Domestic Normalisation Amid International Condemnations
After a 36-year hiatus, North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party has opened its 7th Congress in Pyongyang. It follows a “70-day campaign of loyalty” in which everyone was called to work overtime to boost production levels ahead of the Congress. This major political gathering comes as North Korea is facing international condemnations over the last months of military muscle-flexing that have led many outside experts to believe Pyongyang is much closer to having a viable nuclear deterrent than previously thought. Although Beijing is growing frustrated with Pyongyang’s behavior, North Korea won’t be abandoned given its importance as buffer state, shielding China from the U.S. presence in the area. Domestically, the years since Kim took power have moved the country towards increased internal stability and a return to a more “formal” way of running the country, rehabilitating central party institutions and weakening the military’s influence over politics and the economy. The political, economic and personnel changes announced will therefore be closely watched in order to determine how Kim Jong-un’s rule will differ from that of past generations.