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Digital Archive International History Declassified

April 14, 1956

REPORT FROM THE USSR MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS TO A. A. OKHOTIN, 'SOME ISSUES OF THE DOMESTIC POLITICAL SITUATION IN THE DPRK'

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    A Soviet report that describes successful economic management in the postwar period in North Korea. The report also explains that the KWP CC still needs to work on improving some areas, particularly those concerning production cooperatives and the rural peasantry.
    "Report from the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs to A. A. Okhotin, 'Some Issues of the Domestic Political Situation in the DPRK'," April 14, 1956, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, RGANI Fond 5, Opis 28, Delo 412. Translated by Gary Goldberg. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/120798
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Copy Nº 1

[CPSU CC stamp:

14933

16 April 1956

Subject to return to the

CPSU CC General Department]

to Cde. B. N. PONAMAREV

I submit a note, "Some Issues of the Domestic Political Situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea" prepared by the USSR MFA Information Committee.

ATTACHMENT: on 16 pages

DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF THE USSR MFA

INFORMATION COMMITTEE

[signature]

(I. TUGARINOV)

14 April 1956

Nº 584/M

[handwritten:

to the archives (two sheets)

16-page memo sent to Cde. L. I. Brezhnev

The material was used in information in connection with the arrival of a DPRK government delegation. L. Cher[nik]

         I. Shcherbakov

V. Gorbunov 15 June 1956

19 July 1956 [illegible signature]

to Cde. L. I. BREZHNEV

I am sending a memo, “Some Issues of the Domestic Political Situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea” prepared by the USSR MFA Information Committee.

(B. Ponomarev)

[signature]

17 April 1956

rb.6            TOP SECRET

Copy Nº 2

[CPSU CC stamp:

14933

16 April 1956

Subject to return to the

CPSU CC General Department]

[handwritten:

Show to Cdes.

A. A. Okhotin

P. A. Baranov

L. A. Korobin

N. I. Novikov

V. F. Klimov

A. S. Konovalov

[[illegible signature]] 11 May]

[typed:

to Cde. A. A. OKHOTIN]

[repeats text of the original memo cover letter]

[handwritten: “destroyed”, followed by an illegible signature and a possible date of “23 May”

[signatures: A. Okhotin

followed by two other illegible signatures

dated 15 and 18 May 1956]

bv.8 TOP SECRET

Copy Nº 2

Some Issues of the Domestic Political Situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

In 1955 the Central Committee of the Korean Worker's Party (KWP) and the government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) adopted a number of measures to correct the mistakes made in the management of the economy in the postwar period which had created a threat to weaken the unity of the working class and the peasantry. In particular, mandatory state purchases of grain were abolished and the free sale by the peasants of their surplus grain on the market was permitted, the agricultural tax in kind was somewhat reduced, and the indebtedness in natural tax, state credits, etc. of a considerable number of peasant farms was eliminated.

The income tax on manual laborers and office workers was reduced in the second half of 1955 in order to increase the standard of living of the urban population and expand productivity with consumer goods, and the tax on craftsmen, and also private businessmen and merchants, was somewhat reduced.

Certain successes have been achieved in the development of the economy. The gross industrial output of state and cooperative industry in 1955 exceeded the 1954 level by 52%, and the 1949 prewar level by 56%*. The gross grain production in 1955 was six percent higher than the previous year.

*The considerable increase in industrial output in 1955 is explained by the commissioning of a number of large industrial enterprises.

All this has led to a certain improvement in the political sentiments of the urban and rural populations. However, on the whole the domestic political situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea continues to remain complex, which is explained to a considerable degree by the influence of the following factors:

- the difficult material situation of a majority of the urban and rural populations;

- the violation of the democratic rights of citizens and shortcomings in the work of the state and economic apparatus;

- mistakes committed in KWP and government policy with respect to individual non-proletarian strata of the population and to petty bourgeois parties and organizations.

