An overseas DPRK business official and NFI informant reports that a recent emergency order has been issued to DPRK missions.
“Overseas war veterans” are to be persuaded to return to Pyongyang for July 27 – celebrated as Armistice Day in South Korea and the rest of the world, but known as “Victory Day” in North Korea.
“Overseas war veterans” refers to those who, during the entrenchment of Kim Il-sung’s power in the 50s and 60s, opposed his dictatorship and demanded group rule.
Members of the then elite, most were expelled or defected. Protagonists of the 1956 August Faction Incident, known as the Yanan Faction, form the majority of this group.
The Yanan Faction were anti-Japanese resistance fighters centred on Yanan in China. Following independence from Japan, they entered North Korea with the support of the Chinese Communist Party, and formed a political group based on the Chosun Militia.
They became a political force to be reckoned with in the early days of the communist party, alongside the Guerrilla Faction, the Domestic Faction and the Soviet Faction. Holding authority in five provinces, they were allied to the Soviet military administration.
But their power was diminished by the Kim Il-sung-focused Guerilla Faction. By the end of the Korean War and the 1956 August Faction Incident, they became completely excluded from the North Korean power elite.
On the occasion of Kim Il-sung’s 80th birthday, Kim Jong-il invited them back to Pyongyang. Many returned from the US, Russia, Japan and China.
In an unofficial setting, Kim Il-sung asked their pardon for having purged them, and also implored them to support North Korea’s unification efforts. At the same time, however, the Party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department widely praised Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il for pardoning them in recognition of their service as war veterans.
In order to mollify them, Kim Il-sung promoted the veterans by one or two ranks, awarded new medals and presented them with gold watches inscribed with his name. North Korea also promised the veterans pensions appropriate to their military rank. However, with the economy collapsing in the mid 1990s, this support failed to materialize.
Responsibility then rested with the Related Persons Section in the Party’s United Front Department, but has now moved to the Koryo Unified Committee (responsible for overseas North Koreans living in what was once the Soviet Union), the Association of Koreans in China and the Association of Koreans in Japan.
Overall control, however, is still retained by the United Front Department.
The Related Persons Section was set up within the United Front Department in the mid 1980s under orders from Kim Jong-il. They were tasked with finding and seeking reconciliation with overseas Koreans who had had relations with Kim Il-sung in the past.
In time, its sphere was widened to finding new overseas supporters of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, whose support might be used for unification propaganda.
For this purpose, Related Person No. 1 refers to those related to Kim Il-sung, while Related Person No 2. refers to those related to Kim Jong-il. Wherever Koreans live in the world, there exists a group called “Overseas Koreans Committee” entrusted with this task.
Kim Jong-un has chosen July 27 this year for a similar campaign of his own. Names of war veterans who have visited North Korea at least once have already been issued to DPRK overseas missions.
Persuasion and appeasement are being used to approach the veterans. But with many already dead, or ill, or ideologically opposed, refusals are growing.
It is to cope with this negative turn of events that the directive to overseas missions has apparently gained in urgency.
As North Korea has focused on the war atmosphere this year with increased military activity nationwide, it appears that July 27th will be much more than a mere repetition of past anniversaries.
In addition, it is likely to highlight support for the success of the current regime’s nuclear development.