GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

.

North Korea Today No. 261

RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR NORTH KOREAN SOCIETY
[Weekely Newsletter] No.261 January 2009
[Hot Topics]
Reformation of Farmers Market Postponed 6 Months
A Nationwide Rally to Follow Through New Year's Combined Editorial
The Central Party’s Economic Policy Review Board Says, “The Food Shortage of 2008 Should Not Be Repeated”

[Food]
Jungju City in North Pyongan Province, “Have not heard of distribution since 10 years ago”
A Farm Village in South Pyongan Distributes 7 Months Worth of Food

[Economy]
The Wealthy Concerned about Lost Income from Servi-Car Business with the Implementation of the ‘1st-day Market’
Control over Privately-Owned Public Baths in Pyongsung
Central Party Officials Failing to Achieve Grain Production Targets Harshly Criticized in North Hamgyong Province by Own Party

[Politics]
A Military Unit Punished for “Damaging Relations between the Military and the People”
Main Drug Stronghold Moves from Hamheung to South Pyongan Province
Special Lecture from the Border Security Agency
The Anti-Socialist Conscience Investigation Patrol (ASCIP) of the Security Agency, National Border Area Starts investigation

[Society]
Taesung Lake’s Waterway Repair Construction Started
Public Officials in Pyongyang Banned From Using Mobile Phones

[Women/Children/Education]
Kkotjebi in Hamheung Station Died from Suffocation in a Commuter Train
Haeju City Inspected Illegal CDs of Middle School Students
Democratic Women’s Union (DWU) is to Consider Economic Situation of Household When Collecting “Patriotic Rice”

[Accidents]
An Accidental Artillery Rocket Explosion at a Military Unit in Seonchun County
A Woman Killed for a Bike

[Commentary]
Recognition That Market Control Is Impossible Without Ration

[Investigative Report] Reading New Year’s Combined Editorial 2009 (2)




______________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]
Reformation of Farmers Market Postponed 6 Months

Reformation of farmers market was expected to begin in January 2009. Contrary to the expectation, its enforcement has been pushed back 6 months. Residents seemed happy with the decision. As a reflection, the price of food has dropped since January 3. At the nation’s major city markets, the price of rice has dropped from 2,000-2,200 NKW* (North Korean Won)/kg to 1,800 NKW/kg and the price of corn has reduced from 800-850 NKW/kg to 750 NKW/kg. The food price hasn't changed since the central party announced the plan that they would abolish general market and change to farmers market.

When the news of a 6 months extension was released, an official in Pyongyang said, "Everybody was concerned that if the market is abolished they would likely go through more difficult time than the Arduous March of 1990’s. I think their concern was reflected on the decision of extension." One official in Sungchun County, South Pyongan Province, said, "Even if it seems that the harvest last year was better than previous years. It did not turn the food situation around." Our county party as well as division (Ri) party have made suggestions to the central party." If general markets are abolished, the people in local areas would have to get through more difficult time than the Arduous March. Another official added, "The workers without food distribution need to get food, however, there is no place to provide them with food. How could we survive when all markets shut down?"

An official mentioned, "If we eliminate general market at this time, it could cause internal disturbance. General market is the only way for regular people to get food even when all markets are open. So shutting down the general market would make all people starve to death." Many people are concerned nationwide. Since central party has decided to carry out plan step by step as they are watching the situation, it is known that a new farmers market policy will be effective in 6 months.

*US$1.00 is approximately 3,400 North Korean Won.

A Nationwide Rally to Follow Through New Year's Combined Editorial
After a one day holiday on the first day of the New Year, the meeting has taken place from January 2 to achieve New Year’s combined editorial. In order to solve the food crisis, fertilizer preparation and Juche agricultural technique were emphasized. Before New Year's a combined editorial releasing, a variety of lectures for farming were held in nationwide farming areas. From December 17 to 26 last year, foremen of each working unit and team leaders in the farming villages gathered to give the lectures on creative, independent Juche agricultural techniques, “We need to establish material and technical foundation so that we can increase food product to solve food crisis. Therefore, farmers have to have new farming methods." Once the New Year's editorial was released, each city and county set to prepare farmyard manure. North Korean government ordered most of area to get farmyard manure on their own due to lack of Heungnam Fertilizer. People's assembly of major cities such as Chungjin, Pyongsung and Hamheung have ordered to prepare 500kg of farmyard manure and 30 kg of pieces of old metal per each worker in factories, untied enterprises and DWU.

The Central Party’s Economic Policy Review Board Says, “The Food Shortage of 2008 Should Not Be Repeated”
On December 8 of last year, the Central Party’s Economic Policy Review Board summoned officials of the Agricultural Department and the Trade Department (무역성). They then held a meeting to deliver Kim Jong-Il’s word on the food situation and to discuss ways to make plans for and implement his order. Determining that the amount of food in the country was insufficient due to the 2008 food shortage, they decided that officials of the Trade Department would take the payment with food in the trade with China.

On December 21, those who work in the economic sector met to assess the status of the people’s economic situation. There were discussions on the worker’s ration, work hours, the production amount, equipment status at each factory, and enterprise at the meeting. In addition, it was determined that the national economy should be revived in the new year and handed down the plans for "adopting cutting-edge technologies that go with the information industry and modernizing of the factory in the new year.”

One of the Central Party officials whom was asked to assess the number of workers who do not come to work and to identify the amount of distribution said, "Take full advantage of production technology in producing goods in order to give stability to the workers and then gradually resolve the food distribution. Do not focus solely on the large factories in the light and heavy industry. Even if it is a petty shoe factory, we should manage the operation well to produce good products. In addition, if we track down the quantity of production and supply to the people, there is no need to import the Chinese-made shoes. Then that alone will be a big gain." In this meeting, the Central Party executives repeatedly stressed that "in 2009 we should make most efforts to the issues of food and clothing," and said, "There should be no recurrence of food shortage problems like in 2008."


[Food]
Jungju City in North Pyongan Province, “Have not heard of distribution since 10 years ago”
Kim Soon-duck (49), a resident in Ohryong-ri, Jungju City, North Pyongan Province, said she is worried because amount of distribution is too little. The reason there are little amount of distribution is because the soldiers transport grains away when farmers finish threshing them for army provisions. “The foreman of our working unit was storing some reserve foods to provide to people who miss work after the spring hardship season, but even those foods were taken away by the Farm Management Council.” Lee Myong-sook (43), Kim’s co-worker, said, “I have not heard of distribution since 10 years ago.” Such expression again implies that the amount of distribution is too little. “According to the merchants, farmers in other places seem to get at least 6 or 7 months of distribution. We will be happy with half of what they receive,” said Lee. One worker said, “Farmers do not have a sense of ownership for their lands because they do not get distributed. They only focus on a small patch lot or their family backyards.” Year 2009 began, but the residents in Jungju City are already worried about the food situation during the spring hardship season.

A Farm Village in South Pyongan Distributes 7 Months Worth of Food
Moonduk, Pyongwon, Sookchun, and a couple other Counties in South Pyongan Province distributed 7 months worth of food to the farmers. The officials at the Farm Management Council said that remaining 5 months worth of food would be distributed during the spring hardship season, which is the hardest time of the year. However, no farmer seems to believe these promises. Kwak Mi-ok (43), a resident in Wonhwa-ri, Pyongwon County, said, “They say they will provide food later, but check and see if they have any grains in the storage. There is no grain in the storage at the moment nor will they have any in April.” One official at the Farm Management Council said, “We just follow orders from higher parties. They order us to make army provisions our priorities and we have no choice but to follow that order. The parties ask us to educate people that feeding soldiers is a good thing,” admitting the difficulty of making the remaining portion of the distribution.


[Economy]
The Wealthy Concerned about Lost Income from Servi-Car Business with the Implementation of the ‘1st-day Market’

The Servi-Car business, as it is called in North Korea, is a highly desired business among the rich. The prohibition of private ownership of vehicles has led a number of wealthy individuals to register their names with factories or public enterprises to run car businesses. It would cost at least 500,000-600,000 NK Won or around 400,000 NK Won per month to register with the military or the police station respectively. On average, one must pay at least 200,000 to 300,000 NK Won a month to factories or public enterprises, which constitutes a significant sum of money going into running a business, which the average North Korean could not even dream of entering. Despite the high monthly costs, this business remains desirable because it only takes six months to breakeven on one’s investments. Profits can be made not only by transporting passengers, but also by delivering fall harvests such as corn and beans or by transporting market supplies. However, in six months when general markets are reorganized into farmers markets (so-called “1st-day market”), the average number of days for business for the Servi-Car owners will be drastically reduced to the 1st, 11th, and 21st of every month. Consequently, the prospects are not bright for the business owners who are worried about the reduction in their income.

Control over Privately-Owned Public Baths in Pyongsung
Many wealthy people are involved in the public bath business. At the end of last year (2008), privately-run public baths in Pyongsung City of the South Pyongan Province were placed under investigation. The public bath owners charge up to 3,000 NK Won, which includes the basic 2,000 NK Won bath fee and other additional charges for soap and shampoo. Due to the poor supply of electric power in the city, many public bath owners are forced to raise bath fees to burn wood or coal to heat the water. In addition to this, around half of the income the owners make goes to public enterprises as a fee to use their names to run the businesses. If an owner earns 40,000 NK Won in profits a day, the owner pays 20,000 NK Won to the public enterprise as long as the bath is open for business. As the number of people profiting from the public bath businesses has increased, the Pyongsung police and public prosecutor’s stations have begun to control it. The Security Bureau visits the privately-run public baths almost every other day to charge a fine of 20,000 NK won. Mr. Kim, who runs a public bath, says, “I don’t know why they penalize us when the privately-run bath business has become no different from an ordinary business.”

Central Party Officials Failing to Achieve Grain Production Targets Harshly Criticized in North Hamgyong Province by Own Party
On December 22, the North Hamgyong Central Party held their plenary meeting where leading secretaries, chairpersons of the People’s Council, and chairpersons of the Agricultural Management Committees from each city and county together discussed the overall achievements of last year’s grain and military provision production goals. The leading secretary from the Central Party harshly criticized and called out all sorts of names to those who failed to achieve their production goals. He was especially harsh on the officials who failed to meet their goals for the past three years and even threathened to reevaluate their positions in the Central Party. At the meeting, the Party instructed all of the members to better manage the consumption of grains, and to conserve the yields by reducing the production of basic foods such as soybean paste to half its current production should the current food crisis not be resolved immediately. The Party also warned officials to heighten ideology training for the workers to guard against possible shifts in the workers’ ideology, occurring from long periods of food shortages and insufficient distribution.


[Politics]
A Military Unit Punished for “Damaging Relations between the Military and the People”

A military unit was severely punished for taking more than the ordered amount of food from the Local Grain Policy Enterprise in Seoheung County, North Hwanghae Province. The military convoy took an additional 9 MT of corn during an unguarded moment by Local Grain Policy Enterprise personnel. The officers contacted the military unit after discovering missing merchandise, who subsequently denied the allegations. Seoheung County ‘s Local Grain Policy Enterprise filed complaints against the County Party who then passed it along to the People’s Defense Ministry for further investigation.