The Korean comrades are insufficiently considering the political importance of the country's division and often pursue their work in isolation from the goal of the peaceful reunification of Korea.

1.

The material situation of the urban and rural populations of the DPRK continues to remain difficult. There still exists in the Republic a system of rationed food and industrial goods for manual laborers, office workers of state enterprises, and members of their families, a total of 3,000,000-3,400,000 people in all. Manual laborers and office workers of private enterprises, industrial cooperatives and cooperative trade, craftsmen, persons of the free professions, private merchants, and businessmen are not covered by the rationed supply.

The following norms of supply are in effect at the present time: for manual laborers - from 800 to 900 grams of grain per day; for office workers - from 600 to 700 grams; dependents - from 300 to 500 grams. Half of these norms are issued in rice, the rest in millet, kaoliang [sorghum wine], and corn. There are supposed to be three kilograms of vegetable oil, 12 kilograms of salt, seven liters of liquid, and seven kilograms of soy paste for all categories of workers. Fish and vegetables are distributed in small quantities only among those working. Meat and sugar are not issued by rationed supply.

There are also four kinds of manufactured products in rationed supply: cotton fabric, hosiery, shoes, and soap. Depending on the category, the rationed norms for workers vary from 15 to 23 meters of cotton fabric, three to 12 pair of hosiery, and from two to 12 bars of soap per year. Dependents receive almost no manufactured goods by ration card. The supply of manufactured goods and some food products by ration cards is not done regularly and not completely.

State commercial trading has been organized in the country. However, the overwhelming majority of the workers are not in a condition to obtain food and industrial goods at commercial prices. The monthly salary of manual laborers and office workers varies between 800 and 2000 won. Meanwhile, one kilogram of rice in commercial trade costs 120 won, or 24 times that of the rationed price; one kilogram of kaoliang, 106.4 won, or 40 times [the rationed price]; one bar of household soap, 100 won, or eight times [the rationed price]; one kilogram of vegetable oil, 400 won, or three times the rationed price. Market prices for a majority of goods are even higher than the commercial [prices]. The Korean friends are not envisioning any significant reduction of prices in state commercial trade in the immediate future.

The material standard of living of the peasants, who are about 75% of the population, is also low. Thirty-five percent of the peasant farms did not provide themselves with grain from the 1955 harvest until the new harvest and need help from the state; 30% provided themselves with grain, but do not have any surplus, and only 35% of the farms have some surplus for sale. About 60% of peasant farms do not have draft animals. The rural population is poorly supplied with industrial goods, in particular the simplest farm implements and construction materials.

The housing conditions of the population continue to remain difficult. The reconstruction of residential buildings is proceeding slowly because of a lack of construction materials and a majority of the urban population is, as before, housed in uncomfortable premises temporarily adapted for housing.

The serious material situation of a majority of the country's population, especially the tense food situation in the cities and countryside, is to a considerably degree a consequence of an excessive forcing of the development of heavy industry to the detriment of the development of agriculture, and also of light industry, which has been pursued for a number of years. Although recently the Korean friends have also adopted a number of measures to correct their mistakes in planning the economic development of the country, especially after receiving recommendations from the CPSU CC, these mistakes, however, have not been finally overcome and their consequences are having an effect to this day.

The prewar level of agricultural production has not been reached up to the present time. Although the gross grain harvest in 1955 was 2,440,000 tons versus 2,300,000 tons in 1954 it still has not reached the prewar 1949 level, when about 2,800,000 tons of grain were harvested in the DPRK. As a consequence of this the DPRK was forced to import food from the USSR and PRC. The 1955 plan for the harvest of vegetables was 54% fulfilled, for potatoes, 97%, and for cotton, 34%. Things are especially bad in animal husbandry. There has been a decrease of livestock compared with 1954, including 189,000 pigs, or 29.9%.

