Jong-un.
However, it is possible that this is not the case. The author thinks that the post of "First Secretary of the Party" is likely to be vacant at the moment.
Possibility of intentional "vacant seat"
Kim Jong-un's style of authority so far has been to avoid creating a "No. 2". However, the revised Party Rules stipulate that the Party's First Secretary is to be "the agent of the Party's General Secretary."
First Secretary of the Party is also the post that Kim Jong-un himself held from 2012 to 2016, until he became the Party Chairman at the 7th Party Congress. On April 11, 2012, the 4th Conference of the WPK nominated Kim Jong Il as "Eternal General Secretary" and Kim Jong-un as "First Secretary of the Party".
Given that the Party's First Secretary is a post that effectively constitutes a "number two", will Kim Jong-un, who has been trying to strengthen the one-person dictatorship system, be in any hurry to create a "number two"?
Moreover, if he appoints a First Secretary of the Party as his own agent, that person may emerge as a leading candidate for "successor." Is it really necessary yet for Kim Jong-un in his thirties to appoint such a person now?
Party Secretary Jo Yong-won is the aide closest to Kim Jong-un and can be said to be effectively in the number two position. Jo Yong-won already has tremendous power, serving concurrently as a member of the Presidium of the Party Central Committee's Political Bureau, a secretary in charge of Party organization who manages personnel affairs and a member of the Party Central Military Commission. If he becomes the agent of Kim Jong-un as First Secretary of the Party in addition to these, wouldn't his power become too strong? It will be a question of how much Kim Jong-un trusts Jo Yong-won.
Preparation as "risk management"
It is quite possible that only the post was set up in advance as "risk management" in preparation against a future situation like deterioration of Kim Jong-un's health.
In North Korea, a campaign has been launched asserting that the "bloodline (pedigree) of Mt. Paektu" is required to become a leader of the nation. However, Jo Yong-won is not of the "bloodline of Mt. Paektu", i.e., connected by blood to President Kim Il Sung. If Jo Yong-won is made the First Secretary of the Party, isn't there a probability that a person who does not inherit the "bloodline of Mt. Paektu" will become the supreme leader? Will North Korea's existing ideology allow this?
Another possibility is that Kim Jong-un is thinking of placing his younger sister Kim Yo-jong in this post in the future. For Kim Jong-un, his sister Kim Yo-jong is most definitely an "agent." The author has pointed to Kim Yo-jong as Kim Jong-un's "avatar" and believes that she would be eligible as an "agent." She is unlikely to betray Kim Jong-un because she is his alter ego.
However, Kim Yo-jong was not elected as an alternate member of the Central Committee's Political Bureau at the 8th Party Congress in January 2021, and she was removed from the Party's Political Bureau.
On January 13th, after the end of the Party Congress, she released a statement under the title of "Vice Department Director of the WPK Central Committee" on the issue of South Korea. Because Kim Yo-jong had used the title of "First Vice Department Director of the WPK Central Committee" before that, it became apparent that Kim Yo-jong had been demoted. Considering this, it is unlikely that Kim Yo-jong assumed the position of First Secretary of the Party at the 8th Party Congress.
According to the revised Party Rules, the First Secretary of the Party is to be elected at the Party Central Committee's plenary meeting (general meeting). Although the post has been created, the North Korean media has never reported on it. If Jo Yong-won has already been elected under the revised Party Rules, there seems to be no particular reason to hide it.
It is possible that the post was created but then left intentionally vacant for future risk management.
Another possibility is that "First Secretary of the Party" will be left vacant as a future post for Kim Yo-jong. It is possible that Kim Yo-jong will someday return to the Party's Political Bureau, and after establishing a track record of achievements, take on the role of the First Secretary of the Party and act as the "agent" of Party General Secretary Kim Jong-un.
If Kim Jong-un officially establishes a "No. 2" and a "successor" in his thirties, power will surely be dualized. This goes against the unified leadership system that Kim Jong-un has promoted. However, if Kim Yo-jong takes the position of First Secretary of the Party, that concern will be resolved because she is an alter ego. However, whether she will be the successor or not depends on the age of Kim Jong-un's child at that time and the circumstances inside and outside the country. Kim Yo-jong has power not because of her duties, but because she is the sister of Kim Jong-un. Precisely because she is Kim Jong-un's "alter ego", it is unclear at this point whether Kim Yo-jong will be guaranteed her position as the supreme leader if he dies.
Other major points in this revision of the Rules include: (1) the deletion of Songun politics, (2) the deletion of the "pyongjin line" (the line of promoting two fronts simultaneously) and an emphasis on the "self-reliance line", (3) the deletion of the description of "crushing re-invasion measures of Japanese militarism", (4) the retention of the demand for the withdrawal of US troops in South Korea, (5) the revival of the description on "realization of a communist society as the ultimate goal", (6) the basic political systemization of the "people-first principle", (7) the stipulation that a Party Congress be held every five years and the development of the Party's central organizations, (8) the strengthening of the authority of the Party's Central Military Commission and the diminishing of that of the KPA's General Political Bureau, (9) amendments to "the five-point education", and (10) an emphasis on the "complete development of socialist culture". For want of space, I will take these up on some later occasion.
In addition, the WPK held an enlarged meeting of the 2nd Political Bureau of the 8th Central Committee on June 29 and announced that some members of the Presidium of the Central Committee's Political Bureau, members and alternate members of the Political Bureau and executives of national institutions had been newly appointed or dismissed. The possibility is pointed out that Ri Pyong-chol, a member of the Presidium of the Party Central Committee's Political Bureau was dismissed in the process.
Kim Jong-un visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, where the body of President Kim Il Sung is enshrined, on July 8, the day of Kim Il Sung's death. On this occasion, Ri Pyong-chol was standing in the third row with alternate members of the Political Bureau and was believed to have been dismissed from the Presidium of the Party Central Committee's Political Bureau.
On July 29, however, the Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported on Kim Jong-un's visit to the Friendship Tower to commemorate China's participation in the Korean War and noted that "accompanying him were Jo Yong-Won, Ri Il Hwan, Jong Sang Hak, Ri Pyong Chol, Pak Jong Chon, Kwon Yong Jin and Ri Yong Gil." Both Jong Sang Hak, Chairman of the Party Central Auditing Commission, and Pak Jong Chon, Chief of the General Staff Department of the KPA, are members of the Party's Political Bureau. Based on the order of precedence presented by Rodong Sinmun, Ri Pyong-chol appears to be a member of the Party's Political Bureau. Furthermore, in the photo published in the same paper, he was standing right next to Kim Jong-un, on whose left side was Jo Yong-won, a member of the Presidium of the Party Central Committee's Political Bureau. This means that Ri Pyong-chol was ranked higher than the order given in the article. The reorganization of North Korean leadership should be seen as still underway.
(Completed on August 4)
※This is an English translation of a Japanese paper originally published on August 5.