The People’s Defense Ministry decided to punish the military unit severely for damaging relations between the military and the people. This incident led to the subsequent discharge of a military general and an order for the members of the convoy to enlist in a full year of military education under military law. According to a Seoheung County official, “Taking 9 MT of raw corn during a desperate food crisis is tantamount to grand larceny against the government. It is unforgivable even for the brave of the Military First Era”. Another official added, “It was the first time a military office had filed complaints against the People’s Defense Ministry. There are serious efforts being taken to mitigate damaged relations between the people and the military as announced in the New Year’s editorial”

Main Drug Stronghold Moves from Hamheung to South Pyongan Province
There are signs of the main drug stronghold in Hamheung moving to South Pyongan Province including Pyongsung, Soonchun, Anju and others. After a series of policies geared towards eradicating drugs in Hamheung last year, drug producers are moving their operations to other provinces. The National Security Agency is expanding their dragnet to cities such as Soonchun and Pyongsung and hilltop neighborhoods in counties. On December 14 of last year, they arrested 17 drug producers in Soonchun City and publicly executed three of them. Six of the perpetrators were sentenced to life in prison while the remaining eight were sent to the Political Labor Detention Centers in Yoduck County, South Hamgyong Province. Although official drug investigations had ended in Soonchun City as of October 25, it failed to eradicate drug trafficking. Consequently, further investigations were resumed on December 20 to stamp out drug trafficking.

Special Lecture from the Border Security Agency
Border security was strengthened after attempted border crossings to China increased due to the river freezing over for the winter. Dealing with border-crossing problem was transferred from the police department to the security agency, followed by a lecture given at the Security Agency on December 15 of last year. The lecture included warnings like “Report family fleeing to South Korea in a timely manner, families with members that have fled to China will be banished to farming divisions(Ri)” as contents. Also included was advice to “Eat food as sparingly as possible and do not waste food in events like wedding ceremonies and such.” The lecture even included the well know threat that if you are caught running away to China, you could be sentenced to up to 10 years at re-education centers. This was the first time Security Agency gave a political lecture related to the food problem. On the one hand, it is known that among the people who were repatriated compulsorily to Sinuiju and Namyang from May to July, 2008, the ones caught running away from North Korea were transferred to political labor detention centers like the Yoduck Labor Detention Center (요덕관리소) in South Hamgyong Province.

The Anti-Socialist Conscience Investigation Patrol (ASCIP) of the Security Agency, National Border Area Starts investigation
From January 10, the Security Agency started a special investigation of anti-socialist activities in the national border areas like Hoeryong, Moosan, Onsung, and others in the North Hamgyong Province. They gather in detail not just basic information about families such as the list of family members, the number, the constitution state, and such, but also more in-depth information such as who provides the living, what kind of business do they do if they have a business, whether the family has ever had help from relatives in China, etc. It is known that the purpose of ASCIP is for warning possible border-crossers and prosecuting attempted espionage easily.


[Society]
Taesung Lake’s Waterway Repair Construction Started

In the plenary meeting which was held the end of last year, Provincial party of South Pyongan Province decided to proceed with the repair operation of Gaechun-Taesung Lake’s water course and started the construction on January 5th. Meanwhile there have been massive breakdowns of the waterway due to heavy flooding, which has made securing the water for agricultural needs difficulty. Last year, an estimated 80 Jungbo (정보)* had hardship in farming because of the dry spell. Provincial party of South Pyongan Province is determined to complete the watercourse repair as soon as possible, before the farming starts. They have ordered the cities and counties to mobilize special storm troops for this purpose.

*Jungbo: unit of land, 1 Jungbo is 2.45acres

Public Officials in Pyongyang Banned From Using Mobile Phones
Mobile phones are operating in Pyongyang since last mid-December. However, public officials working under the government cannot use them under any conditions. Anyone working in a position with access to national secrets, including officials working in the central party, the administration and the judiciary, are prohibited from using mobile phones. The main consumers of cell phones now are wealthy general citizens or trade officials. Also the mobile phone only includes coverage within Pyongyang. It is possible to make calls from Pyongyang to outside the city, but the outside cannot reach Pyongyang via cell phones.


[Women/Children/Education]
Kkotjebi in Hamheung Station Died from Suffocation in a Commuter Train

On December 25, Kkotjebi (homeless children) slept in a commuter train at Hamheung Station, South Hamgyong Province and died from suffocation due to gas and coal. In the train, there was a coal stove and a trainman put wet coal on the burning coal to put it out. The Kkotjebi that usually sleep in the train died from the fire. During this time, the stove produced carbon monoxide. On the day of the incident, three Kkotjebis out of 17 who slept beside the stove, breathed in the gas and died on the spot. The others were critically poisoned and sent to the hospital. However, they were in critical condition and considered hopeless. If they had received urgent treatment, they could have survived. However, they lost the chance to survive because the trainman who found them did not pay careful enough attention.

Haeju City Inspected Illegal CDs of Middle School Students
Last October 8th, Haeju City in South Hwanghae Province, organized the Investigation Patrol of the Anti-Socialist activities of teenagers and begun an inspection. Haeju authorities sent its officers of the City Party, police stations, prosecutory offices, and the Youth Union to middle schools in Haeju and let these officers inspect students without advance notice. When students went to school or back home, the inspectors examined students’ bags, uniforms, shoes, wallets, and any belongs without notice. At the end of the inspection on December 20, the officers seized over 200 CDs total that were copies of South Korean dramas and movies and Chinese dramas such ‘Daughters of an Emperor (황제의 딸)’ at Haewoon Middle School and 3 other middle schools. They seized over 100 CDs at one single middle school. Many students brought these CDs to their school to exchange them for their friends’ CDs. The City Party concluded that such loose control was the main reason for the abundant amount of illegal CDs. Therefore, they severely criticized the first Secretary of the Youth Union and ordered him to strictly conduct Ideology Lectures.

Democratic Women’s Union (DWU) is to Consider Economic Situation of Household When Collecting “Patriotic Rice”
Since December 17th, Gaechun City Democratic Women’s Union in South Pyongan Province has been collecting patriotic rice from its members. Each member is expected to donate 1kg of grain, 200g of pork, and 1 bar of soap. Since the donation drive is not going as planned, the chief of DWU is personally visiting each household and checking each economic situation. The donation works in such a way that a household may be exempted from donations when it is determined that they cannot afford to make any. The DWU members seem to appreciate the fact that the economic condition of a household is taken into consideration unlike the previous practice of mandatory donations.

[Accidents]
An Accidental Artillery Rocket Explosion at a Military Unit in Seonchun County

Last December 12th, there was an accidental artillery rocket explosion at a military unit in Seonchun County, North Pyongan Province. This accident caused the death of four soldiers and 26 hospitalized men.

A Woman Killed for a Bike
Night of last December 16th, Lee living in 23rd unit of Kangandong, Soonchun City of South Pyongan Province, murdered a young woman who was on her way home from work taking her cash and bike with him. A security officer in Kangandon who was just starting his patrol caught Lee at the scene of the crime and arrested him right away.


[Commentary] Recognition That Market Control Is Impossible Without Ration
It is reported that the reform of the farmers markets, which was supposed to be implemented in the New Year, has been pushed back for six months. This is the result of opinions expressed by those in the field that people will suffer difficulties worse than that of the Arduous March in case the markets close down. People worried about market closure are welcoming the decision; food prices also show the trend of temporary decline. From the point of view of the residents, the postponement of market closure allowed them to breathe a sigh of relief.

Just as the attempt to resume the public distribution system in the fall of 2005 failed to take effect after a few months, the public distribution system stopped working once again after the rations were distributed in some regions. Since people do not trust the distribution office any more, people find it fortunate that the market will stay open and that they will be able to purchase food.

In fact, skeptical views were pervasive among people, as well as among party members, regarding the issue of closing general markets and transforming them into farmers’ markets. Furthermore, it is also true that there are not enough means to implement the policy, based solely on the order from the higher-ups, when the distribution center ceases to function. Therefore, it is unclear whether market closure can be implemented now, or even after six months have elapsed. It is literally impossible to close down the trading markets without normalizing the public distribution system.

North Korean authorities defined the market as 'a breeding ground of capitalism', which is corrosive to the socialist system, and they have cracked down on that market. Nevertheless, the failure of the public distribution system is the largest reason that people are depending on the market for their sustenance. Marketplaces appeared where the distribution centers ceased to exist. What is corrosive to socialism is not the fact that people go to the market, but rather that distribution centers have no rice to distribute. Six months from now, the peak of food shortages will arrive during the farm hardship period in the spring. At that time, the situation will have become a lot worse that it is right now, after the harvest. Merely doing everything possible to prepare for this year's crop is more realistic. It is also advised that North Korean authorities more actively seek out external support such as food imports.


[Investigative Report] Reading New Year’s Combined Editorial 2009 (2)

“Let the New Year Shine as a Year of Revolutionary Climax, Heralded by Martial Bugle Calls”

Composition of New Year’s Combined Editorial 2009

l Overall Summary of Accomplishments in 2008 (10%)
l Ideological Mobilization 2009 (40%)
l Sectional Assigned Tasks (10%)
l Assigned Task of Military under the Ideology of Military First (10%)
l Appeals to Workers in Party, Administration, Labor, Youth and Workshop Union (20%)
l Relationship with South Korea and International Relationships (10%)

Hollow Return to ‘Socialist Planned Economy’

The first half of the New Year’s Combined Editorial 2009 briefly mentions the accomplishments of 2008 and proposes a heightened Chollima Movement 2009 as a rousing call. The Editorial claims that the nation should succeed in its ideological warfare through wholehearted unity and patriotism. The nation should rely on Juche ideology, the principle of Military First and reject imperialist ideo-cultural invasion and psychological conspiracy. Specifically, the nation needs collectivism, self-sustainment and speedy warfare. Prior to mentioning the various accomplishments toward establishing a strong economic nation, the Editorial tries to instill a sense of the inevitability of its victory in warfare.

“The victory in the total warfare toward establishing a strong economic nation is inevitable, as every citizen is equipped with limitless creativity and the powerful Juche industry is armed with new technology.”

It asserts without hesitation that victory is inevitable because of ‘powerful Juche industry.’ It is difficult to locate in the texts what the ‘powerful Juche industry’ refers to. It merely mentions that the important task at this time in economic buildup is ‘to achieve a decisive breakthrough in enhancing all the production levels to their peaks in people’s economy’ based on the ‘superiority of the socialist planned economy.’