The Korean friends have not drawn the necessary conclusions from the fact that no sufficiently developed light industry capable of providing the needs of the DPRK population ended up in North Korea as a result of the division of the country, and proper attention has not been devoted in the postwar period to creating it. At the same time, the existing production capacity of heavy industry for the production of consumer goods from waste products (household utensils, crockery, hardware, etc.) is being used extremely unsatisfactorily.

The backwardness of agriculture also has a negative effect on the development of the industrial sectors associated with the production of consumer goods, primarily on the development of the food industry. The existing capacity of food industry enterprises is far from being completely used because of a shortage of raw materials. For example, in 1955 soy factories were only 65% used, flour mills, 50%, and butter-making plants, 50%.

Captivated by the construction of industrial enterprises, in a number of cases the Korean comrades do not take into consideration the real raw material capabilities of the country. For example, the meat-packing plant and starch hydrolysis factory under construction in the DPRK, which are intended to be commissioned in 1956, have not been provided with raw materials. The cotton textile industry is being only five percent supplied with its own raw material.

The selection of articles being manufactured is extremely limited and their quality is low. The majority of cotton fabric is produced in the form of unfinished gray cloth in connection with the lack of developed dyeing and finishing production; the majority of cotton fabrics are produced in the form of coarse, unbleached cloth; there is no production of linen and woolen fabric. The garment industry does not produce underwear and children's clothing at all, and very few cultural goods or haberdashery are produced.

Before the war petty private and cottage industry, whose share was 15% of the value of all of the country's industrial production in 1949, played a large role in the production of consumer goods. However, until the middle of 1955 the KWP and DPRK government pursued a policy essentially directed at the elimination of private industry, as a result of which in 1955 the share of private and cottage industry in the gross industrial production of the DPRK had fallen to 1.1% against 2.5% in 1954.

The CPSU CC recommendations that the development of large state industry in the DPRK be combined with the development of cottage and small-scale industry is being unsatisfactorily implemented. The burdensome taxes, which led to a sharp contraction of the activity of private businessmen and craftsmen, were reduced by only an inconsiderable amount (by 10%), and as before are seriously slowing an increase in the production of consumer goods.

II.

Bureaucratism and a neglectful attitude toward the needs and requests of the workers have taken root at various levels of the state apparatus and in administrative bodies. In his report at the 10th KWP CC plenum in April 1955 Kim Il Sung noted that bureaucratism and arrogance were widespread among senior officials in the Republic, and that “Japanese methods of work are far from having being eliminated” in the Korean People's Army, MVD organs, and in government bodies. In the same report Kim Il Sung pointed out that

“many of our officials do not see the difference between our Party bodies and state institutions and the institutions of old Korea or the Korea of the time of Japanese dominance”.

A disengagement from the population is characteristic not only of many national, but also a number of local government bodies. The people's committees have virtually no accountability to the population and the people's committees have no permanent commissions of residents of the region.

The turnover of senior officials of the state apparatus is large. For example, about half of all deputy ministers were replaced during 1954 and January 1955. The Korean comrades are limit themselves to just the shifting of the same officials. At the same time the promotion of new cadre to senior positions is being done extremely indecisively.

Both national and local government authorities have not been reelected for a long time and are composed to a considerable degree of people appointed by an administrative procedure. This has led to many officials of the state apparatus having lost a feeling of responsibility to the voters.

The term of office of the Supreme National Assembly ran out back in 1952. Less than two-thirds of the elected deputies have remained in the Supreme National Assembly. Provincial, city, district, and rural people's assemblies have not been reelected since 1947. Many local government bodies have less than half of elected deputies left, that is, they are already without authority*. There are no elected local governing bodies at all in newly-formed provinces and districts, but provisional organized appointed committees operate there.

* According to Article 9 of the 30 October 1954 Law on the Structure of Local Government Bodies of the DPRK the people's assemblies of cities, districts (regions), villages (district cities and worker's settlements) are considered legitimate if more than half of the total number of deputies are present at a meeting.

