Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
North Korea is encouraging “localization” of raw materials in light and construction industries from this year to improve the lives of the North Korean people.
On January 7, Rodong Sinmun introduced that various Cabinet organizations were espousing the New Year’s address of Kim Jong Un. It reported, “The Ministry of Light Industry’s executives and employees are engaging in discussions to explore ways to increase localization of raw materials in light industry factories.”
Pyongyang City rally was held earlier this month at the Kim Il Sung Square pledging to accomplish national tasks put forward by Kim Jong Un. Tong Jong Ho, Minister of Construction and Building-Materials Industry delivered a speech that vowed to “make an unprecedented leap in localization of building materials (cement, glass, metals, and other construction materials),” by repairing building materials factories in all provinces.
The Choson Sinbo, pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan reported on January 2 that at the New Year Meeting at the Pyongyang Socks Factory, the plant manager, Lee Sung Hui made a speech and promised to “raise the level of socks production and localization of raw materials to a higher level in Vinalon and PP fibers (synthetic) this year.”
North Korea is promoting light and construction industries as the key sectors to improve the living standards of the people and asserting localization of raw materials should take precedence to make advancement in these fields.
In his New Year message, Kim Jong Un emphasized that the lighting industry had a “significant role in improving people’s lives,” and the construction sector was “at the frontline to providing a place of happiness for the people.”
In particular, he encouraged modernization of factories in light industry and directed normalization of production and placed great importance on localization of raw materials.
Many experts analyze the rising emphasis on the localization of raw materials this year reflect the intentions of the North Korean authorities to achieve realistic and achievable policy goals first. However, localization of facilities entail construction of domestic production base but this is met with limitations such as international sanctions and lack of foreign currency which is not an easy issue that can be resolved in a short period.
From 2012, North Korea’s launch of a long-range rocket and third nuclear test was accompanied with rising weight on the importance of localization of equipment and technology. On December 3, 2013, Rodong Sinmun carried an article entitled, “Localization and National Pride,” that reported on the onsite inspection visits by Kim Jong Un to various economic sectors where he underscored the importance of “equipment, materials, and elements of localization” and “our strengths and technology” on many occasions.
North Korea acclaimed the launch of long-range rocket in December 2012 was a “successful launch of a satellite based on 100 percent domestic science and technology.” Then in February last year immediately following the nuclear test, it boasted, “Thrilling clap of independent nuclear thunder broke out based on 100 percent of our own wisdom and technology.”