This portion of the Editorial is expected to be controversial even domestically in North Korea. Firstly, does the ‘powerful Juche industry’ exist at all? Secondly, it is an undeniable reality that the socialist planned economy has collapsed beyond the point of no return. Domestically in North Korea, everyone knows that The National Planning Committee, the backbone of the planned economy, is powerless. The divisional economy has set itself up in place of the planned economy controlled by the Central Party. According to the policy of the Central Party stressing the importance of self-sustaininment, all the economic units of party, military, and regional administrative organizations are divided. The Central Party cannot give up Chamber 38 and 39[1]). The secondary economy is solidified to the extent that the national government hesitates to interfere in local matters and the divisional economies are mutually exclusive.

Now that the backbone of the planned economy is broken, it really is meaningless to list all the sectional tasks. Requests to the various industries such as metallurgy, electricity, coal, rail transportation, extraction, food, fishery, light industry and housing in Pyongyang are nothing more than a lot of empty shouting. Statements that have been already presented are being repeated here again.

They claim that economic buildup should be strengthened by national centralization and consistent guidance and that planned projects should be revised reflecting developments in society. Nevertheless, it is questionable whether there is any plan to restore the planned projects controlled by the central government. They assert that, “the superiority of a socialist planned economy should be promoted by means of renovated economic management.” If this assertion presages the elimination of General Markets, promotion of State-run Stores, and a policy of food sales at the Local Grain Policy Enterprise, then the planned projects currently controlled by the central government are expected to be carried out in small scales. Large-scale divisional economies such as the party economy, military economy and specialty economy are not dealt with, and only the limited market economy, which affects peoples’ daily lives, will be subject to control. Could this kind of oversight be the stated ‘return to a socialist planned economy’?

To the People’s Army, “Do Harm To People No More”

Unlike in the previous year’s declaration, The People’s Army is mentioned along with the normal subjects of economy, culture, arts, education and sports. The New Year’s Combined Editorial 2008 unusually included a great deal regarding The People’s Army, which reflected recent failures in the behavior of the military. Its interpretation could be that a tightening of military discipline (among the whole army) would lead to a tightening of discipline in the whole society (the entire party, entire population). This year’s Editorial designated the military as having a lower priority, secondary to other tasks.

Many expressions and tales of the Army are repeated this year, such as the title “pillar of revolution supporting the party’s leadership in the principle of Military First,” “warriors with courage, each matching for a hundred” and “realization of solid unity of government and military, and harmony of politics and military.” What attracts attention this year is the expression, “with the motto ’Help people!’ flying high in the air, let’s proudly solidify the unity of people and military.”

Relationship between the people and the military has been likened to that of fish and water for a long time. However, as economic crisis lingers and more emphasis is placed on the principle of Military First, the relationship between the people and the military has gotten worse and worse. The military has also been suffering from the food crisis since the March of Hardship, resulting in an increase in crimes committed by military personnel and significant damages to the population. Consequently, the motto ‘Help people!’ is considered to be a reflection of the damage done to North Korea’s civilians by the military. During the previous year, ‘North Korea Today’ often reported incidents when soldiers committed collective assault and robbery during times of severe food shortage. Soldiers should set examples for society in ‘all aspects of ideology and spirit, morality and culture.’ In reality, military behavior falls short of such goals, which has led to appeals for improvement in the relationship between the people and the military. The appeals are also warnings of harsher penalties in case of any future violations.

The following statements concern the “attitude of The People’s Army toward those who violate our independence, pride and institutions of socialism.”

“Our guns, supported by determination and enmity based on class struggle, will punish any provocations by the enemy without tolerance and mercy.”

Although it is not specified, ‘those who violate our independence, pride and institutions of socialism’ could be interpreted to refer to ‘South Korea.’ Thus they issued a military warning toward some ‘anti-North activities’ which try to influence the relationship between North and South Korea.

Role of the Party, a Request Echoing the 1970s

Instructions to The People’s Army are followed by appeals to the Party, administrative organizations, Labor Class, Youth Union, Workplace Union and Democratic Women’s Union.

It requests that party organizations should bring forth a ‘new transformation as in the 1970s’ and solidify the ‘projects to establish the party’s sole system of leadership.’ For the successful second Chollima leap forward, the party should perform its proper role as in the 1970s. Conversely, it means the party is not doing its role properly. The assessment by the North Korean leadership is that the party is inconsistently partitioned, mirroring the divisional economy. A collapse of the central distribution system caused a weakening of the ‘primary channel of communication’ that is embodied in the chain of command from central party to provincial party, then to city or county party. Formally there exists a communication channel, that is, city/county party to provincial party and provincial party to central party. Each level should survive on the ‘self-sustaining’ principle, and as a consequence, lower levels often fail to report to higher levels anything that could be criticized. The central party has already lost control of the lower levels in the party system. As a corrective measure, the central party sends out intensive directive teams or inspectors against anti-socialist activities, but its effectiveness isn’t certain and ‘only temporary’ as many party leaders cynically assess them.

It has been a long time since there was Democracy within the Party in North Korea. Opinions from the lower levels never reach the top and even if they did, they are never considered. The Central party, supposed to play the role of mother, never considers the wider population and often does not tolerate even the lower level in the party system. An inability to resolve problems raised by the lower level undermines the Central Party’s credibility. In such a situation, it seems to be impossible to return to the level of party discipline seen in the 1970s. Kim Young-joo was in charge of party organizational tasks in 1970s, proposing ‘ten principles of sole party leadership.’ In those days, the distribution system, democracy within the party and stability of the cabinet economy were maintained at a satisfactory level, relatively speaking. All of those strong qualities have since disappeared. In order to bring back the glories of the 1970s, those conditions would have to be rebuilt one by one.

Role of Labor Class Is Unusually Emphasized

Additionally, administration workers, the Youth Union, Workplace Union and the Democratic Women’s Union are mentioned. Statements concerning the Labor Class[2]) are particularly important.

“The Labor Class is the proudest main force in our heightened history and the basic battle unit in establishing a strong nation.”

The Labor Class is described as ‘an exploring hero leading the era’ in the transformational period of revolution. Considering the assessment of the Labor Class as ‘not trustworthy’ upon completion of the Third Seven-Year Plan, the above description is unbelievable praise. The Labor Class is praised as having ‘Kanggye spirit.’ Kanggye spirit is equivalent to ‘the self-sustaining spirit.’ On one hand, the soldiers were requested to ‘help people’ and were pressed hard on why they could not set examples in ‘all aspects of ideology and spirit, morality and culture.’ On the other hand, the Labor Class is consistently praised and encouraged. This is because the Labor Class is the one that will practically lead the heightened Chollima Movement. As administrative workers and Youths set examples with the party leadership in terms of ideological warfare, it is requested that the Labor Class should also rise up. It is similar to the request to be ‘an attacking warrior at the time of Military First with a revolutionary soldier’s spirit and Kanggye spirit.’ This is a notable shift from last year when it was claimed that the main force was the party leaders and workers in the major enterprises.

Improvement in Relationship with South Korea Starts with ‘Joint Announcements of 6.15 (June 15) and 10.4 (October 4)’

Immediately following the appeals for a heightened Chollima Movement is a mention of the relationship between North and South Korea and international relationships. What is impressive is the assertion, ‘Unification of motherland is the desire of all Koreans and a task of the utmost urgency.’ The reason for mentioning the unification first is to make the assessment, ‘the accession in the previous year of conservative South Korea group has brought a serious challenge.’ North Korean authorities emphasize, ‘the only practical principles for unification are the joint announcements of 6.15 and 10.4,’ recalling that the South Korea administration totally refused to accept the 6.15 and 10.4 joint announcements. They continue to claim ‘We will not tolerate any diversions from the historical North-South joint announcements. For unification of motherland and prosperity of the people, North-South joint announcements should be advocated and carried out.’ This can be interpreted to mean that North Korea will deal with South Korea only when South Korea accepts the 6.15 and 10.4 joint announcements.

Now that North Korea has made its intentions clear, it is necessary that South Korea should do the same. The 6.15 and 10.4 joint announcements should not become a piece of political propaganda monopolized by any one side. They should be honored as agreements between leaders of North and South Korea. Conflicts in details, if any, should be resolved through dialogue.

It is fortunate that North Korean authorities describe the South Korean government as ‘conservative South Korea authorities’ in trying to avoid extreme expressions. However, their expression such as ‘restoring the Fascist dictatorship’ does not seem to show the appropriate level of respect to the other side. Those statements do not represent any individuals, rather they are formal documents of domestic and international significance. As members of the international community, each government should use language appropriate in polite diplomacy. It is better for each government to avoid blaming one another and resuming the customary finger pointing. We desire to see in this New Year mutual harmony and real progress toward unification of the two Koreas.

This concludes our review of The New Year’s Combined Editorial 2009. We pay so much attention to it because their ‘motto’ is the criterion by which North Korea moves during the year. This year North Korea renewed its efforts with respect to the Chollima Movement. Its forecast came December 24 of last year when Chairman Kim visited the Chollima Steel United Enterprise, which followed the New Year’s Combined Editorial. What remains to be seen is how the flame of the Chollima Movement will be spread all over the nation. Moving past the optimistic declarations, the reality is that there are formidable obstacles to such reforms. We will be watching to see how North Korea tries to establish a strong nation under these vicious conditions.

[1] ) Chamber 38 and 39 (38호실, 39호실): One of the Financial and Economy Bureau under the Joseon Workers’ Party.

[2] ) Labor Class (노동계급) does not refer to any workers, but is considered as a unit.

North Korea Today No. 260

RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR NORTH KOREAN SOCIETY
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr/eng
[Weekely Newsletter] No.260 January 2009
[Hot Topics] Female Crimes for Living Resulted From Business

[Food]
South Pyongan Province, Distribution Center Out of Operation
Soonchun Coal Machinery Factory Distributes 7.5kg of Corn
Refinery in Danchun City Makes Late November Distribution

[Economy]
A Monthly Fee of 15,000 NK Won for the 8.3 Factory at the Soonchun Vinalon United Enterprise
Broken Ventilation Equipment Causes Coal Production Setback at the Sanghwa Coal Mine in Onsung
Closed People’s Coal Mine Reopened with Increasing Demand for Coal

[Politics]
Residents in Sepo County in working clothes to avoid beggars asking for money

[Society]
Historic Exploration Campsite of Kangye City Supply Wild Boar to Troops
Munitions Factory Worker in Kangye City Severely Punished for Cutting Telephone Wire

[Women/Children/Education]
DWU Members Suffer Due To the Mobilization for New Year’s Farming Preparation

[Accidents]
In Jungpyung County, the National Flag of North Korea Was Destroyed

[Commentary]
Women Should Not be Driven to Commit Crimes Related to Livelihood

[Investigative Report]
Reading New Year’s Combined Editorial 2009 (1)




__________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics] Female Crimes for Living Resulted From Business
Jeungsan County, South Pyongan Province, an officer in a re-education center reported that the number of female prisoners has increased. Female prisoners are often charged with violating economic laws by engaging in illicit human and drugs trafficking. Since women are often in charge of their households and responsible for obtaining food rations, the number of crimes committed by women have increased. Moreover, as control over trade has been tightened during the past a few years, the more female have broken the law.