A considerable amount of time has passed since the end of the war. Meanwhile the Korean comrades do not think it possible to hold elections to local governing bodies before 1957. As Kim Il Sung told the Soviet Ambassador in the DPRK in January 1956 the DPRK intends to hold elections to village and district governing bodies in the spring of 1957. If these elections are held successfully it is proposed to hold elections to provincial governing bodies and the Supreme National Assembly in the fall of 1957; otherwise, elections to the Supreme National Assembly will be postponed to 1958.

The violation of the times for elections established by the Constitution is being used by the South Koreans and Americans for propaganda against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and against the peaceful reunification of Korea, and for slanderous statements about the lack of democracy in the DPRK. At the same time malicious propaganda widely advertises the fact that in South Korea elections to the so-called National Assembly were held back in May 1954, the third elections since 1948.

The times for the re-elections for judges and people's assessors are not being observed; however, in a number of new districts elections of judges have still not been held at all. Consequently district courts have been created in only 101 of 170 districts.

Numerous instances of violations of law occur in the DPRK. This is facilitated by the fact that civil and civil procedural codes have not yet been drawn up in the Republic. Legislation has not been developed in detail about marriage and the family.

The labor rights of manual laborers and white-collar employees are systematically violated. The wartime decrees on labor have been officially abolished at the present time. Meanwhile, the routine vacations provided in the 24 June 1946 “Law on the Labor of Manual Laborers and White-collar Employees of North Korea” have not been restored with the exception of vacations for ministers, deputy ministers, and some other categories of senior officials. Compensation is not being paid for the vacations not granted.

Violations of citizens' property rights have taken on broad dimensions. For example, in connection with the reconstruction work in the cities while carrying out a mass demolition of private housing citizens living in them are not being given housing, but [only] an insignificant monetary allowance for the construction of new housing is issued only in the event that the building and land parcel subject to demolition is legally documented in the homeowner's name. In practice this means that citizens are deprived of any compensation at all for demolished houses since an absolute majority of the population lives in temporary housing built during the war, and in the postwar period without official permission for this from local authorities. The poor segments of the population suffer when this is done.

It is characteristic that, in spite of the existence of many cases of violations of law and the interests of the workers, the population very rarely turns to the courts or prosecution with complaints or statements, which demonstrates the low authority of these bodies in the eyes of the workers.

The disengagement of the state apparatus from the popular masses and the voters' lack of control over its activity have created favorable conditions for waste and theft in the economy. In 1955 more than 70% of all court cases were connected with the theft, misappropriation, and waste of state and cooperative property, and bribery and squandering of state and cooperative money. In the assessment of Kim Il Sung, in 1955 about one-third of all the money and materials were not spent as intended in all sectors of the state and cooperative economy. In the first half of 1955 the amount of theft and waste of money, food, and materials identified was four million won at a time when three million won were budgeted for the maintenance of the state apparatus during this same period. The dimensions of the theft and squandering dropped somewhat after the 10th KWP CC plenum but continue to remain quite significant.

In order to fight the theft and squandering of public property the Korean comrades have organized a so-called "confession movement" and commissions of representatives of state and Party bodies have been created to manage it from top to bottom. This “movement” is based on the following principles: lenient measures of punishment ought to be taken with respect to people who admit their crimes or they should be completely released from punishment; take the most severe measures with respect to people who conceal their crimes. Punishment is not employed against people who confess in the event that the amount of the stolen state or cooperative property does not exceed 50,000 won and the person who committed this crime admitted their guilt. If the amount of the stolen state or cooperative property is between 50,000 and 300,000 won and the person who committed this crime admitted their guilt then forced labor punishment measures of from six months to one year are employed, at the end of which period the guilty party should be restored in [their] previous post with previous rights.

