North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Mothers’ Meeting Held

Ro Song Sil (L), Chair of the Korean Democratic Women’s Union of Korea, addresses the 4th National Meeting of Mothers in Pyongyang on 15 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA)

DPRK state media reported on 15 November (Thursday) that the Fourth National Meeting of Mothers was held at 25 April House of Culture in Pyongyang.  Attending the meeting were Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA] Presidium President Kim Yong Nam, Director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Department [bureau] VMar Choe Ryong Hae, Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Secretary and SPA Chairman Choe Tae Bok, KWP Secretary and Director of the Propaganda and Agitation [publicity and information] Department Kim Ki Nam, DPRK Cabinet Vice Premier and State Planning Commission Chairman Ro Tu Chol, DPRK Cabinet Vice Premier Kim Yong Jin, Director of the KWP Workers’ Organizations Department Ri Yong Su, Chair of the Korean Democratic Women’s Union [Democratic Women’s Union of Korea]  Ro Song Sil, Jong Hui Ja of the Korean Democratic Women’s Union of Japan.  Also in attendance were Chon Jae Ryong, leading a delegation of Korean women residing in the PRC, Jong Il Sim, leading a delegation of Korean women residing in the Russian Federation, “overseas women,” along with “officials of working people’s organizations, officials concerned, anti-Japanese revolutionary fighters, mothers who have devoted themselves to the upbringing of children and the drive for the prosperity of the country, wives of servicepersons, labor innovators, officials and other exemplary women.”

A view of the platform (rostrum) at the 4th National Meeting of Mothers at 25 April House of Culture in Pyongyang on 15 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA)

A view of the 4th National Meeting of Mothers at the 25 April House of Culture in Pyongyang on 15 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA)

KWP Secretary Kim Ki Nam delivers a congratulatory address on behalf of the party at the 4th National Meeting of Mothers at 25 April House of Culture in Pyongyang on 15 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA screengrab)

After a moment of silence for Kim Jong Il, Kim Ki Nam delivered a speech on behalf of the KWP.  Kim said that “Female Ch’o’llima rider depicted on the Statue of Ch’o’llima, a symbol of heroic Korea, which has shed its rays down through generations, features all mothers of the DPRK who displayed indomitable faith and heroic spirit in all fields in response to the call of the Party and the country” and thatthe mothers, who could hardly be freed from the burden of household chores for centuries, emerged powerful creators of the times and history. This history of landmark turn is associated with the lifetime indefatigable efforts of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il who led them every step of their way, attaching greater importance to their wisdom and strength than anybody else.”   According to KCNA ” the meeting discussed the tasks before the mothers and women to creditably discharge their mission for the prosperity of the country and harmony and happiness of society and families and the ways to do so.”

SPA Presidium President Kim Yong Nam (front row, C) attends the 4th National Meeting of Mothers in Pyongyang on 15 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA screengrab)

Ri Song Sil delivered congratulatory remarks on behalf of the Korean Democratic Women’s Union.  Ro said that, “under the military-first (so’ngun) leadership of the Party they have made a great contribution to the upbringing of children and the building of a thriving nation through their efforts to fulfill their responsibility and mission for society and families” and “Korean women in Japan and other overseas Korean women including mothers are giving stead continuity to Kim Il Sung’s nation, showing great sincerity for the prosperity of the socialist homeland.”  According to KCNA Ro “called upon all mothers and women to single-mindedly remain loyal to the idea and leadership of the dear respected Marshal Kim Jong Un and thus discharge their sacred responsibility and mission for the times and the revolution.”

Members of the Korean Children’s Union recite a poem at the end of the 4th National Meeting of Mothers in Pyongyang on 15 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA)

Ro’s remarks were followed by additional speeches.  After the speaking program KCNA reported that “a congratulatory group of the Korean Children’s Union entered the venue of the meeting and recited a congratulatory poem ‘Congratulations on the mothers’ meeting.'”

Flowers are presented to participants of the 4th National Meeting of Mothers on 15 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA)

On 16 November (Friday) the DPRK will celebrate its first Mothers’ Day.  16 November 2012 is the 51st anniversary of the First National Meeting of Mothers held on 16 November 1961.  During the first meeting of mothers Kim Il Sung’s essay “The Duty of Mothers in the Education of Children” was released.  1961 holds some significance in the annals of the Kim Family.  In April 1961, the Ch’o’llima statue was unveiled in Pyongyang, one of the first large monuments of kwangpok politics.    For three weeks during April and May 1961, according to the official chronicles, Kim Jong Il fulfilled his university student manual labor requirement at the Pyongyang Textile Machine Factory.  Also in May 1961 the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (f.k.a. Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland) was established.  In July 1961 then-Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and Kim Il Sung signed the DPRK-China treaty.  1961 was also the year that Kim Il Sung disseminated two agricultural policies, the development of fruit farming (at an April KWP Central Committee enlarged meeting in Pukch’o’ng County in South Hamgyo’ng Province) and the dissemination of a rural agricultural management policy in December.

Ko (L) with her son Kim Jong Un (R). This photograph illustrates the title of Kim Il Sung’ essay “The Duty of Mothers in the Education of Children.” (Photo: Party History Institute/Korea Documentary Film Studio via Mainichi Shimbun-Yonhap)

The Second National Meeting of Mothers occurred on  29 September 1998, days after Kim Jong Il formally assumed the DPRK government’s highest office of National Defense Commission Chairman.  A 27-year gap between mothers’ meetings might be explained as an early, oblique attempt to venerate Kim Jong Un’s mother Ko Yong Hui and establish, in the DPRK’s political culture, the legitimacy of the KJI-Ko family lineage.  The Third National Meeting of Mothers occurred on 24 November 2005, the year after Ko’s death.  The revival of the mothers’ meetings promoted–however subtly (to those “in the know”)–Ko’s importance.  But it was also a reference back to Kim Il Sung.  If Ko was linked to mothers’ meetings in 1998 and memorializing her formed the basis for the 2005 meeting, it aligned her son (at that time a toss-up between Jong Chol and Jong Un) directly with KIS’ treatise on the role of mothers in the DPRK from 1961 while also symbiotically associating the eventual hereditary successor with both KIS and KJI’s accomplishments from that year.

During this cursory flip-through of the Kims’ binders full of women, there are some other interesting similarities.  Like the second national meeting of mothers in 1998, the 4th national meeting occurred after Kim Jong Un formally assumed the supreme leadership position in the DPRK.  Throughout 2012, as part of KJU’s transition and power consolidations, a number of social and constituency groups (which reside under the KWP Workers’ Organizations Department) have gathered in Pyongyang.  The similarities in 1961 and 2012 are even more salient; as in 1961 the country has begun implementing (and retracting?) agricultural policies, a series of monuments to KIS and KJI have been erected in line with kwangpok politics, and the DPRK and China appear to be continuing amicable and substantial relations.  

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