Soonchun, South Pyongan Province, Suh Mi-ok (38) said, "The food my household receives last only for half of October. I should have worked in order for my family to survive, but I could not do any business this year. I used to sell cosmetics this year. I was not able to sell due to age restrictions. I was told that we are not allowed to sell industrial products starting in 2009. This can really do harm to regular people like us. If it is possible, I would even like to sell ‘Ice’ (a kind of Amphetamine) to make money." Lee Geum-hwa (43) in Hamheung, South Hamgyong Province said, "We have been suffering from hunger this year. If I have to live with only glass porridge and suffer from hunger, I will come up with ways to survive, such as going to China to sell ‘Ice’." A national security agency worker mentioned that "Women get bold to take charge of families so they do not mind breaking the laws and violating."


[Food]
South Pyongan Province, Distribution Center Out of Operation

The Distribution Center under the Local Grain Policy Enterprise (랑정사업소) of each city and county in South Pyongan Province have not yet started selling food to the residents. Upon reforming farmers' markets, the distribution centers are not allowed to sell food. Instead, the distribution center should manage food issues. The center just provided food to those who have performed distinguished service to the nation and their children. Despite the food situation getting worse, each city and county selected party members to tighten up control over the market. The party stressed the importance of enforcing the rules, especially regarding women. In the mean time, they made people to sign on the agreement that "Businessmen agree with and follow new market management systems."

Soonchun Coal Machinery Factory Distributes 7.5kg of Corn
A coal machinery factory in Soonchun City, South Pyongan Province, resumed distributing rations to a limited number of workers in the munitions department in October after a long delay. Each worker received 7.5 kg of corn and 7 kg of soybean between early October and late November. The munitions department at this factory is currently producing parts for 105mm-range guns and plans to produce additional parts for 30mm-range guns starting January.

Refinery in Danchun City Makes Late November Distribution
A refinery in Danchun City, South Hamgyong Province, distributed soy beans and corns in late November, following its first distribution of rations in October. However, it sent absent workers to the discipline center at the factory without distributing any food. Party Secretary at this factory collected 25,000 NK won and allowed so-called ‘8.3 workplace’ to the workers, which gives them opportunity to have other jobs for 1-2 months.


[Economy]
A Monthly Fee of 15,000 NK Won for the 8.3 Factory at the Soonchun Vinalon United Enterprise

The Vinalon* United Enterprise in Soonchun City, South Pyongan Province, operates an 8.3 Factory. However, a person is required to pay a monthly fee of 15,000 NK Won to work there. Because there are few regularly running factories, general workers, who come to work at the factories, are called out for social works. Although the Enterprise is one of the largest on the west coast, its’ workers steal and sell pieces of the factory machines as workers of regular factories do. As of December, the Enterprise has not been able to pay wages or provide its workers with any provisions.

*Vinalon: a synthetic fiber similar to cotton

Broken Ventilation Equipment Causes Coal Production Setback at the Sanghwa Coal Mine in Onsung
The Sanghwa Coal Mine in Onsung County of the North Hamgyong Province had to stop coal production at one of the mines for over a month due to broken ventilation equipment. Although the secretary and the manager of the mine give a daily speech on the importance of coal production, the workers still refused to dig out coal. The workers were worried that the broken ventilation equipment will cause a gas explosion or a large accident at any time. They argued that they are not willing to their lives to dig out coal. Goh Sung-gook (42 years), says, “It has already been very hard to live on dried radish leaves soup and a spoonful of corn rice. If the workers were killed in the mine due to lack of preparation for another accident, how sad would that be?” The concern of the workers grows because even when the ventilation equipment is fixed, it only lasts two days before it breaks again. The coalmine’s managers are not able to force the workers to dig out coal because if an accident, such as a gas explosion were to occur, they would be blamed for the accident. Rather, the managers criticize the equipment repairmen for being “incapable” of fixing it. The repairmen refute their claim, saying that the equipment is so old that it needs to be replaced with a new one. As the production of coal usually does not meet the planned amount of production, the mineworkers have a headache over meeting the amount of planned coal production because of the interruption of coal production over a month.

Closed People’s Coal Mine Reopened with Increasing Demand for Coal
As the temperature drops drastically, residents of the North Hamgyong Province coal mine region reopened the Land Management Department (국토관리부) controlled closed mine with an increasing demand for coal. A group of two or three work together, but in most cases a family works as a team. Everyone work as late as 2 am including children and elders. The coal digging takes place during night hours because they have to work during the daytime. Some residents commented, “We try to take it easy during the daytime at our work place but we work so much harder at night when we are trying to dig up the coal.”

Minimum of 20,000 NK Won Spent per Household on Coal for Cooking and Heating
During the cold winter, the heating cost creates a heavy burden on the residents. The residents spend at least 20,000 NK won on coal in regions like Saebyul County, Onsung County, and Eunduk County because they are colder than other areas. It costs as much as 35,000 NK won to purchase firewood and coal for heating in areas without coalmines. However, the families burning coal are considered well off. There are still families worrying about putting food on the table. Those families do not even have the luxury of worrying about the heating cost and are busy collecting dry grass, corn stems, corn roots and leaves for cooking purposes.


[Politics]
Residents in Sepo County in working clothes to avoid beggars asking for money

A Police Station in Sepo County of Kangwon Province has been collecting money from its residents to repair buildings and set up intramural facilities in order to be awarded the “Three Revolution Red Flag Winning Movement” (3대혁명 붉은기쟁취운동). However, the office realized that the required standard from the Cultural Revolution is too high for them to achieve with the current level of funding. For that reason, they started collecting money from individual residents and even requesting larger amounts from the wealthy (돈주). Those who are in poor clothes are being asked for about 1,000 NK won, whereas those who are neatly dressed are asked to give about 4,000 to 5,000 NK won. As this kind of word spreads, people mind their clothes when they pass by or go into and out of police stations. This has noticeably increased the number of people wearing work clothes to make themselves look poor.


[Society]
Historic Exploration Campsite of Kangye City Supply Wild Boar to Troops

Historic exploration campsite of Kangye City, Jagang Province sent a wild boar caught in a mountain to the troops as support pork. Each Historic exploration camp of a City or County has taken part in supplying support pork for the troops dedicated to them by the factories, public enterprise, workers, members of Democratic Women’s Union (DWU), and farmers. The historic exploration campsite of Kangye City distributed part of the support pork for troops to employees and sent wild boar with general pork together to the troops. Shingye County of North Hwanghae Province sent goats that died of hunger instead pork as part of the support-planned amount. As a standard, factory workers, employees of public enterprises, and members of the DWU are required to supply 1kg of pork or 5000 NK won in cash to support the people’s army. Farmers are expected to provide 5kg each. As for farmers, they can give division food when they accomplish their planned amount in some regions.

Munitions Factory Worker in Kangye City Severely Punished for Cutting Telephone Wire
Last November 6, two workers at the Munitions factory, which produces shell in Kangye City of Jagang Province, were caught red-handed cutting copper. They had cut about 150 meter of copper wire in three telegraph poles in the factory. In the midst of cutting, the factory night patrol discovered them and immediately arrested them. Meanwhile, the factory has not been able to give rations since last October when they gave out corn for 15 days. Workers say, “Even though it’s fall already, it is more difficult to live than early spring.”


[Women/Children/Education]

DWU Members Suffer Due To the Mobilization for New Year’s Farming Preparation
A supporting bureau of one public enterprise in Hamju County, South Hamgyong Province, is mobilizing members of the DWU to plow the paddy and dry fields claiming to prepare for farming in the New Year. In the maze fields, corn roots must be pulled out and then the soil evened. The roots, which also function as precious firewood, must be collected and given to the public enterprise. Even though the work is said to be done in relatively gentle weather, the earth is often frozen and the labor is painful making the overall work slow in progress. As a desperate countermeasure, each person is assigned to a task with the demand to finish the daily quota by any means necessary. Women are suffering to fulfill this demand. They continue working even after dark if the assignment is unfinished. Weak women start from early morning and continue until late night, shivering in the chill. Cold, hunger and the harsh labor is causing some women plop down on the ground in tears. A 2,000 NK won fee is levied if one does not show up for the mobilization, and 500 NK won if one could not finish the assigned daily quota. In some cases, the women are told falsely that they will be sent the discipline center, and hence their husband and young children sometimes come out to help. DWU’s members say, "We may not be in discipline centers, but we are definitely living like we are".


[Accidents]
In Jungpyung County, the National Flag of North Korea Was Destroyed

On December 1, the police station of Goochang-ri, Jungpyong County, South Hamgyong Province, was in an awful mess because the national flag of North Korea in this office was destroyed. Someone scratched and removed the red star, and carved ‘X’ on the flag which was engraved on the wall of the front door of the station. The police station began an investigation immediately, but they have not found any clues as to the identity of the offender. Residents said that since the authorities have strictly controlled trade in markets, people go to the station to get back their forfeited items, and maybe some of them conducted this crime accidentally. On the day when the incident occurred, traders who wanted to get back their items stood in a long line in front of the station from early morning to night. The officers have examined people who were on the location, but they have not found any evidence so far. According to a witness, they examined a person who cried out; “If I have a grenade, I will blow up the police station,” but they did not find any clear evidence from him. With this news, many residents said, “They should have reasonably regulated trade in the marketplace. They have made this problem by following only the Central Party’s strong order. Most people know that when they forfeited items, they embezzled them. Who cannot be angry in this situation? They should regulate the trade fairly; it should be organized appropriately in any case. Too much is as bad as too little.”


[Commentary]
Women Should Not be Driven to Commit Crimes Related to Livelihood

The news of increasing numbers of women going to jail due to crimes related to livelihood is a clear example of the seriousness of the difficulties people are facing.

First, the increase in crimes related to livelihood is a clear indication of the worsening food shortage in North Korea. Although some areas and enterprises are giving out some food rations after the harvest is over, the majority of people are having difficulties with purchasing food. As a result, those without means of subsistence are driven out to a situation where they have to survive indiscriminately, even breaking the boundaries of the law and social norms.

Second, the reason why the proportion of women prisoners is high is because mothers rather than fathers are taking care of the livelihood of the families. The adult male centered social control system, where the men have to go to work everyday even when they do not receive ration or salary, shows the tendency of transferring the responsibility of supporting the family to women. However, it is not easy for women to take care of the sustenance of the family within legal boundaries.

Third, the incidents of the wives of urban laborers who have lost sustenance getting into illegal business, such as human trafficking and drug trafficking for survival, are on the rise as a result of severe enforcement of market trading business. Currently, the authorities are reducing the hours of the trading market, and conducting a large-scale enforcement on food and industrial goods. In case of breech, they impose fines and confiscate goods.
As such, more and more women who have to sell goods for survival feel they would rather engage in some business that has bigger potential for profit, and make it worthwhile, because they have to take the risk of doing business against government enforcement.

