2008 The New Year Joint Editorial

When President Kim il Sung was alive, he delivered a “state of the nation” address each new year.  Since his death in 1994 audio recordings of his past speeches have been played publicly.  However, the North Korean government did develop a new tool to fill the role of informing the public about the government’s policy goals without overshadowing the unique position of the deceased leader: the “Joint Editorial” published by three of the DPRK’s leading journals, Rodong Sinmun, the People’s Army, and the Youth Vanguard. Each January it is published and North Korea watchers rush to interpret and extrapolate what each line signals. If you have a lot of spare time, you can read some extensive excerpts here.

The title: Glorify This Year of the 60th Anniversary of the Founding of the DPRK as a Year of Historical Turn Which Will Go Down in the History of the Country

Although many publications have pointed out that North Korea missed yet another deadline to declare its nuclear facilities, South Korean reviews seem to indicate that the editorial was docile compared to previous years:

DPRK New Years Editorial Lacks New Economic Development Vision
(NK Brief No. 08-1-8-1)

In particular, the editorial employed several new phrases, including, “the economy is the front of main efforts in the building of a great, prosperous and powerful nation,” “and “people’s living-first policy,” while proclaiming that “we should make this year… a worthwhile and delightful year which sees a substantial change in improving the people’s standard of living.” According to the editorial, if the North is to see its dream of becoming a great and prosperous nation in the next five years, it must prioritize economic development and the improvement of standards of living.

By stating, “At present there is no more urgent and important task than solving the problem of food,” it is obvious that even North Korean party officials are aware that a “great, prosperous and powerful nation” is not possible without economic development and better living standards.
In order to improve the economy, the editorial calls for adhering to the following three principles:
— “The principle of technically modernizing the economy while preserving the specific features of our economic structure,”
— “The principle pf making people enjoy substantial benefit while ensuring the greatest possible profitability,” and,
— “The principle of developing external economic relations while putting main stress on tapping all domestic resources and potentials.”

However, economic development based on these principles does not represent realistic reform measures or a new vision, but rather economic management with the preservation of socialist, collective principles while developing technologically and furthering international economic exchange.

North Pulls its Punches in Message
Joong Ang Daily
Brian Lee
The annual New Year message from North Korea contained lots of the typical rhetoric, but it was the words left unsaid that were notable, experts said. North Korea did not criticize South Korea’s conservative president-elect or his party, and only briefly mentioned the international efforts to denuclearize the country. 

There was also no direct criticism of the United States in the message[.]

This time, Pyongyang’s closet comment that approached a criticism of the conservative camp was: “Pro-U.S. sycophancy and treachery of turning the back on the trend of the times toward reunification and hindering the reconciliation and unity of the nation should not be tolerated.

Pragmatic Approach
Korea Times

North Korea has come up with a joint editorial that focuses on economic development through continued inter-Korean cooperation and exchange. Pyongyang emphasized peace and reconciliation many times while refraining from launching harsh criticism of South Korea’s conservatives led by the opposition Grand National Party (GNP) as it did in the past. The North issues the joint editorial annually to set out its policy for the New Year.

The editorial laid heavy emphasis on progress in inter-Korean relations through faithful carrying out of the agreement reached between leaders of the two Koreas. This seems to indicate the North has much expectation for the coming new government of President-elect Lee Myung-bak. We welcome the North’s adoption of a flexible attitude as this can be taken to mean the reclusive nation is opting for a pragmatic line for survival rather than maintaining a strong ideological stance.

N. Korea greets New Year with no explanations about missing year-end nuclear disarmament deadline

In a message that marked the New Year, the hard-line communist country also renewed its long-standing demand for an end to the U.S. military presence in South Korea while holding out hope for improved ties with Seoul which will soon have a new president with a tough stance on it.

The North’s statement also said Seoul-Pyongyang relations should continue to develop on the basis of two inter-Korean summit agreements in 2000 and 2007 that call for stepped-up efforts to promote national reconciliation and cross-border economic projects.

And of course the KFA loved it. No surprise there.


Comments are closed.