The portraits of Kim Il-sung (left) and Kim Jong-il hang inside the convention hall where the party congress was held this month. Photo: AP

North Korea’s ‘rare’ party congress only shows a country at a standstill

Donald Kirk says beyond the spectacle and a vague plan for economic development, the first Workers’ Party congress since 1980 only lays bare, once again, the country’s long-standing problems

Topic |   North Korea

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The portraits of Kim Il-sung (left) and Kim Jong-il hang inside the convention hall where the party congress was held this month. Photo: AP
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Donald Kirk

Donald Kirk

Donald Kirk is an author and journalist from Washington, D.C., and travels to South Korea, with stops in London, India, Pakistan, the Middle East, Japan, Hong Kong and the Philippines, among other places, writing on the confrontation of forces in the post-September 11 era. He was the Seoul correspondent for the International Herald Tribune from 1997 to 2003. Before gravitating to Northeast Asia, he covered much of the Vietnam War for the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Star. He has also written books on Korea, notably Korea Betrayed: Kim Dae Jung and Sunshine and Korean Dynasty: Hyundai and Chung Ju Yung.