An official in charge of public safety contends we are deeply concerned about the prospect that crimes committed by women will continue to rise. The food shortage problem is not something that can be resolved in a short time. In addition, the resolution of the problem seems hard to obtain as long as the North Korean government maintains its strong will to enforce trading markets, which people use as means to subsistence. This type of clear contradiction is exactly why North Korean women are driven to commit crimes related to livelihood, by engaging in illegal trading business, hiding from the eyes of the enforcement agents, and getting into illegal activities because of desperate situations.

After all, the North Korean government should come up with measures that will allow people to survive by resolving the food shortage problem through expanding the food distribution to the vulnerable classes. If that is not possible, they should allow people to trade for a while so that they can make a living by themselves. Only then, will they be able to improve the current condition that drives women into crime. This also is an agenda North Korean women have persistently petitioned to the government. We urge the North Korean government to proactively use policies for the people to live up to the name of the country, “People’s Republic of Korea.”

[Investigative Report] Reading New Year’s Combined Editorial 2009 (1)

“Let the New Year Shine as a Year of Revolutionary Climax, Heralded by Martial Bugle Calls”


Composition of New Year’s Combined Editorial 2009

l Overall Summary of Accomplishments in 2008 (10%)
l Ideological Mobilization 2009 (40%)
l Sectional Assigned Tasks (10%)
l Assigned Task of Military under the Ideology of Military First (10%)
l Appeals to Workers in Party, Administration, Labor, Youth and Workshop Union (20%)
l Relationship with South Korea and International Relationships (10%)

2008’s Failures

“The Dawn of Juche 98 (Year 2009) has arrived with new hopes that it will be a historical watershed in establishing our revolution and a strong nation”

The New Year’s Combined Editorial 2009 begins with a declaration that the new year will be a year of ‘historical watershed’ different from any previous years. This declares that the New Year will bring a new history in establishing a strong nation even though many problems have not been resolved so far.

“The Previous Year Juche 97(Year 2008) Was a Year of Historical Transformation in a Victorious Chapter of Our Republic of 60 Proud Years”

Prior to listing the detailed tasks to be accomplished in the historical watershed that will be 2009, the accomplishments in 2008 are first summarized.

“Our Beloved Leader with His Unlimited Spirit and Stamina Wisely Led Our Military and People in a Struggle toward Establishing a Strong Nation”

With a claim that the greatest accomplishments in 2008 began with the site counsels of the Chairman of the National Defense Committee, a substantial portion of the Editorial is allocated to a discussion of those counsels. Many decorative expressions such as “Unlimited Spirit and Stamina”, “Legendary Forceful March”, “Long March of Patriotic Dedication Unprecedented in History” and “Undefeatable Journey” are used to describe how vigorously his site counsels were extended. Words of respect and admiration are added, “The result of Chairman Kim’s site counsels led to glorious victories on the frontlines of struggles in political ideology and anti-imperialist militarism.” This portion of the Editorial could be interpreted as a response to the rumors of Chairman Kim’s ill health. It tries to prevent domestic spreading of the rumors that started outside. It tries to emphasize that he carried out vigorous activities even more often than he has in the past. He annually used to do around eighty site counsels, and in the previous year he did more than ninety, ten more than the previous year. His vigorous site counsels led the people in the struggle to unite political ideology (domestic tasks) and confronted ‘the South Korean puppets’ and ‘U.S. Imperialists’ in the struggle of anti-imperialist militarism (external tasks). Consequently, the year 2008 could not have been anything except ‘a year of historical transformation.’ This was the greatest accomplishment in 2008.

The cited accomplishments are rather abstract and without any substance. Claims are made, such as, “Amazing transformations have occurred in all aspects.” Cited as accomplishments are the modernization of enterprises and many factories including Chollima United Steel Enterprise, the completion of large projects such as the ‘Yesung River Youth #1 Plant’, ‘Wonsan Youth Plant’ and ‘Yungwon Plant’ and the enhancements to the Daehongdan, Migok Cooperative Farm and the City of Pyongyang.

However, the cited accomplishments are rather poor examples. For instance, the ‘Yesung River Youth #1 Plant’ barely generates 100,000 KW. The ‘Wonsan Youth Plant’ and ‘Yungwon Plant’ generate less than 10,000 KW each. These are ‘small’ and ‘intermediate’ size plants, not really worthy of being cited as major accomplishments. How about the Chollima United Steel Enterprise (Kngsun Steel Mill) which is the original place of the Chollima Movement and is also expected to signal the resurrection of the Chollima Movement? Chairman Kim visited this enterprise for a site counsel on December 24, 2008. This enterprise, as with every other enterprise, had a very poor record of food rationing for the workers, which caused many difficulties in production schedules. “North Korea Today” (No. 164) reported that a complete stoppage of food rationing forced workers to survive on grass porridge for all three meals from November 2007 to June 2008.

Whether the cited projects, such as the enhancements of the Daehongdan, Migok Cooperative Farm and City of Pyongyang are worthy of being part of the ‘year of historical transformation’ is debatable.

The above concludes the Overall Summary of the Accomplishments in 2008. However, nowhere are mentioned the ambitious goals for the ‘Year of Joys’ following the principle of ‘People’s Lives First’.

“The path of ‘Military First’ led by our party is the genuine socialist path that will bring happiness and prosperity to generations of people to come and our forceful march toward establishing a strong nation will cannot be stopped by any obstacles. This is the overall summary of accomplishments in 2008.”

In the end, North Korean authorities claimed that ‘the path of Military First led by the party’ is the ‘proud overall summary of accomplishments in 2008’. Has there ever been such a poor example of productive accomplishments? There are no citable accomplishments in 2008. There are only accomplishments embellished with decorative words.

Year 2009, Toward the Second Chollima Movement

Year 2008, a year identified as the ‘Year of Historical Transformation,’ although there was no clear reason for doing so, has ended. What now awaits the country?

“The whole nation should be united under the leadership of the party as it was during the Chollima Movement at its height after the war. We should start a total warfare moving forcefully toward opening the gate of a strong nation with the bugle sounds of a marching army.”

This is the appeal to return to the Chollima Movement in order to build a year of ‘heightened revolution for historical leap forward,’ with the goal of building a strong nation. This portion is mainly concerned with ideological appeals for greater mobilization.

“Today we are at a historical crossroad very important to carrying out our party’s revolutionary tasks.” The main theme here is that heightening the Chollima Movement should be vigorously implemented at a time when the nation is at a critical point between success and failure. This year’s aggressive slogan is “Let’s Start the Most Prosperous Period in Our Country of ‘Military First’ with the Great Tradition of Heightened Revolution”.

They claim to have their secret prescription, the ‘Dragon Horse.’ They propose ideological warfare, starting with the power of ideology, then whole-hearted unity, patriotism, and lastly, rejection of imperialist ideo-cultural invasion and psychological conspiracy. More specifically, they propose methods of ‘collectivism and self-sustainment’ and ‘full marching speed worthy of the principle of Military First (speedy warfare).’

Firstly, ‘the power of ideology’ refers to the principle of Military First and Juche ideology. The claim is that solid faith in the principle of independence and politics based on the principle of Military First will lead to an establishment of socialism.
Secondly, ‘whole-hearted unity’ means that the whole nation should have consensus and assurance in the principle of Military First and Juche ideology.
Thirdly, ‘patriotism,’ a newly introduced expression, refers to an order ‘to love the socialist fatherland as you would your own life, without any limitations.’
Fourthly, ‘rejection of imperialist ideo-cultural invasion and psychological conspiracy’ refers to a request ‘to reject yellowishness’ and ‘to thoroughly establish a socialist life style.’

The above are four varieties of the same ‘ideological warfare.’ ‘Collectivism’ ‘self-sustainment’ and ‘speedy warfare’ are nothing new. The authors use many lengthy expressions in describing these terms. However, it can all be summarized to mean that the New Year’s Combined Editorial 2009 amounts to a redoubling of the methods of the Chollima Movement with an added arsenal for ideological warfare. So far, the first half of the Combined Editorial has been presented. Our next edition will deal with the rest of the Editorial, that is, Sectional Assigned Tasks, Assigned Tasks for the Military under the Ideology of Military First, Appeals to Workers in the Party, Administration, Labor, Youth and Workshop Union, and the Relationship with South Korea and International Relationships.

North Korea Today No. 259

RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR NORTH KOREAN SOCIETY
[Weekely Newsletter] No.259 December 2008
[Hot Topics] 2008 Top Ten News of ‘North Korea Today’
1. The Worst Shortage of Food, Death from Hunger Is Increasing Over the Whole Granary Zone
2. Food Price for during the Spring Shortage Rose Sharply Upto 4,000 NK won
3. USA Supports North Korea with 500,000 MT of Food and Delists NK from the State Sponsor of Terrorism
4. Criticism of the Lee Myung-bak Administration and Blocking of the North-South Korea Relations
5. Elimination of General Market and Reformation of Farmers Market Starting Next Year
6. Chungjin Women Complain about the Market Patrol
7. Waterways Construction in Miroo Plain, Goksan County, Is Delayed Due To Food Shortage on Workers
8. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Inspects Entire North Korea
9. Kim Jong-Il misses DPRK’s 60th-anniversary ceremony
10. A Census of the Population Supported by United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA)

[Food]

Onsung, Additional Provision Requested by Hamheung Military
Hoeryong Distributed Corn and Beans in December


[Economy]
The Democratic Woman’s Union Advertises, “Provisions Will Be Provided for All the Family Members If an Individual Becomes a Member of the Farm”
A Big Catch of Atka Mackerel, But People are Not Even Buying
Goats Are Sacrificed Due to the Food Shortage in the Northern Pyongan Province


[Politics]
Border-Crosser in Jurisdiction of National Security Agency

[Society]
Jeongurri Re-education Center, This Year Only 20 Amnesty People

[Women/Children/Education]
The Department of Education of North Hamgyong Province, “Watch Only North Korean Dramas”
Members of Democratic Women’s Union of Kangsuh County, “We Cannot Donate Patriot Rice.”

[Accidents]
A Military Car Accident at Yeechunryong Hill Caused Casualties
A Chicken Farm in Soonchun, Facing Losses of Twenty Thousand Chicks

[Commentary]
New Year’s Farming, As Important As Defense Industry

[Planning a Series]
Reading North Korea 2008 Through “North Korea’s Nationwide Report
(Public Lecture Materials for Party Leaders and General Public)”
In North Korea 2008, What Was Accomplished and What Was Not?


