Pyongyang Shifts Rhetoric at Home

Evan Ramstad writes in the Wall Street Journal about some interesting developments in the North Korean media:

North Korea’s state media over the last two weeks stepped up an anti-South Korea campaign after being accused of sinking a South Korean warship, with reports repeatedly portraying angry citizens vowing to work harder to “get back” at the South.

The reports have dominated TV newscasts monitored in Seoul and appeared in newspapers that arrive in South Korea more than a week after publication.

The volume ramped up when Seoul on May 24 announced penalties, including a trade ban, against the North, which it blames for sinking a warship in March and killing 46 South Korean sailors.

Amid the heightened tension between the two Koreas, the North’s reports are not focused on the prospect of conflict but instead seek to connect its government’s anger at Seoul with the need to improve the North’s impoverished economy.

That shows the North Korean regime has latched onto the sinking incident not just to preach about perceived external threats but as a new way to shift responsibility for the country’s troubled economy away from itself, said Brian Myers, an American professor in South Korea who has studied the North’s propaganda operations since the early 1990s.

“They’re using hatred of the outside world to inspire people to work harder,” he said. “The extent of it is quite striking.”

In a typical example of the reporting, Kim Myung Ho, manager of a collective farm, said on a state TV newscast last Friday that workers now “dash to work in the mindset of destroying the enemy’s schemes by doing the work of two or three men. As a result, the speed of rice planting is getting better everyday.”

…”They’ve been vilifying Lee Myung-bak for two years, but this is the first time I’ve seen it connected to growth in production,” said Mr. Myers, who teaches at Dongseo University in Busan and recently published a book on the history of the North’s propaganda. The reporting underlines the view in the North Korean regime that economic growth is not an end in itself but a means to strengthen the country, he said.

Many of the workers portrayed in North Korean media over the past two weeks directed their criticism at Mr. Lee, often in the same words used by government statements, and said their anger at him inspired them to work harder.

“We will churn out as much steel as possible in the spirit of tossing the Lee Myung-bak group of traitors in a warmongering frenzy into the burning furnace,” Ri Myung Nam, a worker at a steel factory said on a TV newscast on June 3.

This Monday, another TV report showed soldiers at a construction project who, an anchorwoman said, were “flaming with hatred” against “Lee’s group of traitors.”

“Enraged by traitor Lee Myung-bak, we sped up our work,” soldier Kim Nam Il said in the report, adding his group last month achieved 150% of its goal, which was unspecified. “We will keep speeding up and mercilessly knock out their plot.”

Read the full story here:
Pyongyang Shifts Rhetoric at Home
Wall Street Journal


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