Published January 19, 2023
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From December 26 to 31, 2022, North Korea convened the 6th Enlarged Plenary Session of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK). The key takeaways of the meeting specify North Korea’s main policy directions for 2023. According to the Rodong Sinmun, the participants discussed five agenda items including a review of the implementation of major policies in 2022 and the work plan for 2023, the WPK’s organizations, a review of the execution of the 2022 budget and a draft budget for 2023, the party’s leadership for revolutionary schools, and five paths to be taken for the party’s establishment – politics, the party’s organizations, ideology, party discipline, and the North Korean people’s principle and methodology in the field. The results of the plenary session are summarized as follows.
First, the meeting hailed North Korea’s strengthened defense capabilities, improved agricultural production, pushes for new housing projects, and revamped Covid-19 responses as the party’s major achievements in 2022. In particular, the participants underscored that Kim Jong-un’s successful efforts at building up unparalleled military capabilities are his biggest achievement in 2022, and praised his pushes for projects for building homes in Pyongyang’s Hwasong and Yeonpo districts. It is forecast that Pyongyang’s work plan will revolve around these four achievements in 2023. And as a detailed goal for 2023 to reinforce North Korea’s defense capabilities, the participants of the meeting proposed developing new ICBMs, working on the massive production of tactical nuclear weapons, launching the first military satellite, and increasing the inventory of nuclear warheads.
Second, discussions on the party’s organizations mainly addressed the reshuffling of the WPK’s military elite. In appreciation of the outstanding achievements made in the military sector, Ri Yong-gil was appointed as a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the WPK, replacing Pak Jong-chon, who used to be a member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the WPK. In addition, Pak Su-il was named the chief of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) General Staff, and Kang Sun-nam took over as defense minister. Moreover, Ri Thae-sop was appointed as the public security minister, and Kim Sang-gun was appointed as a Vice Chairman of the Central Auditing Commission (CAC) of the WPK. The meeting also appointed Ju Chang-il as the Deputy Department Director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department (PAD) of the WPK, and Ri Hi-yong as the Deputy Department Director of the Organization and Guidance Department (OGD) of the Central Committee of the WPK. There are also newly appointed members of the Cabinet including Minister Kim Chul-ha of the Chemical Industry, Minister Kim Chang-suk of the Light Industry, Chairman Cho Suk-chol of the National Quality Management Commission, and Ri Yong-sik, Director of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the WPK and Head Secretary of the Central Committee of the WPK.
The meeting also appointed other minister-level officials in the Cabinet as the members or candidate members of the Central Committee of the WPK to raise the status of the Cabinet. The reshuffling of the North’s elite in the Cabinet announced at the expanded plenary session appears to be aimed at boosting economic growth, and the appointment of the Ministers of the Chemical Industry and the Light Industry deserves attention. Minister Kim Chul-ha of the Chemical Industry was in charge of the Hungnam Fertilizer Complex and Minister Kim Chang-suk of the Light Industry was in charge of the Sinuiju Textile Mill. The appointment of economic experts who made outstanding achievements in municipalities implies that the Kim regime is intent on boosting productivity in the agricultural and light industry sectors.
Third, the draft budget for 2023 outlines that the Kim regime plans to focus on economic growth, and its defense budget for 2023 will be similar to that of 2022. And the 8th session of the 14th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) held on January 17 and 18 passed the draft budget. According to the finalized budget plan, the Kim regime allocated 45% of the annual budget for 2023 to build the socialist economy, which is up 1.2% from 2022, and 15.9% to build up its defense capabilities. It was also announced that North Korea’s rural and agricultural development spending in 2023 will rise by 14.7% from the previous year, and its spending on combating Covid-19 relapses in 2023 will remain the same as that of 2022.
And it is forecast that the five paths for the party’s establishment will be pursued to streamline public mobilization and strengthen the WPK’s leadership in 2023.
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