The third anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s death: Urging economic prosperity through economic development

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

This year marked the end of a three-year mourning period for Kim Jong Il’s death. To solidify Kim Jong Un’s rule, North Korea is urging for economic advancement and emphasizing economic prosperity and people’s happiness.

The Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), increased its economy related news content from December 17. The entire December 22nd edition featured news on economic development: the front page headline read, “Let Us Seize All the Battle Goals of This Year”; news highlighted the achievements of the country’s cement factories, thermal power plants, insulation factories, cooperative farms, mines, and other front-line industries. In addition, pages two and four introduced economic development plans about fisheries and medical supplies. It also featured news touting rural villages’ ability to resolve vegetable shortages by growing vegetables rather than lawn in yards and by planting persimmon trees in villages.

The December 20th edition featured news of Kim Jong Un’s field guidance to Kim Jong Suk Pyongyang Textile Factory — his first since the end of the three-year mourning period for his father. The factory is named after Kim Jong Un’s grandmother and is one of the DPRK’s major textile factories. Kim stressed the problem with production of school uniforms and said, “The Party will fully take charge of the issue of school uniforms, shoes, school supplies, and school bags.”

Prime Minister Pak Pong Ju’s visit to the Orangchon Power Station No. 2 in North Hamgyong Province was also reported. This power station is significant in terms legacy. It began with Kim Il Sung’s order to resolve the power shortage problem in the North Hamgyong region. Power Station No. 1 was completed in 2007 during Kim Jong Il’s era. Power Station No. 2 was completed during Kim Jong Un’s regime.

The reason for the increased emphasis on economic issues is likely the desire to earn public support and improve public sentiment toward Kim Jong Un for resolving the country’s economic problems.

Meanwhile, the Voice of Russia reported that DPRK’s grain production increased this year against the previous year, recording 5.71 million tons. The Russian news agency ITAR-TASS also reported this news, quoting a DPRK official from the Ministry of Procurement and Food Administration: “Despite the drought that we had this year, grain yield increased by 50,000 tons from last year at 5.71 million tons.”

This is the first official report released by DPRK authorities on yearly crop yield. It suggests that North Korea’s good harvest of last year continued with a good harvest this year.

Success in the agricultural sector is likely to lessen the burden of chronic food shortage, and Kim Jong Un’s various agricultural reforms are expected to gather momentum including “Punjo” farming management system, which involves the handing out of small plots of land, or “pojon,” to small sub-groups or sub-workteams, usually comprising a family unit.

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