At the present time mainly people have confessed who have committed petty theft. For example, 12% of all the members in a producer's cooperative of the province of North Hwanghae confessed to theft and squandering; an average of 7,800 won for each guilty party was lost in stolen property. None of those who confessed, including leaders of work teams, were punished and work in [their] previous positions.

The Korean comrades view the “confession movement” as a long campaign to root out old bourgeois ideology. Meanwhile this "movement", not limited in time, actually legalizes and makes petty thefts unpunished, which could lead an even larger squandering of public property.

III.

A strengthening of the alliance of the working class and the peasantry, primarily with the middle peasants, who compose more than 30% of the rural population, is one of the most important goals of the KWP and the DPRK government.

The KWP CC put forward two forms of agricultural production cooperatives when pursuing a policy of production cooperation of peasant farms in which 80% of the income is distributed by work-days and 20% per the contributed land share*, and cooperatives in which all the income is distributed by work-days. Neither of these forms of cooperatives takes the interests of middle peasants into consideration sufficiently, as a result of which the majority of them take a wait-and-see position and refrain from joining cooperatives.

*It ought to be noted that in cooperatives of such a type in the People's Republic of China in the first years of their existence the share of income distributed by [land] shares was 30-40%.

Primarily poor peasants joined the production cooperatives. They compose the overwhelming majority among the 65% of peasant farms combined into cooperatives by the spring of 1956. As a rule poor peasants began to organize cooperatives of the higher type, which at the present time compose 90% of the total number of cooperatives in the country.

Thus the Korean countryside has actually found itself divided into two parts, a cooperated, mainly a poor peasant, part, and a non-cooperated part, composed chiefly of middle peasants.

In spite of this the KWP CC still has not outlined measures which would correct the situation which has been created. Many local Party and government bodies devote primary attention in their work to members of agricultural cooperatives and work poorly among individual farm owners. In addition, cases were noted before the end of 1955 when local government bodies mobilized the cattle and farm implements of individual peasant farm owners to perform agricultural work in cooperatives, which provoked their discontent.

The unification of the majority of peasant farms into production cooperatives advances into the agenda the question of setting policy with respect to the kulaks. Considering that the majority of kulak farms are in the southern regions bordering the demilitarized zone, the Korean friends’ attention ought to be directed to the need to develop a maximally flexible policy toward the kulaks, in particular using the experience of the Chinese friends on this issue.

The policy being pursued in the DPRK with respect to private industry and commerce cannot be considered correct. Unlike the policy of "limitation, use, and reform" pursued in the People's Republic of China, the KWP CC is pursuing a policy of forcing out and eliminating private businessmen and traders. DPRK private businessmen and craftsmen are being burdened with ever higher taxes, and do not get sufficient help from the state with credits, raw materials, etc. As a result of this the number of private industrial, commercial, and un-cooperated cottage enterprises has dropped sharply. At the end of 1955 there were only 8,420 private traders in the DPRK against 101,887 in December 1953. There were 5,226 private industrial enterprises (including craftsmen) against 7,828 at the end of 1954.

Such a sharp reduction of private industrial and commercial enterprises has worsened the economic situation in the country and has a negative influence on the authority of the DPRK among certain strata of the population of South Korea.

The KWP and DPRK government are not devoting the necessary attention to the political education of middle-sized and small businessmen and traders, craftsmen, and artisans or involving them in state and economic policy. In a number of cases the democratic parties and public organizations associated with these strata of the population are ignored, which leads to a narrowing of the social base of people's democracy in the DPRK and harms the cause of the peaceful reunification of Korea.

The KWP and government also underestimate the importance of the United Democratic Fatherland Front of Korea (YeDOF).

The YeDOF was formed in June 1949 at a founding congress in Pyongyang at which representatives elected in North and South Korea were present. The program adopted at the congress provided in particular for fighting for the complete independence of the country and the peaceful reunification of Korea.

