North Korea: Seventh Party Congress Enshrines Nuclear Ambitions but Says Little about Economic Reform

02-06-2016

The Korean Workers’ Party (KWP) held its Seventh Congress, the first since 1980, from 6 to 9 May 2016. In theory, the Congress is the highest deliberative body of the only governing party of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The Congress yielded relatively modest results, with no real breakthrough, apart from establishing the 'defensive' nuclear deterrence concept. Kim Jong-un’s position as North Korea's supreme leader was fully formalised and now seems to be stronger than ever. The Party is likely to gain further power at the expense of the military. Nuclear deterrence is now firmly enshrined in the Party's statutes as well as the country’s constitution. Pyongyang has made clear that no nuclear deal is possible unless the US and its allies accept North Korea as a 'nuclear state'. Despite its propaganda announcements, North Korea is not ready to modernise its sclerotic economy. While some cautious developments cannot be ruled out, the regime's open criticism of the Chinese economic model suggest that any reforms would be limited and very probably inconclusive.

The Korean Workers’ Party (KWP) held its Seventh Congress, the first since 1980, from 6 to 9 May 2016. In theory, the Congress is the highest deliberative body of the only governing party of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The Congress yielded relatively modest results, with no real breakthrough, apart from establishing the 'defensive' nuclear deterrence concept. Kim Jong-un’s position as North Korea's supreme leader was fully formalised and now seems to be stronger than ever. The Party is likely to gain further power at the expense of the military. Nuclear deterrence is now firmly enshrined in the Party's statutes as well as the country’s constitution. Pyongyang has made clear that no nuclear deal is possible unless the US and its allies accept North Korea as a 'nuclear state'. Despite its propaganda announcements, North Korea is not ready to modernise its sclerotic economy. While some cautious developments cannot be ruled out, the regime's open criticism of the Chinese economic model suggest that any reforms would be limited and very probably inconclusive.