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Digital Archive International History Declassified

April 30, 1956

RECORD OF THE THIRD CONGRESS OF THE KOREAN WORKERS' PARTY BY L.I. BREZHNEV

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    Brezhnev reports on the Third Congress of the Korean Workers' Party and concludes that there is a misunderstanding of the 20th Congress of the CPSU in North Korea. Brezhnev also mentions a meeting that took place, at Kim Il Sung's request, with the CPSU delegation that was present at the Third Congress.
    "Record of the Third Congress of the Korean Workers' Party by L.I. Brezhnev," April 30, 1956, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, GARF, Fond 5446, Opis 98, Delo 721, Listy 221-228. Translated by Gary Goldberg. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/120183
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[handwritten]: from Cde. Brezhnev

concerning Korea

[to the] CPSU CC

In connection with the presence of a CPSU delegation at the 3rd congress of the Korean Worker's Party and our visit to a number of cities and industrial enterprises of the DPRK I report about the KWP congress and several questions about the situation in the DPRK.

By the 3rd congress the Korean Worker's Party numbered 1,164,900 in its ranks. The social composition of the Party is described by the following data: workers - 22.6%, peasants - 60.5%, office workers - 13%, and others - 3.9%. Nine hundred and sixteen delegates were elected to the congress.

Organizationally, the congress went well. As regards the CPSU CC summary report which Cde. Kim Il Sung gave and the discussions, they had quite substantial shortcomings.

In its main part, which related to a description of the current state of affairs in the republic and the immediate tasks, the report and the discussions were full of general provisions and the glorification of successes. Everything was presented in a victorious, laudatory tone. The report was featureless, and ministries, provincial, and district bodies were not criticized. There was essentially no criticism or self-criticism in the report.

The reports and the speeches were not permeated with the spirit of the 20th CPSU congress. Pomposity, phrase-mongering, and an assemblage of high-flown phrases and words were a characteristic feature of the majority of the speeches at the congress: "a revolutionary approach to the masses", "revolutionary achievements", "struggle against subjectivism and bureaucratism", "brilliant victories", etc.

Reporting to the congress about the state of industry, Cde. Kim Il Sung concentrated attention only on those results which related to achievements. There was no critique in the report of the work of the most important industrial sectors, qualitative or economic figures, shortcomings in the management of industry by the ministries, departments, or Party organizations.

It is known that the aid of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries plays a great role in the revival of the economy of the DPRK. However, nothing specific was said on this score in the report. The size of the aid was not named, it was not indicated how it is being used, what shortcomings there are in this matter, or how it is proposed to use the remaining part of the resources.

Too little attention was devoted in the summary report to the question of the state of the republic's agriculture. It is felt that the Korean comrades do not completely understand the entire depth of the backwardness of this sector of the economy [or] the colossal difficulties which stand in the way of its improvement. In our view, they are too carried away with praise of the successes of the cooperation of the countryside, not even making attempts in this regard to look into the practice of cooperation [or] into the internal life of the cooperatives. At the congress they were silent about the mistakes and shortcomings of the cooperative movement and the harmful excesses committed last year in carrying out the grain procurement.

The report and the discussions showed that the Korean leaders either do not understand or do not notice the serious situation of the workers. The issues of the economic circumstances and the everyday life of the workers were passed over in silence at the congress, and nothing was said about the serious difficulties in this field. Meanwhile manual laborers, office workers, and especially the peasants live in extreme poverty. A considerable part of the peasants do not have grain for food. For example, in a conversation with us the leaders of the province of South Hamgyong reported that about 40% of the peasants do not have grain until the new harvest.

The workers live in extremely difficult housing conditions at all the enterprises which the delegation visited. Meanwhile, the repair and new construction of housing is going very badly. In Pyongyang itself a large number of administrative buildings are being built, and several expensive detached houses for managerial personnel have been built, but very few residential buildings are being built.