The YeDOF changed considerably in its composition during the war in Korea and in the postwar period, and is actually no longer a Korea-wide mass political organization. Whereas initially the YeDOF included 19 political parties and public organizations of North Korea and 52 political parties and public organizations of South Korea, according to information as of March 1955 the YeDOF formally included 20 parties and organizations of North Korea and 18 parties and organizations of South Korea. Representation from South Korea has a purely symbolic character. Communications between representatives of South Korea with those organizations which they formally represent were lost during the war and have not managed to be restored in the postwar period.

As regards the democratic parties and public organizations of North Korea their activity in the YeDOF also has a formal nature to a considerable degree. Two political parties exist in North Korea beside the KWP: the Democratic Party and the Jeongudang (the Party of Young Friends). The Democratic Party, created in November 1945, consists of mid-sized and small industrialists, and merchants, and enjoys influence among DPRK Catholics. The Jeongudang, organized in February 1946 based on the political and religion organization Cheondogyo (Teachings of the Heavenly Way) consists mainly of middle and prosperous peasants at the present time. Jeongudang also enjoys influence among the poorest peasants of mountainous regions engaged in slash-and-burn agriculture (so-called khvadenminy) and the majority of them are adherents of this religious teaching. Neither party has its own platform, and the activity of their national governing bodies essentially comes down to the publication from time to time of declarations of support of the political measures pursued by the KWP and DPRK government.

The numerical strength of the Democratic Party declined from 150,000 (before the war) to 15,800 at the end of 1954, and the numerical strength of Jeongudang respectively from 175,000 to 1,500. At the same time the leaders of a number of provincial KWP organizations consider it correct to both reduce the strength of the democratic parties and eliminate a number of local organizations of these parties.

The representatives of these parties play no role inside the YeDOF in the preparation and decision of issues, which cannot fail to have an effect both on the authority and influence of these parties in the petit bourgeois strata of the population either on the authority of the YeDOF in the DPRK and also in South Korea. Both in the YeDOF CC and in the provincial and district committees of the Front all the work is directed by the secretaries of the corresponding YeDOF committees, an overwhelming majority of which are KWP members and are not elected by the organizations in the YeDOF, but are appointed by the KWP CC and responsible to it for their work.

The attitude of the Korean comrades toward the democratic parties and their representatives is characterized by the following fact. Kim Dal-Hyeon, the Chairman of Jeongudang, received the post of minister without portfolio in the current Cabinet of Ministers. However, this post is assigned to him purely formally; he was not even given any official office for current work and receiving visitors.

All this leads to the democratic parties in the YeDOF not displaying initiative in pursuing political work among the comparatively numerous petit bourgeois strata of the city and countryside in the country, but the KWP leadership does not use these parties to extend its influence to those strata of the city and countryside with which the KWP is poorly directly connected.

The underestimation of the political importance of the YeDOF by the Korean comrades and the democratic parties and public organizations in it facilitates the malicious agitation pursued from South Korea, does not obtain a proper rebuff, and finds a response among some part of the bourgeois and petit bourgeois population of the city and countryside. In addition, this underestimation reduces the ability to establish contact with the political parties and organizations of South Korea and leads to a weakening of the KWP position in the struggle for a peaceful reunification of the country. It is obvious the revival of a united front on a nationwide scale is impossible without the organization of the work of a united front in North Korea.

In the current situation, when the leading role of the Korean Worker's Party has been ensured in all spheres of life of the Republic, it would be politically advantageous if other political parties in the YeDOF stepped up their activity in the country somewhat and obtained an opportunity to make their own decisions concerning political issues in the spirit of the general principled line of the KWP and government. This would promote the attraction of the bourgeois and petit bourgeois strata of the population in the solution of the problems of socialist construction and the creation of a more favorable political situation for the peaceful reunification of the country.

MEMBER OF THE USSR MFA

INFORMATION COMMITTEE

[signature]

(S. RUMYANTSEV)

14 April 1956

Attachment to Nº 584/m

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