Part 1 Review of New Year’s Combined Editorial 2008
Part 2 Executive Plan on New Year’s Editorial 2008
Part 3 Making Distinction from Lee Myung-bak Regime
Part 4 Warnings against Moral Hazards by Party Leaders
Part 5 Food Crisis, To Break Through? Or To Persuade?
Part 6 Love and Hate toward United States
Part 7 What North Korea Could Accomplish; What North Korea Could Not
Accomplish;





__________________________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics] 2008 Top Ten News of ‘North Korea Today’
1. The Worst Shortage of Food, Death from Hunger Is Increasing Over the Whole Granary Zone
When all’s said and done the biggest incident of this year is shortage of food and death from hunger. The food output was low due to the consecutive big floods of 2006 and 2007. External support also decreased because of missile launching and nuclear testing. Furthermore, the cease of humanitarian support from South Korean government in 2008 gave North Korean people the biggest impact. Many farmhouses were already short of food by February. The news of death from hunger came from the end of April. Deaths from hunger happened all over the South and North Hwanghae Province in May and June. Contrary to the fact that deaths from late 1990 started among city labors first, the deaths of this year happened to farmers in the granary zone. The last flood caused major damages to farms and food distribution to them was minimal because foods from war-frontal area were first reserved for military rations. To make things worse, stored food ran out quickly because private small patch lot farming was regulated this year. Survey reports that 25 to 40 citizens of every farm in the granary zone died of hunger during this season of spring shortage.

2. Food Price for during the Spring Shortage Rose Sharply Upto 4,000 NK won
The changes of food price show how serious the difficulty of obtaining food this year was. Rice was 850 NK won per kg in April in 2007 but the price rose three times upto 2,500 to 2,800 NK won in April in 2008. As spring shortage had come in earnest in May and June, the food price sky-rocketed. It varied depending on the dates and areas, but generally rose up to 3,800 to 4,000NK won in most places. However, the rice price fell little by little from the end of June when food support from the United States came in. Prices stayed around 2,400 to 2,500 NK won as early harvest came out. From the middle of August to before Korean Thanksgiving (Chuseok), the price went up again to 3,000 NK won but dropped soon after to 2,200 to 2,400NK won as the harvest season came. Now (in December) it is about 2,000 to 2,300 NK won. Compare to the season of spring shortage, rice price has stabilized but it is still twice as high as it was the same season in 2007.

3. USA Supports North Korea with 500,000 MT of Food and Delists NK from the State Sponsor of Terrorism
This year (in 2008), the United States announced that it would support North Korea with 500 thousand MT of food for a year. 37 thousand MT of food was sent to Nampo port on June 29 and 143 thousand MT more of food will be sent by December now. The US food support to NK resumed three years after since it ceased in 2005. Separate from this, North Korea accomplished the big success of delisting from the state sponsor of terrorism. The North Korea that had been on the list of the state sponsor of terrorism since the Korean Airline explosion accident in 1987 is finally off the list after 20 years. It was not an easy process though; it is a meaningful first step for North Korea.

4. Criticism of the Lee Myung-bak Administration and Blocking of the North-South Korea Relations
For the past 10 years, North and South Korea have been developing a friendly relations but it rapidly changed its path with the new Lee Myung-bak Administration. Until last February, the North Korean government had high anticipation for the new administration but they began to draw a line after continuation of the South Korean officials’ drastic remarks against North Korea. Then, severe criticism on President Lee Myung-bak began with Rodong Shinmun’s headline article on April 1. The South Korean government is claiming that despite their effort to reform to the policy of reconciliation and cooperation policy towards the North, their relations began to deteriorate because of the North Korean government’s severe criticism of President Lee Myung-bak. There was an arrangement for a special presidential meeting on July 11 to ease the troubled relationship but the situation worsened when a tourist was killed at Mt. Geumgang that led to the suspension of Geumgang Mountain Tourism. As a result, North Korea began to enforce worker reduction in Kaesong Industrial Complex and limitation of road passing (육류통행) starting on December 1. Throughout the year, both North and South Korea were criticized for their pitiful power struggle and ignoring the agonies of the North Korean residents rather than working together to formulate a solution during the time of unprecedented food shortage.

5. Elimination of General Market and Reformation of Farmers Market Starting Next Year
“A marketplace is habitat of anti-socialism”, this quote illustrates how the North Korean Leadership views the marketplace. The North Korean Authorities believe that the infiltration of the US and South Korean ideology carry out through the marketplace. They created logic and argued that the marketplace has to be controlled because it has weakened and infected the Socialist mindset of the North Korean people. The market patrol has increasingly intensified with every passing year, and now they’ve implemented a policy to prohibit women under the age of 40 from operating business last year and this year (2008). They are even in discussion to dissolve all general markets. The North Korean Authorities ordered reformation of current Farmers Markets starting January in 2009. This includes trading food from the distribution center (배급소) under the Local Grain Policy Enterprise (량정사업소), manufactured goods from the State-run Store (국영수매점) and all other produce from the Farmers Market. Daily opened public establishments of current market place changes to ‘1st Day Market (1일장)’ which opens only on the 1st, 11th and 21st of each month. All residents who depend on the current market system show skepticism and doubt about the newly implemented system from the government.

6. Chungjin Women Complain about the Market Patrol
From March 3 through 5 over 10,000 women gathered at the each district marketplace including Soonam Market in Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province to complain strongly about the government’s market business patrol in the marketplace. Following up with the new policy that prohibit women under the age of 40 from doing business, the Chungjin City pulled out display stand from each district marketplace on March 3 which led to strong resistance from these women. Ultimately, these women gathered up next day at 1:00 pm in their district marketplace and insisted that the market management center “give us rice or supply us goods or let us stay in business”. The Safety Bureau was surprised with the incident but did not enforce any armed suppression in fear of massive revolt. As a temporary solution, the Chungjin City Authority allowed them to do business from March 5th without proper confirmation from the Central Party. A week after the incident on March 11, the Central Party ordered, “All women under the age must work at a factory or an enterprise” and reinstated the new policy. This incident illustrated the North Korean women’s desperate attempt to support their lives. This also showed that by enforcing “passing the word to the people style” (내리먹이기식) implication of the new policy can lead to resistance.

7. Waterways Construction in Miroo Plain, Goksan County, Is Delayed Due To Food Shortage on Workers
The Miroo Plain construction in Goksan County, North Hwanghae Province, was selected as an area of food crisis due to its symbolic representation. During the 2007 New Year’s message, North Korean government emphasized on focusing on the waterway construction in Miroo Plain. The Miroo Plain, a place where Kim Il-Song directed in 1957, seems to have been addressed from the New Year’s message because of the severe flood damage despite the fact that Miroo is not a well known granary. Construction in the Miroo Plain was emphasized as one of the biggest agendas in 2007, however, has not progressed well due to the food crisis in 2008. 15,000 workers involved in the construction were eating only a handful of whole corn and some salt per day. As people starved to death, Central Party has been also very surprised, sending out inspections to the scene. Furthermore, there have been reports that 5,000~6,000 female workers suffered due to lack of sanitary napkins.

8. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Inspects Entire North Korea
June 5th of this year, a group of food inspectors comprised of four different NGO relief agencies from the U.S. began an inspection in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province. At the same time, WFP decided to increase the number of food recipients in North Korea to 5,000,000 people in 128 different counties and increased the number of agents from 10 to 59. WFP has decided to be responsible for the 400,000 out of 500,000 MT of promised food aid to North Korea by the U.S. By the end of July, WFP agents visited each county in order to monitor the food distribution. Unlike in the past, North Korean government tried to show the real situation. “In the past, the government showed only the good places and things, but this time they showed the places with problems,” some people were puzzled.

9. Kim Jong-Il misses DPRK’s 60th-anniversary ceremony
A story that received most of the attention from the international society this year (2008) was probably the one on Kim Jong-Il’s illness. Speculation on Kim’s bad health condition got stronger as Kim disappeared for about two months since his last visit to the military camp. Good Friends, however, focused more on Kim’s absence on September 9th ceremony rather than the speculations on Kim’s bad health condition. This year (2008), Kim Jong-Il has personally created a campaign phrase “Let’s make this 60th-anniversary year for DPRK a turning point that is historically meaningful.” Furthermore, he also emphasized on the importance of people’s lives and urged people to work hard for a ‘happy year.’ This ambitious pledge has disappeared due to the food shortages during the spring hardship and subsequent deaths from starvation. There were not many achievements in North Korea to make its 60th-anniversary year shine and even the removal from the list of states sponsoring terrorism, which North Korea could use as a victory on the war with the U.S., was being delayed. Some claim that it would not have been easy for Kim Jong-Il to appear at the 60th-anniversary ceremony without any noticeable achievements. In any case, Kim’s absence strengthened the speculation on his bad health and such speculation turned into rumors amongst North Korean residents.

10. A Census of the Population Supported by United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA)
North Korea has just begun to take a census of the population supported by UNFPA. The census took place for two weeks from October 1 to October 15. 35,200 people for the investigation and 7,500 people for the instruction participated in this census. North Korea government informed people of the census and requested residents to cooperate through the mass media such as Chosun Central TV (조선중앙방송). The central party ordered 56 cities and counties selected as sample regions to cooperate with the census for the completion of an accurate survey and statistical data. Survey personnel looked into sex, age, education, party member, Sarocheung (Socialist working Youth League: SWYL), occupation, and job title. Final reports are expected to be released the end of 2009.


[Food]
Onsung, Additional Provision Requested by Hamheung Military

Military units in Hamheung City of South Hamgyong Province have received 40 MT of beans from Onsung County in North Hamgyong Province. They requested more beans because the amount provided was not enough to make bean paste, bean sprout and tofu. Onsung County delegated to collect 4 MT of beans from each farm. Each farm was shocked when received notice of the order for the additional provision because they already distributed the remaining food to farmers after submitting provision for the military. Some of the farms used the seed or feed grains for the additional military provisions or traded 1 kg of rice in with 4kg of beans.

Hoeryong Distributed Corn and Beans in December
Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province distributed 15 kg of corn to each worker. They provided 18 kg of corn for households with children or the elderly. Some areas distributed 18 kg of beans instead of corns. Farmers received food, however Hoeryong also collected additional food for military and for Onsung. Farmers traded corn for rice, and then they dried up the rice. When they got the order of additional food collection, they responded 'as if they were deceived again'.


[Economics]
The Democratic Woman’s Union Advertises, “Provisions Will Be Provided for All the Family Members If an Individual Becomes a Member of the Farm”
In the North Pyongan Province, the Democratic Woman’s Union advertises that anyone who voluntarily becomes a member of the farm will be given a year’s supply of food for all her family including the 360 kg of grain for her. The Union also advertises that for those who move to the farm, various accommodations for the convenient farm life will be provided. The advertisement has attracted many women who want to work at the farm. After suffering from a severe food shortage during the spring hardship period, many women are volunteering to go to the farm because they do not want to experience poverty again. Although the current farm workers say that this advertisement is “nonsense,” many women still volunteer with a small hope.