The summary report, the discussions, and conversations with individual senior officials indicate that the Korean comrades have a poor knowledge of the economic processes going on in the economy, and do not look into the real state of affairs at the grass roots deeply.

An incorrect assessment of the situation in the KWP was given and mistaken opinions were expressed in the section of the report about the Party and also in a whole series of statements.

In spite of completely obvious facts, it was stressed in every way that the principle of collective leadership was being consistently pursued in the KWP and in the work of its CC, and that a cult of personality has not occurred. Pak Heonyeong supposedly had tried to propagate it, but he was exposed in time, etc.

All this does not correspond to reality. The cult of Kim Il Sung continues to flourish in the DPRK. The numerous portraits, busts, all possible exhibits, films, pictures, and books which are completely devoted to the glorification of Kim Il Sung tell of this. A biography of Kim Il Sung is distributed in Party organizations in which he is characterized as a Marxist since age 14, as "the savior of the Korean people", "a great military leader", etc. The entire history of the struggle of the Korean people comes down to a show of the revolutionary activity of Kim Il Sung.

The cult of personality is also displayed in an unjustified concentration of power in the hands of Kim Il Sung and some other officials not caused by necessity. Kim Il Sung is simultaneously the Premier, Chairman of the Party CC, and Commander-in-Chief, and Choe Yong-geon is Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense, and Deputy Chairman of the Party CC. It is also displayed in the naked bureaucratic rule with respect to cadre. For example, we have been told that some generals were demoted only for insufficiently praising Kim Il Sung in their lectures on military topics. The personality of Kim Il Sung was also glorified in the statements of the delegates of the congress, although this was done in less open form than previously.

Some statements, and primarily the statements of Choe Yong-geon and Pak Geum-cheol, contained an overestimation of the KWP and clear hints of its superiority to the CPSU. "As is well-known", said Choe Yong-geon, "the principles of collective leadership are not a new regulation, but they are an elementary principle of Party life for those Parties which are guided by Marxism-Leninism…The history of our Party during the reporting period shows that the CC not only did not ignore the principle of Marxist-Leninist Party life about the collective nature of the leadership but, on the contrary, has successfully performed the role of collective leader".

It ought to be noted that all the descriptions of Choe Yong-geon we have received and our personal observations say that this is a person who is  incapable of work, close-mouthed, rude, passive, and conceited. Everyone is afraid of him. In this light his high position in the Party and government is incomprehensible.

Of the other statements at the congress one ought to speak of the statements of Han Solya, the leader of the DPRK Union of Writers and a KWP CC member. Nationalistic notes and infinite glorification of the personality of Kim Il Sung resounded in his statements. Having begun a speech with a correct repudiation of an American slander about the inability of the Korean people to manage a country and create a strong Party, Han Solya declared that "we have become an invincible people capable of independently deciding our own fate".

It is necessary to direct attention to the fact that the situation in South Korea was covered extremely poorly at the congress. The quite insufficient awareness of the KWP leaders about economic and political life in South Korea is felt. Propaganda to the South is done very badly. Delegates from underground KWP organizations in South Korea who spoke at the congress also said nothing substantive.

A number of events held in the KWP CC before the congress undoubtedly influenced the course of the congress and predetermined the nature of the delegates' statements. The following were among the events.

1. Not long before the congress KIM Il Sung held a conference in the Council of Ministers at which ministers and senior officials of the KWP CC, Council of Ministers, and the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly were present. Kim Il sung made a speech at the conference in which he condemned the feelings of criticism of shortcomings and difficulties which had appeared in some officials, pointing out when so doing that only the blind can fail to see the enormous successes. These successes, he said, are primarily that a revolutionary democratic basis has been created in the country and unemployment has been eliminated. The elimination of unemployment, Kim Il Sung pointed out, is the main political and economic success. Many other countries of the socialist camp have not managed to achieve it.

2. A big campaign against Soviet Koreans, many of whom were accused of non-existent sins, was carried out in the pre-congress period. The campaign was accompanied by the removal from senior positions and the demotion in position of a number of Soviet Koreans (Pak Chang-ok, Pak [Yen Bin], Ki Sek [Bok], and others).

