Peace Network Newsletter Issue 2021-2

Peace Network Korea
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Peace Network Newsletter, 2021-2 
Small steps, Road to peace

Soldiers, civilians stage joint rallies in North Korea in support of party decisions

Soldiers and civilians staged joint rallies across North Korea, calling for nationwide cooperation to carry out new policies and decisions made during a recent rare party congress, state media reported Wednesday. North Korea held the eighth congress of the ruling Workers' Party that ended last week, unveiling a new five-year economic development plan focusing on self-reliance in the face of the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and global sanctions on its regime. (...) North Korea's economy has faced multiple challenges, including the border closure due to the global pandemic and biting global sanctions. It was also hit hard by back-to-back summertime typhoons last year. Despite the announcement of the five-year development plan with great fanfare, the North decided during a subsequent parliamentary meeting to increase its budget for economic projects this year by a mere 0.6 percent, which experts see as indicative of the predicament confronting the country.
(Source: Yonhap News)


North Korea's Eight Worker's Party Congress: Putting Things into Context
By Robert Carlin

There has been a lot written about the Eighth Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), some of it good and worth reading. All of it is necessarily from the perspective of observers far outside the assembly hall. No doubt, sitting in that vast space, literally filled to the gills with people, was not the most wonderful way to spend January 5-11. For anyone crammed in the back, where it was impossible to see much of anything, it was no doubt even less enjoyable. Still, seeing was not the point of the meeting; there wasn’t really much to see. They damn sure better to have been able to hear everything, though. The entire nine-hour work report delivered by Kim Jong Un, spread over several days, was probably not equally important to every attendee. A few might, if so inclined, have daydreamed and doodled through some of it, though always careful to look alert and interested. 

However, there are several areas that would have been especially important to the majority of delegates. First and foremost, most ears were likely tuned to what was said on economic issues. Secondly, military and defense issues would have demanded attention, either because the listeners were directly involved in that sector, or because there is a general understanding of the impact military matters has on other areas of life. All in the hall would know that belts had been tightened to pay for the military for years and still could be again. A third subject, joined at the hip with military matters, would be diplomacy, though few would know much about that, and so a good deal of what was said would fall into what we might label as exhortation for domestic purposes.

(...)
The point is not that Kim is giving up developing new or improving existing “deterrence,” certainly not in the absence of any progress with the US. Nor is he about to give up a long-term approach of “peace through strength” that Pyongyang has used as the rationale for its WMD buildup. Rather, it is that there will be in the North a constant tension between military and civilian priorities. And that as often as not, the balance will tip toward the civilian. Ultimately, it will be the interplay between these considerations that will shape the policy.

(Resource: 38 North)

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