Kim Jong-un’s activities for the first half of 2013

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2013-7-5

Compared to last year, the activities of Kim Jong Un for the first half of 2013 revealed that he took part in more public activities with working groups rather than senior officials.

According to the ROK Ministry of Unification (MOU), Kim Jong Un has made 95 public appearances, which is an increase of 117 percent compared to the previous year of 81 public activities.

In particular, Kim took part in military related activities the most (29 times) as the U.S. and South Korea held joint military exercises (Key Resolve and Foal Eagle) in the earlier part of this year. His other public activities were economic related (28 times), social and cultural (18 times), political (14 times), and attendance at various performances (8 times).

However, starting from April 1, Chairman Kim’s military-related activities from first quarter to second quarter decreased from 50 to 15 percent while his economy-related activities increased from 10 to 50 percent.

Furthermore, economy-related activities this year entailed visitations to production units in machinery factories, cooperative farms, and business enterprises and complexes. The previous year saw mainly entertainment-related activities.

Compared to his father Kim Jong Il, on his onsite inspections Kim Jong Un was accompanied by an entourage consisting of proportionally more working-level officials rather than senior officials. While his first year inspections were accompanied by senior officials, the group accompanying Kim Jong Un are younger and experienced officials in the field. In particular, Choe Hwi, first vice department director of the Korean Workers’ Party Central Committee, is seen with Kim Jong Un the most. Choe Hwi is a graduate of Kim Il Sung University and served as secretary of the Youth League and senior deputy director of the Korean Workers’ Party politburo.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Unification Ministry estimated the amount of rice reserve in North Korea remains the same as last year, although there is regional variation. Grain imports are at 75 percent against the previous year, and the food ration and situation range widely by region. The market price for 1 kg of rice is 5,000 KPW, which is valued at approximately 1.667 USD, or about 600 g per one USD or 8,000 KRW.

In addition, the MOU assesses that North Korea is making changes in its economic management under the name of “Our Method of Economic Management,” with relatively heavy focus on agriculture, light, and distribution industries. The North Korean leadership seems to recognize the importance of production output in the economic sector. However, it will be impossible to observe immediate results without improvements in raw materials, power, machines, and equipment.

On the other hand, the MOU analyzes that the North Korean leadership is placing more attention on the agricultural sector and improving production and supply of fertilizer since it shows an immediately visible result in the agricultural sector, especially to the North Korean residents. In this regard, the military is also increasingly emphasizing “self-reliance” and the need for “solving food issues on its own.”

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