3. On the eve of the congress a classified KWP CC letter, "Some Issues Connected with the Study of the Report of Cde. N. S. Khrushchev at the 20th CPSU Congress", was distributed to all Party organizations. The letter was permeated by the most bombastic glorification of the KWP, its CC, and Cde. Kim Il Sung. The letter pursued the idea that whereas violations of the Leninist principles of collective leadership, the cult of personality, and violations of socialist legality had been committed in the CPSU, the KWP and its CC have firmly and consistently implemented a Marxist-Leninist line on all these issues. The letter gives a mistaken interpretation of some issues of the ideological work of the KWP. In particular, when correctly raising the issue of a broader study and propagandizing of the history and culture of the Korean people, the KWP CC letter calls for a vigorous fight against "a mechanical imitation of everything foreign, 'alien'". It is clearly evident from the letter that by "foreign" and "alien" the authors mean everything Soviet.

On the whole the classified KWP CC letter, "Some Issues Connected with the Study of the Report of Cde. N. S. Khrushchev at the 20th CPSU Congress", demonstrates that the Korean comrades did not understand the decisions of the 20th CPSU congress. Such a letter is an impermissible event for a Marxist Party.

On the next-to-last day of its work the congress discussed and adopted a Party Charter in which all the main comments of the CPSU CC on the draft Charter of the Korean Worker's Party were taken into consideration. Pak Jeong-ae gave a report on the draft of the Charter.

The congress also adopted a declaration about the reunification of the country.

Seventy-one members and 45 candidate members were elected to the CC. The CC plenum held right after the congress elected a KWP CC Presidium of 11 members and four candidate members.

The newly-elected KWP CC Presidium is notably different from the Political Council of previous years. There is a lower proportion of Soviet Koreans in it and the role of Koreans who worked in China before the liberation of Korea has risen sharply. Ten of the 15 members and candidate members of the KWP CC Presidium are Chinese Koreans. Cde. Kim Il Sung repeatedly expressed the need to promote Koreans from the native population to managerial work and especially [those] from South Korea, but this wish is not being implemented in actual fact. There are a total of two comrades from North Korea in the newly-elected KWP CC Presidium and not one from the south.

After the end of the congress Cde. Kim Il Sung expressed a desire to meet with the CPSU delegation. This meeting took place on 30 April at the guest house in which our delegation was housed. Together with Cde. Kim Il Sung were Cdes. Kim Du-bong, Choe Yong-geon, Pak Jeong-ae, Nam Il, Pak Ui-won, and Rim Hae. The conversation lasted four and a half hours. Cde. Kim Il Sung talked about the economic situation of the republic. Comments about the work of the congress and some issues of economic policy were expressed from our side in tactful form. At the request of the Korean comrades we talked in detail about the 20th CPSU congress and about what our Party was working on right now.

Cde. Kim Il Sung was interested in what status was the memorandum sent to the USSR MFA by Choe Yong-geon during his attendance of the 20th CPSU congress. I reported that an exchange of opinions about the note had been held in the CC Presidium and a suggestion for a deeper and more comprehensive examination of the situation in the DPRK was expressed. The Korean friends took this report well, with satisfaction. At the end of the conversation they requested that [we] report to the CPSU CC about the difficulties in economic policy which arisen among them and the intentions of the KWP CC and DPRK government to turn again to the USSR for aid. They actually are in need of quite serious aid from our side.

Considering that the KWP leadership is infected with the spirit of self-glorification and embellishment of reality, it incorrectly assesses the republic's economy, and is surrounded by people among whom there are many people who are unseasoned, incapable of work, and are sycophants, and is one of the main reasons for the serious shortcomings and a series of mistakes in the work of the KWP, [I] would think it necessary to direct the attention of Cde. Kim Il Sung to this during his stay in Moscow.

L. BREZHNEV

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