North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called an unprecedented conference aimed at strengthening the “monolithic” leadership of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) throughout society, state media reported on Thursday.
The conference was the first of its kind and involved “carrying out organizational and ideological consolidation of the party’s ranks in every way” and enhancing the party’s leadership role, state news agency KCNA said.
The event focused on the “Party Life Orientation” (PLG) sections, which are powerful organizations that monitor and police the loyalty of officials and members across the country.
According to a 2019 report by the US-based Human Rights Committee in North Korea (HRNK), guiding party life is “arguably the most critical function” of the WPK, which is the founding party and ruler of North Korea.
As part of the powerful Organization and Guidance Department, PLG monitors trends and patterns in individual behavior, particularly those that may harm the interests of the supreme leader, according to the HRNK report.
Their techniques include regular self-criticism sessions, in which participants are asked to confess their wrongdoing and confront accusations from other members. It is also responsible for conveying the guidance of the top leaders and plays a role in selecting the candidates who can stand for election.
Speaking to the conference, Kim called the party’s life guide a “blood vessel and nerve gland” that firmly links party organizations with the central committee and the main axis of implementing party ideas and policies, KCNA reported.
Kim has increasingly held events aimed at tightening control in the country, which he has ruled since 2011. Experts said anti-pandemic efforts have further helped his authoritarian government impose new controls on the economy, travel, media and other elements of society.
According to human rights investigators, North Korea has carried out extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary detention, sexual violence, and forced labor. The government has denied mistreating its citizens.
North Korea is dealing with multiple crises, including its first recognized outbreak of COVID-19, the economic effects of international sanctions, and erratic weather events like high temperatures and floods.
He said he has the COVID-19 situation under control, although a lack of data has led international experts to doubt the claims.
(Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Christopher Cushing)