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North Korea Today No. 455 May 16, 2012

[“Good Friends” aims to help the North Korean people from a humanistic point of view and publishes “North Korea Today” describing the way the North Korean people live as accurately as possible. We at Good Friends also hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.]
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Homeland Convention Held on 8-9 May, “Carrying on the Will of Great Comrade Kim Jong-il” 
Central Party Moving Away from Its Reliance on China
North Korean Elites Believe "China is Essential for Our Survival"
Delicate Tension between North Korea and China
First Secretary Kim Jong-un to Party: “Don’t Get Involved in the Economy.”
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Homeland Convention Held on 8-9 May, “Carrying on the Will of Great Comrade Kim Jong-il”
     On May 8 and 9, a grand ‘Land Management Mobilization Campaign Enthusiasts Convention’ (also called ‘Homeland Convention’) was held at the People’s Palace of Culture in Pyongyang. The convention agreed to set an annual Land Management Mobilization Period from November to March to reinforce national afforestation efforts. Its resolution includes: historical sites and the areas accommodating statues of the Great Comrade Kim Il-sung or Comrade Kim Jong-il should be taken special care of, and the period from March to July to be set as a special protection period for useful animals such as green frogs and other wild animals. In response to food shortage, it ordered to analyze the reasons for the farm land shortage and increase food production by cultivating any possible land into farmland in every region.

One Party official from Pyongyang said, “Comrade Kim Jong-un made a special order that Pyongyang should be developed into the center for Military First culture with beautiful scenery. Our city will inevitably get involved with reforestation projects for several years.”

In the Homeland Convention, Kim Jong-un presented his essay entitled “About Bringing the Proper Revolutionary Change to the Land Management to Meet the Needs for the Construction of the Strong and Prosperous Socialist Country”, which was then given to the attendees. An official from the Central Party said, “It has been 28 years since the Great Comrade Kim Jong-il presented his essay on national land management. Comrade Kim Jong-un’s recent work is significant in that he is carrying on the Great Leader’s will.”


Central Party Moving Away from Its Reliance on China
     On April 13, the North Korean Government held the Supreme People’s Assembly and thoroughly reviewed its international and domestic policies. This was also to solidify policy initiatives discussed and decided on in the new leaderships’ internal meeting held from January 8, the birthday of the First Secretary Kim Jong-un, through January 10. On April 18, only the officials closest to Kim gathered together and extensively discussed the new regime’s political direction.

One Central Party official reported that the subject of the nation’s bilateral relationship with China had led to the most heated debate. Up to now, the North Korean policy toward China was to ensure Chinese support for the regime security and increase cooperation with it in every domain including economic exchange. However, even the current food crisis has yet to be resolved, let alone any economic development. Many raised their voice to claim that China was no longer trustworthy. The assembly was prevailed with the opinion that North Korea should find a new way to achieve its goals rather than allow China to influence its state affairs while getting no apparent economic benefits from China. Their concern has grown that the country might fall into a bottomless pit if it continued to rely on China. Since the passing of the Great Leader, the country has experienced a series of political and economic crises. The government made great efforts to sustain good terms with China all the while adhering to the socialist principles even under the pressure of the international community and surviving through natural disasters almost every year. There had been no room for dispute about the continued relationship with China until recent while the Great General was alive. However, concerns began to rise about the economic cooperation with China that comes with conditions and costs, which in turn was not helpful anyway for building North Korea into a strong and prosperous country. Furthermore, more people believed that North Korea cannot get out of the economic crisis without the help from the Western world, especially without improving its relationship with the U.S. The majority believed that the country should no longer look to China in helpless hopes when the only way to become a strong and prosperous socialist country is to ensure social stability and economic growth based on strong national defense. The officials are in agreement that the new leadership needs to focus on recovering its relationship with the U.S. to draw economic cooperation, technology and capital from the Western countries, following its past efforts to improve its relationship with the U.S. 

Meanwhile, some of the officials unofficially stated that progress in the Inter-Korean relationship should not be precluded, citing that the food and fertilizer support from South Korea following the 6.15 South-North Joint Statement and the economic cooperation played a big role in domestic economic growth.


North Korean Elites Believe "China is Essential for Our Survival"
     Although the leadership is leaning away from its dependence on China, the North Korean upper class seems to think otherwise. They believe that they cannot afford to lose Chinese support. A Central Party official said, “Our dependence on China was predictable from the beginning when the leadership decided to look to China for its regime security. Rich people living in central Pyongyang keep piles of food stock imported from China and make their living by trading with China. Many people believe that North Korea would have already collapsed if it were not for China. Another point is that the leadership is taking caution because of the prevailing public opinion that China is absolutely essential for the survival of North Korea. The new leadership is planning on reducing the ratio of Chinese goods traded in the market to below 30% in the next two to three years. To make up for the reduction in imports, the regime is encouraging the restoration of the national supply system, ordering companies to “produce good quality domestic goods instead of wasting foreign currency on low-quality Chinese goods.” Due to the food shortage, the government ordered that imports from China should be restricted to food items only and the purchase of other goods, with the exception of strategic supplies, should be delayed or avoided.


Delicate Tension between North Korea and China
     One Central Party official claimed that the changed attitude of Chinese government influenced the subtle changes in the direction of the new leadership’s policy toward China. “On the outside, the relationship between China and North Korea seems closer than ever, but this is not necessarily the case under closer examination. China seems to believe it will be inevitable that some form of political reform will take place once the 18th Party Congress ends this year, and there is no reason to conflict with the United States in East Asia because China will soon become a superpower. China is telling us that there is nothing bad about cooperating with the U.S., and with the world moving toward pluralism, there is nothing that would contradict with their unique socialism. China is pressuring us that it may change its attitude toward us if we don’t move to actively introduce reforms like it has done.” He added that “China is pressing us at least to refrain from conducting a nuclear test and raising tensions even if we don’t start reforms right away.” It seems that the Central Party officials, after closely watching the Chinese internal political trends, agree that China’s policy toward Korean Peninsula is changing.


First Secretary Kim Jong-un to Party: “Don’t Get Involved in the Economy.”
     The First Secretary Kim Jong-un, while emphasizing the separation between the Party and the government, has reportedly ordered that “The Party should not involve itself in the economy.” A Central Party official reported that Kim Jong-un emphasized several times during a high ranking cadre meeting that “Party officials must not use the power vested to them by the Party to involve themselves in economic activities for personal economic gain.” The official said that First Secretary Kim’s point was to say that Party officials should focus on management control while economy officers should focus on the work they are responsible for. It was common that Party officials demand cash from economy officers for personal gain or interrupt their business under the pretext of economic control. The economy officers had to show their loyalty to the Party, and they had been greatly burdened while dealing with work given to them for political reasons from higher-ups instead of being able to focus on their work at hand. The First Secretary Kim’s goal is to move toward greater economic development by enabling these economy officers to focus on their work.

One Central Party official said that “this was a decision made to eliminate disruptions in economic development caused by Party officials who involve themselves in economic matters despite their ignorance in economic affairs and also to remove individual corruption.” He added, “This is a part of a plan to boost economic growth by allowing economy officers to display their prowess in their respective fields.” However, Central Party officials can influence the economy at any time if they wield ideology as a pretext. It seems that the Party and the economy are unlikely to be separated as long as the ideology can be used as a critical issue

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