North Korea has announced plans for a rare, important political event next year. The isolated nuclear state will hold its seventh Communist Party Congress in 2016, its first party congress in 35 years.
Political analysts note that the Workers’ Party of Korea hasn’t convened a congress since 1980, and that one meeting culminating with the announcement that Kim Jong Il, the father of the country’s current leader, would eventually take power from his father, the founder of the country.
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The next Congress will be held in May of next year, North Korea’s official news agency KCNA announced late Thursday.
Of note, North Korea has developed its own offshoot of communist ideology called Juche, which focuses on nationalist self-reliance instead of internationalism as found in traditional Marxist-Leninist communism seen elsewhere across the globe.
More on North Korea Communist Party Congress 2016
Party congresses used to be called every few years in the first few decades of the bizarre nation’s history, but stopped after current North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un‘s father took power.
According to the statement from KCNA, the official reason for calling the congress is that it reflected “the demand of the party and the developing revolution.”
Keep in mind that just a few weeks ago North Korea celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of its communist party with an huge military parade attended by dozens of foreign dignitaries.
Statement from North Korean expert
The congress may be intended to bolster the perception that Kim has a stable hold on power, said Yang Moo-jin from South Korea’s University of North Korean Studies. Kim may announce economic reforms or new diplomatic relations.
Or it could reflect a shift in internal power from the military to the party.
“When Kim Jong Il was in power…the ‘National Defense Commission’ played a key-role in state affairs. The holding of the 7th Congress could symbolize that the Worker’s Party’s role was normalized. One of the key things to watch is whether Kim Jong Un will maintain the ‘National Defense Commission’ system or shift the function back to the party,” Yang said.
North Korea profits from forced labor
In a related story reported by ValueWalk yesterday, Marzuki Darusman, the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea, officially delivered his new report on forced labor by North Korea to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday
The report alleges that more than 50,000 workers are forced to work in other countries so the government can get its hands on more foreign currency. Informants for the report claim that employers in foreign countries only pay the North Korean workers $120 to $150 per month, but send the very large fees for labor contracts to the government of North Korea.
Furthermore, some of the workers are forced to work up to 20 hours per day with only a couple of days of rest per month. Workers who missed monthly quotas were frequently not paid at all.
Darusman’s report also highlighted that the North Korean workers were often not given enough food, with poor workplace safety measures and accidents often not reported to authorities. Based on reports from informants, the workers are under constant surveillance from North Korean security agents and in most cases the host countries do not monitor activities in the labor camps.