North Korea emphasizes economic independence amid pending international sanctions

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

With the soon-to-be announced UN Security Council’s sanctions against the DPRK in response to the country’s recent provocations, North Korea is urging economic independence through its ‘speed battle’ to confront the resolution.

On February 29, the state-sponsored Rodong Sinmun newspaper emphasized that “against the sanctions, building an independent national economy based on today’s modern technology is the utmost important mission for us . . . as without strong self-reliant economy, we cannot move towards autonomy.”

The newspaper also defined the building of the independent national economy as “a historical mission that is challenging but needs to be achieved for a bright future.”

Such claims by the DPRK can be interpreted as a means to unite the country behind the Party and prepare the people for the upcoming sanctions, as the UN Security Council is about to pass the most impactful sanctions against the country ever.

North Korea is also urging its people to join the ‘70-day campaign’ to greet the upcoming Seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, which is to be held in May. The 70-day campaign is a ‘speed battle’ (as it is traditionally known), which is a socialist mobilization technique employed to increase people’s performance in order to meet economic production or construction targets in the building of a strong country. This technique was first introduced in North Korea’s economic planning back in the early 1970s. The newspaper emphasized that the goal of this year’s 70 day-long campaign is to overcome the struggle in solidifying the Party under the monolithic leadership based on the philosophies of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il – i.e., Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism.

The 70-day speed battle will be a good opportunity to observe the leadership capabilities of Kim Jong Un following the era of his late father Kim Jong Il. With the international community gearing towards announcing sanctions against North Korea due to the country’s latest nuclear test (of possibly a hydrogen bomb) and launch of a long range missile, economic stabilization of the country through robust policy can be regarded as a ‘battle’ related to Kim’s leadership. That is, the 70-day speed battle is not just an ordinary economic mobilization campaign, but 70 days of establishing Kim Jong Un as ‘leader’ as the Party Congress approaches.

On the same day (February 29), the Choson Sinbo (the pro-North Korean newspaper published in Japan) emphasized in a column that “the initial bill on sanctioning the DPRK has been drafted for the fifth time. . . . which shows that no sanctions can compromise Choson [DPRK] from building an autonomous strong nation.”

The newspaper criticized the United States saying “the United States has shown the most savage and brutal side of imperialism by asking China to join the sanctions against the DPRK with such terms that completely isolates the DPRK from the world, aiming for the country to be unable to exist and ultimately collapse as a state.”

The newspaper also said that the claim that the UN sanctions will not affect the North Korean people’s livelihoods is completely hypocritical and cunning, and expressed disappointment with China’s agreement to the sanctions.

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