North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could announce a dramatic policy change, comparable to economic reforms that China and Vietnam embraced in the 1980s, when he convenes a rare meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party in May 2016, a German expert said Wednesday.
The last Congress of the Workers’ Party was held in 1980, when Kim’s grandfather and national founder Kim Il-sung was in power. Thus the announcement of a Congress spurred speculation as to why Kim decided to convene such a rare meeting.
Ruediger Frank, a North Korea expert at the University of Vienna, said Kim could use the meeting for a “declaration of his victory in the domestic struggle for power” after massive purges in the past years or to announce a major policy change marking the departure down a path of true reform.
“Kim Jong-un might … play it safe and, after having spent the last years cleaning the ranks of the party, military and government, will use the 7th Party Congress for a triumphant declaration of his victory in the domestic struggle for power. The country would return to a new normal and continue to muddle through,” Frank said.
“We should also remember that all major reforms of state socialism — be it in China under Deng Xiaoping, the Soviet Union under Gorbachev, or Vietnam — have been announced at such regular party congresses or related events,” he said in an article contributed to 38 North. Read more