A Big Catch of Atka Mackerel, But People are Not Even Buying
Since October, despite the good catch of Atka mackerel in Chungjin City of the North Hamgyong Province, the mackerel has not been selling well. The Soonam Market, which is the wholesale market in the country, sells the mackerel only at 600 NK won per two. Kim Ok-hwa (46 years), who sells the mackerel, says, “People don’t even think about buying the mackerel because they barely lived through the food shortage. Their biggest concern is to harvest as many crops as they can.” She almost has a tearful face, telling, “Compared to last year’s price of 500 NK won per two, this year (2008)’s price does not differ much. However, people still do not buy the mackerel.” Jung Jae-gyong (31 years) says, “It’s not just the matter of purchasing the mackerel or not. People aren’t buying even the winter clothes during this cold season. Their only concern is buying even just a kilogram of corn for next year (2009) such that they don’t think about buying anything else.”

Goats Are Sacrificed Due to the Food Shortage in the Northern Pyongan Province

In every city and county of the North Pyongan Province, the majority of the goats at the Youth Goat Farm did not survive through this spring’s food shortage. The farmers, whose food supply has been running out since March, even ate pregnant goats. The number of farm goats decreased because the farmers have eaten them and the thefts and losses have increased. When the Youth Farm was first built in Onchun County in 2002, there were 8 pens with 90 goats per pen. However, the number of goats decreased every year and the number has almost decreased to zero due to this year’s food shortage. The reasons for this situation are 1) the farmers have eaten the goats because of lack of food and 2) the goats also died of starvation because the lack of good grass to eat.


[Politics]

Border-Crosser in Jurisdiction of National Security Agency
North Korea Authority said that according to a new policy as of 28 November, border-crossers are handled by National Security Agency. Border-crossers are charged with having illusion about South Korea and China, and the National Security Agency intends to clamp down on legal control. The main content of the new policy is to, “reinforce regal control of National Security and increase efficiency of criminal trial about a criminal.” From now, it seems that National Security carry out concentrated control to catch border-crosser in cities and Counties of the National Border Area.


[Society]
Jeongurri Re-education Center, This Year Only 20 Amnesty People

At Jeongurri re-education center, Hoeryong City, North Hamgyong Province, it is known that as of October of this year, there are about twenty people with amnesty. Absolved person is the smallest number ever while imprisoned people who are new to the facility are increasing so that accommodations are cramped. As of December 5th, female criminals numbered more than 1,400 and male criminal numbered over 1,800. Except for 20 formally absolved people, there is only about 100 people who paid huge sum of money to be paroled. Since space is cramped, people cannot lie down on their backs and there are those who lie on top of each other or on their sides to sleep. There are even those who try to sleep while drawing up the knees and crouching.


[Women/Children/Education]
The Department of Education of North Hamgyong Province, “Watch Only North Korean Dramas”

The Department of Education of North Hamgyong Province emphasized to students, “You must watch only North Korean dramas and movies.” Last December as well as November of this year, they threatened that if students drink, smoke, or imitate foreign songs and dances, they will be sent to Discipline Centers no matter their age. The Central Party also announced another measure that girl students should have bobbed hair and should not wear high heels. Boy students are required to cut their hair as short as possible and must not drink or smoke. These measures have caused schools to intensify cultural lectures for their students.

Members of Democratic Women’s Union of Kangsuh County, “We Cannot Donate Patriot Rice.”
The members of Democratic Women’s Union (DWU) of the 43rd unit household in the 3rd district of Kangsuh-town, Kangsuh County, South Pyongan Province complained that they could not donate patriotic rice. The chairperson of DWU in the same section strongly criticized women that did not sincerely donate rice in front of members of Neighborhood Unit, DWU, and primary units. During the ‘Fight for Ideology,’ Kim Jeong-ran (41) accepted the criticism at first, but she abruptly began to argue with the chairperson. As some women began to feel sympathy and agree with Ms. Kim, the argument began to worsen. A secretary of the Primary Party stopped the meeting in a great hurry and sent members of DWU home. When the secretary of the Primary Party accompanied Ms. Kim to her home and saw her living condition, the secretary did not raise questions about the incident anymore.


[Accidents]
A Military Car Accident at Yeechunryong Hill Caused Casualties

On November 6th, 2008, a platoon car of the first Corps of the Kangwon Province fell over a precipice while it was climbing one of the hills of Yeechunryong. This platoon hit a bad patch on the way back from Cheolwon County where it was preparing for the winter training of the chemistry regiment. As a result, three out of twenty-nine soldiers were sent to the hospital with serious wounds and the rest were pronounced dead.

A Chicken Farm in Soonchun, Facing Losses of Twenty Thousand Chicks
On November 9th, 2008, there was an accident that resulted in the death of 420 chickens and twenty thousand baby chicks in a chicken farm of Soonchun in the South Pyongan Province. The security bureau took up the investigation of a feed worker, assuming that the carelessness of a feed worker was the cause. This farm underwent a huge loss of 55% of its chickens.


[Commentary]
New Year’s Farming, As Important As Defense Industry
“Food problem: self-reliance of food is emerging as an issue that is becoming more important than the nation’s defense industry.”

Within the food related material released for officials and the public in July, the North Korean authorities said that the food problem is becoming an issue. As a solution to the food problem, they suggested developing “revolutionary seeds,” “revolutionary potato farming,” a “two-crop farming policy,” and the guaranteement of “farming materials.”

As the food problem has gradually become an important issue, it is quite notable seeing the changes in North Korean authorities’ attitudes. Nevertheless, there has been no change in the way they are approaching the problem. Of course, they need to develop revolutionary seeds. Potato farming and two-crop farming will be a big help in food production, and guaranteeing farming material is a very basic issue in farming. The problem is that they do not have enough funding to suffice all four policies. Once they perceive it as an issue comparable to the defense industry, they must follow up with actions to achieve their goal.

The North Korean authorities gave higher priority in investing fund to the munitions factories for the development of the defense industry. As a result, the workers receive higher salary and ration compared to other ordinary workers. Of course, some of the workers in munitions factories also had difficulties. However, it is true that they have received more rations compared to other workers. They will have to invest more funding in farming if they want to resolve the food problem like the defense industry. In order to avoid farmers not showing up to work because of hunger like at the beginning of this year, they should provide food to farmers first.

They will have to make every effort to secure farming materials like fertilizer and vinyl. It is fortunate that the Heungnam fertilizer factory, which was out of production for almost 10 years started to produce fertilizers even though it is only a small quantity. The production quantity is far from enough as demonstrated by the order, except for a few farms in North and South Hwanghae Provinces, all other farms will have to resolve the fertilizer problem on their own because they will not be able to receive fertilizer from Heungnam. There are only two ways to secure enough fertilizer. The first is to bring changes in the relationship between the North and South Korea from the present rigid state to a reconciliatory one and receive fertilizer from the South. The other is to increase the import of fertilizer by investing funds or building more fertilizer factories.

The preparation for New Year’s faming has already begun. The members of Democratic Women’s Union are being mobilized to field cultivation doing hard labor from the early morning to late at night. Again, everyone including the children and the elderly from each household will be mobilized to create fertilizer from feces and other things in the New Year. Those with money will give feces that are being prepared by other people, and those without money will suffer. Those working in the commerce will struggle to figure out what to sell to secure fertilizer. Since they do not have money, they will have to sell whatever they can. However, they can become subject to investigation if they sell something that belongs to the government by mistake. The North Korean authorities will have to follow up with investing instead of mere talks if they perceive the food problem as something that is as important as the defense industry.


[Planning a Series]
Reading North Korea 2008 Through “North Korea’s Nationwide Report
(Public Lecture Materials for Party Leaders and General Public)”
In North Korea 2008, What Was Accomplished and What Was Not?

Part 1 Review of New Year’s Combined Editorial 2008
Part 2 Executive Plan on New Year’s Editorial 2008
Part 3 Making Distinction from Lee Myung-bak Regime
Part 4 Warnings against Moral Hazards by Party Leaders
Part 5 Food Crisis, To Break Through? Or To Persuade?
Part 6 Love and Hate toward United States
Part 7 What North Korea Could Accomplish; What North Korea Could Not
Accomplish;


Part 7 What North Korea Could Accomplish; What North Korea Could Not Accomplish;

Long Journey toward “Powerful Nation” Status

North Korea’s long journey toward powerful nation status, planned to be established in the year 2012, continued during the last hours of the year 2008. With the year 2008 coming to an end, it would be useful to briefly review movement.

Since the death of Great Leader Kim Il-Song in 1994, when the North Korean government declared its aim to “establish a powerful nation,” the process has been described annually in the following way:

“Establishment of a powerful socialist nation based on Juche ideology will bring a close to a period of reactionary and anti-national history stained with exploitation and oppression, poverty and ignorance, invasions and theft, domination and subordination. It will also initiate an ideal nation which embraces the requests and desires of its people wholeheartedly.”[1])

The idea of “a powerful nation” by Chairman Kim Jong-Il of the National Defense Committee started in 1994. However, “the great idea” faced from the very beginning severe confusion and difficulty. The March of Hardship, (a.k.a. Arduous March) a long period of starvation in the mid-1990s, was an obstacle to continuing toward “powerful nation” status. North Korea could not afford to pay any serious attention to “establishing a powerful nation” in the middle of mass starvation and the systemic collapse of the nation. Nevertheless, in 1999, the New Year’s Combined Editorial declared, “Let this year shine as the year of great transformation.” This declaration formally placed “the establishment of a powerful nation” on the national scene, as the March of Hardship ended. The declaration can be understood as saying, “now that we have overcome the March of Hardship, it is time to start the year of great transformation.”

The Declaration in 2005 was, “Let the ideal of Military First flourish with the unity of the whole party, the whole military and the whole people.” In order to spread the ideology of Military First throughout the whole nation that year, the ideology of Military First was interpreted to represent the ideology of Juche, the core ideology of the Great Leader Kim Il-Song. The declaration in 2006 was “Let’s fly high with far-reaching aspirations and faiths.” The implication was that because the whole nation became equipped with the ideology of Military First in 2005, the nation could leap forward to establishing a powerful socialist nation. In other words, because the nation still remained below the top of the hill, the whole nation should pull all of its efforts together to reach the summit, powerful nation status. The Combined Editorial declares, “Let’s reach the height of the ideology of Military First with confidence in victory.”[2]) The beginning of the Editorial states, “the breaking dawn embroiders the year as the year of victory and the year of upheaval.” This can be interpreted as meaning that the top of the hill is not far away and the dawn of a powerful nation could be seen with a little more patience. In 2007, The National Conference of Intellectuals (Nov. 30-Dec.1) was reconvened in Pyongyang for the first time in fifteen years. At this Conference, the year 2012, the 100th anniversary of Chairman Kim Il-Song’s birth, was proposed to be the welcoming year for a powerful nation. This was the first time a specific date was mentioned. And in 2008, the Editorial suggested that “on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, let’s show this year as the year of transformation that will be carved colorfully in the nation’s history.” The momentum that was to bring the nation to the top of the hill soon disappeared. Nevertheless, the continuing declarations and planning demonstrate that the long journey toward establishment of a powerful nation continues.

