SEOUL (SOUTH KOREA) – In early January, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will convene a rare ruling party congress in a bid to seek public support and chart out new long-term economic and political targets as unprecedented challenges arise.
On Tuesday, the leader chaired a politburo meeting to prepare for the congress, said the state media without detailing when the congress would begin.
As the year edges to a close, the leader is faced with compounding crises such as international curbs and border lockdown because of the pandemic aimed at preventing an outbreak of the coronavirus.
Despite the fact that the arsenal of Pyongyang has grown, the leader’s high-stakes personal outreach to US President Donald Trump ended with no sanctions relief and the new upcoming administration has hinted that it will not ease any curbs unless more concessions are made.
As the President-elect’s policy towards North Korea is in a state of flux, Kim is likely to use the congress to shift attention to domestic issues, especially the sagging economy and the nation’s “juche” ideology of self-reliance, said analysts.
“Juche is truly being tested for the first time because the pandemic has forced North Korea into self isolation, when until now, it has been able to rely on China as a life support even during the harshest of economic times,” said Duyeon Kim, a North Korea expert at the U.S.-based Center for a New American Security.
The scenario in the nation has changed drastically since the last party congress in 2016 when the leader came out with the first five-year plan since 1980.
As there are no options to find a solution to the spiralling problems of the country, the government is likely to roll back some economic and political reforms that were introduced earlier, said analysts.
“North Korea’s political and economic policies may become more conservative, given the prolonged difficulties and the likelihood of their continuation into 2021, and consequently the regime’s perceived need to reinforce control to ensure national stability,” said Rachel Minyoung Lee, independent researcher and former open-source North Korea analyst for Washington.