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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 247 (January 31, 2013)
*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 2)

North Korea Seeks to Strengthen Role of Ruling Workers' Party

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un stressed the need to increase the role of the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK) in his address at a meeting held in Pyongyang on Jan. 28 to 29, the North's state-run media reported.

   At a meeting of the WPK's lowest-ranking secretaries Kim urged the participants to increase the function and the role of party cells "as required by the developing party and revolution to help the country become a great, prosperous and powerful nation," according to the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

   The meeting was the Fourth Conference of Cell Secretaries of the WPK, which convened for the first time in over five years. The third meeting was held in October 2007. It was the first time that the socialist country's top leader attended the gathering.

   The KCNA said the country's top leader urged in his closing address for the function and role of the party cells to be increased and pointed out that every effort must be made to galvanize the party members and core masses into action. Party cells are the smallest organizations composed of five to 30 party members and are the North's "grass-roots" political organizations.

   "We should further develop the WPK into a powerful staff, firmly united with one ideology and purpose and rooted deep among the popular masses and surely build on this land the best power and a people's paradise to which the world will look up with the might of the harmonious whole of the party and the people, taking the undying feats Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il performed in party building as assets of eternal value," the KCNA quoted Kim as saying in an English-language dispatch.

   The KCNA also said Kim made clear that North Korea's party, army and people are all united under the immortal flags bearing the portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, and will move forward on the road of independence, "songun" or its military-first politics, and socialism, which was the behest of the two previous leaders.

   Kim Il-sung is the founder of the DPRK and grandfather of Kim Jong-un who took power after his father Kim Jong-il died of a heart attack in December 2011. Kim Il-sung died in 1994 and the North Korean leadership was inherited to Kim Jong-il.

   In his opening address on Jan. 28, Kim said the gathering "is a significant meeting which was convened at the behest of (late) leader Kim Jong-il," the KCNA said. The late leader wanted the party cell secretaries to have a bigger role and contribute more to the party, according to the report.

   The KCNA's report quoted Kim Jong-un as saying that "the current meeting will be an epochal turning point in increasing the party's capability in every way as required by the new era of the Juche revolution by decisively enhancing the function and role of the party cells."

   The WPK is "determined to make this meeting a decisive occasion of bringing about a great turn in the overall party work by ... radically improving and strengthening the work of the party cells," the KCNA dispatch also said.

   In a separate dispatch, the KCNA said the meeting was held to discuss ways to increase the role of party cells and to "powerfully mobilize all service personnel and people to build a thriving country."

   Besides Kim, the North's top officials also attended the meeting, including No. 2 leader Kim Yong-nam, president of the Supreme People's Assembly of the WPK, and Premier Choe Yong-rim, according to the report.

   The North's official news agency said Kim Jong-un, believed to be in his late 20s or early 30s, touched on the need to root out influence peddling practices and bureaucratic mindsets of its party officials.
Experts said the meeting came as Kim is solidifying the power he inherited from his father and is striving to fulfill the goal of building an economically powerful nation as declared in his New Year message.

   It is the first time that North Korea's top leader has attended the cell's conference. In previous conferences, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il delivered a message instead of attending. They further said it was very unusual for the top leader to attend the meeting and delivered two speeches, during the opening and closing ceremonies.

   Kim's unusual attendance may be related to recent moves to strengthen the WPK in the communist state over the military, which is a departure from Kim Jong-il who was the advocate of military-first politics that gave more power to the military over the party.

   The young Kim, who became the supreme leader of both the party and military in April last year, is trying to recover the former status of the WPK by reviving its organization and function. In July last year Kim purged Gen. Ri Yong-ho, former army chief and a symbolic figure of the military, through a conference of the WPK Political Bureau, a symbolical measure to reveal the superiority of the party over the military.

   Experts said the meeting of the lowest-ranking secretaries came as Kim is solidifying power he inherited from his father and striving to fulfill the goal of building an economically powerful nation, as he declared in his New Year message.

   Kim Jong-un emphasized that there is a pressing need to weed out such negative forces once and for all.

   The remarks can be interpreted as a sign that the leader may be moving to purge the WPK, although it may just be to push for systematic change in how the party is run.

   The meeting, meanwhile, comes amid the international community's increasing call on the North to refrain from conducting another nuclear test.

   In response to the United Nations' adoption of a resolution designed to punish the North for its Dec. 12 rocket launch, the communist country has repeatedly threatened to conduct a fresh nuclear test. Pyongyang has already detonated nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009.

   The outside world suspected the rocket launch, which the North claims was to put a satellite into orbit, was a pretext to test ballistic missile technology.

   Kim Ki-nam, party secretary in charge of the North's propaganda, stressed the country's war readiness and denounced the recent U.N. resolution in the WPK cell secretaries' meeting, a North Korean newspaper said.

   Hostility posed by the U.S. and other countries in their accusations against the rocket launch created a grave situation in the North, Rodong Sinmun quoted the secretary as saying during the meeting. He called the rocket launch lawful and peaceful.

   "All the (North Korean) people should be encouraged to hold belief in victory and strong will to destroy enemies in order to defend the sovereignty and join an all-out confrontation," the secretary was quoted by the newspaper as saying. "The task facing the party cells is first and foremost turning all the party members and workers to leading fighters who join hands in defending the party and the national leader."