Two Policies and Three Strategies for Establishment of a Powerful Nation

The nation’s consistent goal of powerful nation status is being carried out along the lines of two policies and three strategies. Two policies refer to the last instructions of the Great Leader Kim Il-Song: a self-sustaining economic structure must be maintained in order to be able to continue the tasks of revolution, and secondly, that ideological undertakings should precede any other efforts. With these two policies solidly in place, three strategies are being practiced. What are those three strategies? They are the “strategy of science and technology,” “strategy of strengthening foreign relationships” and “strategy of improving the relationship with The United States.” Establishing an economically powerful nation requires money and technology more than anything else (the strategy of science and technology). More political support and economic investments should be lured from the neighboring nations by improving relationships with them (the strategy of strengthening foreign relationships). Lastly, securing the nation’s governing system is considered critical to establishing a powerful nation (aided by the strategy of improving relationships with The United States).

If 2008 Was Supposed To Be The ‘Year of Historical Transformation’, What Was Accomplished And What Was Not?

What are considered to be the accomplishments of the North Korean government this year?
The most important factor for establishing a powerful nation is its economic sector. An increase of 17% in comparison to the previous year’s grain production could be considered an important accomplishment. North Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture announced last October 29 that this year’s total grain production is 4.68 million MT. It is said to be the largest crop since 1987. Recall that the New Year’s Combined Editorial declared, “at this point in time, there is no other task more desperate and important than the task of feeding the people.”[3]) If the 17% increase in food production is true, it would indeed be a huge accomplishment. However, this year’s amount of food production is subject to debate and a detailed discussion of the topic will come later.

What are the accomplishments in the basic industrial areas of electricity, coal production, metal industry and transportation by rail, all fundamental to essential economic developments? Construction of electric plants was encouraged in order to increase production of electricity. A greater emphasis was also placed on coal production. As for the area of transportation by rail, auditors were dispatched to every region to check the status of ongoing improvements. Chairman Kim’s deep concerns about basic industrial accomplishments can be shown by simply reviewing his scheduled visits to different regions during July.



Jan. 6 - Visit to construction site of Yesung River Electric Plant, North Hwanghae Province
Jan. 26 - Visit to Chicken Factory, Pigs Factory, Bus Factory, Food Processing Factory, Rabbits Breeding Farm, City of Kanggye, Jagang Province
Jan. 30 – Visit to ‘March 5 Youth’ Mine
May 29 – Site counsel at 2.8 Vinalon United Enterprise, City of Soonchun, South Pyongan Province
May 30-31 – Visit to Heungnam United Enterprise (Heungnam Fertilizer Plant, Heungnam Chemical Plant, and etc) in South Hamgyong Province

Wherever Chairman Kim was to visit, rations for fifteen days as well as other favors were provided in advance. According to the Rodong Shinmun, the site visits encouraged workers to accomplish numerous feats during the first quarter.

A shoe factory in Sinuiju accomplished 120% of its daily planned production. Other shoe factories under the Ministry of Light Industry also completed their planned quota. On April 2, it was reported that all of the electric plants under the Ministry of Electric Industry accomplished their assigned quota during the first quarter. Considering the suspension of fertilizer donations from South Korea, fertilizer production at Heungnam Fertilizer Plant played an important role. The Ministry of Electric Industry reported that 103% of planned production was accomplished during the first half of the year. All these reports indicate that planned production was accomplished timely as “People’s Life First” was promoted by the New Year’s Combined Editorial.

How are the foreign relationships? On the one hand, North Korea’s relationships with Japan and Korea have hardened. On the other hand, its relationships with China and Russia, which have been slightly cold and distant thus far, are turning friendly. Strengthened relationships with Middle Eastern countries and a restoration of diplomatic relationship with Myanmar are as considered to be accomplishments. More than anything else, one of the three strategies, the strategy of improving the relationship with The United States, can be considered as a success. The success, while it exists only relative to other, poorer, relationships, is concerned with the “assurance of the security of a nation’s governing system.” Of course, removal from the list of countries of state-sponsored terrorism was delayed during August in conjunction with the nuclear verification issues and the six-party conference collapsed recently during December. These have been somewhat burdensome. However, North Korea was eventually removed from the list of countries of state-sponsored terrorism during October. In addition, the new Obama administration seems committed to positive expectations for North Korea. In the year 2009, North Korea will try all efforts to speed up the “opening of the gate to a powerful nation,” due to be completed by 2012.

With all the accomplishments cited so far, what was not accomplished? Naturally, that would depend on what criteria is used to measure results. This statement implies that what North Korea counts as accomplishments may not be “accomplishments” in fact. For example, if the actual “lives of the residents” are used as criteria, the whole assessment might turn out quite differently.

“On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the DPRK, we must make this year the year of real transformation in people’s lives, a year of worthiness and joy.”[4])

The North Korean government paid a lot of attention this year to the Principle of People’s Lives First” and a “Year of Joy.” Severe food shortages this spring and deaths due to starvation turned pale the rosy reports of fulfilling production goals. Painful cries all over the nation replaced the laughter of the “year of joy.” Even the increased food production was low, compared to average yearly production. It simply represents a better crop in comparison with the last year when production was the lowest since 2000 because of severe flooding. No resident in North Korea seems to believe the production figure of 4.68 million MT of grain, as announced by the North Korean government. The residents are accustomed to misleading reports from their government. Whatever the production might have been, it was possible because of good weather. Experiences tell the residents that this year’s crop cannot handle the total demand for food. For example, even at this time of the year, when the price of grain should be the lowest after harvest, grain sells for between 2,000 and 2,300 NKW. This is the same price as in the spring when the price jumped three-fold from the more typical previous year. According to “Crop Prospects and the Food Situation Report,” published in December by The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of The United Nations, North Korea is estimated to require imports of 1.80 million MT of grain from outside next year.

North Korean control of agriculture on a small patch of fields and commercial activities generates a vicious side effect, which is driving residents into painful misery. In the area of electricity, the Pyongyang Electric Plant went through repair projects and the use of diesel as fuel has brought a higher quality of electricity. However, the maintenance repair projects at the other plants did not go well. Those electric plants where Chairman Kim did site counsels received food rations for fifteen days in advance and the project went smoothly. Most of the other electric plants, however, could not feed the workers well and things did not go well. Managers of these electric plants suffered many problems as they tried to acquire workers from other factories and enterprises, but could not find any volunteers. In addition to the problem of supplying manpower, a huge amount of the funds needed for repair projects were hard to obtain. In the area of coal production, the situation was not any different. Mining workers did not receive any food rations for most of the year. They received a ration for fifteen days during October. Mining is hard work and miners’ rewards were far below what was sufficient. Control of commercial activities caused a blow to struggling miners and their families in their everyday struggle to survive. Every mine has problems due to their deteriorating facilities, which means they fail to meet production schedules, which can be seen all over the region.

How is the real situation inside the Heungnam Fertilizer Plant, “this year’s success story?” It has not been in operation since the period of the third seven-year plan (1987-1993) during which a large scale overhaul project was a complete failure. Therefore, the fact that the plant has been in operation since last year can be counted as a success. However, only four compressors were restored out of sixteen. These are not new equipment but rather archaic Japanese parts installed before the end of World War II. It is not that hard to figure that next year’s supply of fertilizer will not be sufficient. In fact, North Korean authorities warned in advance that no other region, other than North and South Hwanghae Provinces, should expect a supply of fertilizer from the Heungnam plant.

Depending on the criteria, many alleged accomplishments in the economy are not accurate and at the very least come with some drawbacks.

How about the strategy of improving relations with United States? This year’s removal from the list of countries with state-sponsored terrorism made the strategy look successful. However, North Korea showed distrust toward the United States after items agreed upon at the Singapore meeting failed to be carried out smoothly. North Korea handed to United States 18,000 pages of operations records from the Youngbyon reactor as promised. The United States did not remove North Korea from the list of countries of state-sponsored terrorism, but asked for more thorough nuclear verification procedures, including collection of more samples. This delayed removal from the list until October. This placed the North Korean government in an awkward position because, anticipating the removal from the list in August, they advertised this development in the Public Lecture Material.[5]) On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the DPRK, the North Korean government could use removal from the list as proof of victory against United States. Their triumph was about to slip from their grasp, and this placed the North Korean government in deep agony.

It was about this time that rumors started about Chairman Kim’s health problems. Chairman Kim did not appear anywhere since his last site visit to a military base on August 14.

Even though he promised a splendid ceremony to honor the 60th anniversary of the DPRK’s foundation, he failed to show up, leading to wide-spread rumors of illness. Regardless of why he did not show up to any official events, rumor has it that his illness was caused by the shock of not being able to resolve the problem of removal from the United States’ list. It is not that non-removal from the list of countries of state-sponsored terrorism itself is a problem. It is just that after the North Korean government focused on that victory over the United States, being unable to secure their goal caused deep disappointment.

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the DPRK, North Korea’s goal was to turn the year 2008 into the year of historical transformation. How has the goal turned out? The official answer to this question will be found in the 2009 New Year’s Combined Editorial. There are about four years left until the opening of the gate to a powerful nation. To speed up establishing a powerful nation, North Korean authorities should not be complacent with their accomplishments in domestic propaganda. Rather, they should recognize their failures and limitations and prepare realistic measures. They should present specific constructive economic indices rather than displaying some abstract slogans. The relationship between South and North Korea should not be a variable dependent on the U.S.-North Korea relationship. Any problems with the relationship between South and North Korea should be resolved as the U.S. and North Korea relationship also improves. It is our sincere hope that the year 2009 will add to the successes of 2008 and will bring the North Korean people to “a year of real joys,” having learned from their failures.
[1] ) Rodong Shinmun (Sep. 5, 2008) “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a socialist nation with undefeatable power based on Juche ideology.”

[2] ) New Year’s Combined Editorial (2007) ‘Let’s reach the height of ideology of Military First with confidence in victory.’

[3] ) New Year’s Combined Editorial (2008) ‘On the occasion of the 60th DPRK foundation’s anniversary, let’s shine this year as the year of transformation that will be carved colorfully in the nation’s history.’

[4] ) People’s Party Publication (2008), ‘Let’s Join The Combative Struggle Together To Thoroughly Carry Out The Tasks Suggested In This Year’s Combined Editorial’, p.11, Public Lecture Material For Party Leaders and General Public

[5] ) Chosun People’s Party Publication (2008), ‘Our Dignity And Majestic Appearance Shown All Over The World Under The Leadership Of Beloved Leader Based On The Principle Of Military First’, Public Lecture Material For Party Leaders and General Public, August.
There was an error in this gadget