chapter  4
24 Pages

Dwindling options: 1980–6

ByAdrian Buzo

After exercising considerable power for many years behind the scenes, Kim Jong Il became a public figure when he was elected to a series of high Party positions at the Sixth Korean Workers' Party Congress in October 1980. Following this unveiling, Party cadres began to make open reference to the younger Kim's role as his father's successor, and during 1980-82 a further series of moves confirmed his authority. The DPRK's expanded relationship with the Soviet Union during this period did not occur at the expense of relations with China. Relations had deteriorated sharply in the immediate aftermath of the signing of major Sino–Japanese and Sino–American accords in 1978–79 and the Sino–Vietnamese border conflict in February 1979, where the precedent had been set for China dealing harshly with an independently minded small state with a long common border was clear, but in late 1981 both China and the DPRK took steps to place relations on a pragmatic footing.