In his 2016 New Year Speech, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced plans to build an economic powerhouse.
Kim frequently used expressions such as, ‘priority to self-development,’ ‘concentration of efforts,’ ‘whole Party’, and the ‘whole state’ that placed great emphasis on economic development and improvement of people’s livelihood.
Kim said “The principle of giving priority to self-development should be maintained in building a thriving socialist country [. . .] We should concentrate all our efforts on building an economic giant to bring about a fresh turn in developing the country’s economy and improving the people’s standard of living.”
Kim also stated that “In order to achieve breakthroughs for a turning point in building an economic giant the electric-power, coal-mining and metallurgical industries and the rail transport sector should advance dynamically in the vanguard of the general offensive.” Compared to the 2015 New Year speech, this can be seen as a relative increase in the emphasis placed on the industrial sector.
In particular, he emphasized resolving the power shortages, stating that “The problem of electricity should be resolved as an undertaking involving the whole Party and the whole state.” North Korea suffers from chronic power shortages, especially fuel, as well as decline in the hydroelectric power plant operations. In 2015, interrupted power supply was exacerbated by severe drought. Kim also said that “All sectors and all units should wage a vigorous campaign to economize on electricity and make effective use of it.”
In regards to improving agriculture, livestock, and fisheries sectors, he said that “The crop farming, animal husbandry and fishing sectors should make innovations to effect a radical change in improving the people’s standard of living. The agricultural sector should actively adopt superior strains and scientific farming methods, speed up the comprehensive mechanization of the rural economy and take strict measures for each farming process, so as to carry out the cereals production plan without fail. The animal husbandry and fishing sectors, which are waging an all-out struggle in response to the Party’s call, should ramp up production as soon as possible and see to it that the fish farms, vegetable greenhouses and mushroom production bases built across the country pay off. Thus they can contribute to enriching the people’s diet.”
Kim has made several onsite inspections to facilities in the light industry sector including cosmetics and shoes factories to encourage improvement in quality and domestic made goods. According to Kim, “The light industry sector should put its factories and enterprises on a highly modern footing, provide them with plenty of raw and other materials to keep their production going full steam and increase the number of world-famous products and commodities with a competitive edge.”
He stressed that “All the sectors of the national economy should set ambitious goals and maintain regular production by tapping every possible internal reserve and potentiality. They should also take it as an important policy-oriented requirement to improve product quality, ensure domestic production of equipment and rely on locally available raw and other materials, and make strenuous efforts to this end.”
He also encouraged the launch of the work to establish full-scale the ‘our style of economic management method’: “The Cabinet and other state and economic organs should decisively improve their economic planning and guidance, . . . [and] they should be proactive in organizing and launching the work of establishing on a full scale our style of economic management method which embodies the Juche idea, thus giving full play to its advantages and vitality.”