Archive for the ‘Domestic publication’ Category

The economy in Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s address: what’s there and what isn’t

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

The supposed hydrogen bomb test has come to dominate the news on North Korea over the past few days, for obvious reasons. Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s Address has naturally ended up in the shadow of the nuclear test, but it is worth going back for a closer look. Overall, it is a speech that appears to contain few major announcements or indications. Perhaps more surprising than what themes are there, are the themes that are absent.

Stephan Haggard pretty much sums up how economic matters are treated in the speech, as they often are in North Korean rhetoric on economics: “As usual, the economic components of the speech rely more on exhortation than any clear policy message, confusing results with the means of achieving them.”

That is, in much of the speech, Kim simply talks about what will be achieved but leaves out how to get thereTake the following paragraph, for example (my emphasis added):

The Cabinet and other state and economic organs should decisively improve their economic planning and guidance. Leading economic officials should fully equip themselves with Party policy, work out plans of the economic work in an innovative way and give a strong push to it on the principle of developing all the sectors at an exponential speed by relying on the inexhaustible creative strength of the working people and by dint of modern science and technology. They should accurately identify the main link in the whole chain of economic development and concentrate efforts on it while revitalizing the overall economy, especially when the conditions are not favourable and many difficulties arise. 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.

And:

All the sectors of the national economy should set ambitious goals and maintain regular production by tapping every possible internal reserve and potentiality.

Those who are more savvy at reading between the lines and interpreting rhetorical symbolisms can perhaps draw out meaningful signals from quotes such as these. But at face-value, they seem to give little indication of policy changes. Or of any policy at all, for that matter.

What are the areas that Kim hold up as economic priorities, then? Stephan Haggard points out heavy industry as one such theme. It is also the one mentioned first in the speech. Infrastructure and power supply also features fairly prominently (and is mentioned early on), with specific references to several power station construction projects. Kim also mentions IT and the “knowledge-driven economy” (emphasis added):

Our working class, scientists and technicians, true to the instructions of the great leaders, made a big stride in making the metallurgical industry Juche-based, built model, standard factories of the era of the knowledge-driven economy in various parts of the country and put production lines on a modern and IT footing, thus opening a new road of advance for developing the overall economy and improving the people’s standard of living.

Presumably, this is what North Korean media mean when they talk about the H-bomb test as an economic boost: that such capabilities show North Korea’s strength as a knowledge-based economy.

Domestic production capabilities are highlighted all the way through. This theme isn’t new. Kim Jong-un has often emphasized the importance of goods diversity and local production. This lies well in line with the basic economic tenets of the Juche doctrine. Here is one example of how domestic production capacity is highlighted in the speech (emphasis added):

The flames of the campaign to implement the Party’s ideas and defend its policies have unfolded a proud reality of our indigenous plane flying in the sky and our indigenous subway train running under the ground, and rich fish and fruit harvests were gathered, their socialist flavour bringing pleasure to the people.

One theme that features relatively prominently is construction. In one paragraph, Kim even states that “Construction is a yardstick and visual evidence for the strength of a country and the quality of its civilization”, and continues to urge the country to build more:

The construction sector should launch a general offensive to implement the Party’s construction policy and grand plan. By doing so, it should build important production facilities, educational and cultural institutions and dwelling houses on the highest possible level and at the fastest possible speed, so that they serve as standards and models of the times. In this way it can make sure that the great heyday of construction continues without letup.

Perhaps this is an indication that the building boom in Pyongyang of the past few years will continue. Priorities such as this one primarily benefit those political classes that live in Pyongyang. With few exceptions, as far as I’m aware, most other cities have seen little of the construction boom that the capital city has experienced.

There is also a reference to the coal mining industry. On the one hand, it may be interesting because North Korea’s main export destination for coal is China, and these trade flows have been volatile over the years, and there have been signs that North Korea isn’t getting a good deal in this trade. But on the other hand, this may be reading too much into one small reference in the speech (emphasis added):

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.

Later, coal mining appears only in reference to the domestic power supply (emphasis added):

All sectors and all units should wage a vigorous campaign to economize on electricity and make effective use of it. The sector of coal-mining industry should raise the fierce flames of an upsurge in production to ensure enough supply of coal for the thermal power stations and several sectors of the national economy.

There are two themes that are surprisingly absent. One is agriculture. Agricultural policy is barely present, and when it is, management methods aren’t mentioned. For example:

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.

This is a little surprising, because regime sources have claimed that agricultural production has been boosted during the year, and management reforms with greater incentives for farmers have been touted as the reason. (A close look at the numbers indicates that agricultural production has declined slightly during 2015, moving it towards the average of the 2000s.) If agricultural reforms have indeed been a central tenet of Kim Jong-un’s economic policies, one could at least have expected a reference to these reforms in the speech.

The second theme that is strangely absent is forestry policy. It is only mentioned in one sentence:

The whole Party, the entire army and all the people should buckle down to the campaign to restore the forests of the country.

During the past year, Kim Jong-un has highlighted forestry policy as a key area. He has talked openly and frankly about the role of tree felling in causing floods and subsequent food shortages, and promoted reforestation, albeit not in a way that is likely to work very well. North Korean media has singled out tree nurseries for not doing their job properly. In sum, forestry has been relatively high on the agenda, but the topic still barely made it into the speech.

All in all, from an economic policy standpoint, this year’s New Year’s Address did not contain any major bombshells. The fact that economic issues appear right after the section on the upcoming party congress may be a hint that such issues will be high on the agenda, but then again, it might not mean much at all. Moreover, it is unclear how much can really read into the New Year’s Address for hints about regime policies and priorities. After all, the speech contained virtually no allusions to the H-bomb test that was to come only days later.

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Kim Jong Un’s new year message focuses on building an economic powerhouse

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

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.”

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Kim Il-sung University newspaper calls for more company autonomy

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

According to Yonhap:

It is important to clarify the authority and roles given to the Cabinet and companies, as giving more autonomy to workers can boost labor efficiency, according to a North Korean college newspaper on Monday.

North Korea’s Cabinet mainly handles the implementation of the North’s economic policies within the state-controlled rationing system.

Companies and workers can take the initiative and show creativity when the authority and role of the Cabinet and companies are clarified, according to an article in the newspaper issued by Kim Il Sung University, a prestigious institution named after the country’s founder.

How well the economy performs depends on how extensively businesses and workers are able to play their roles, the newspaper added.

The article came amid the growth of marketplaces, as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is trying to give autonomy to companies in the North’s special economic zone to some degree, in a bid to prop up the feeble economy.

Last week, North Korea unveiled detailed plans to upgrade its special economic zone in the border city of Rason in a bid to lure foreign investment amid an economic slowdown and a series of U.N. sanctions.

The North said that profits and other proceeds generated in the zone can be repatriated outside North Korea “without restriction,” in what is seen as investment incentives to foreign investors. It also hinted at assuring autonomous operations for firms in the zone.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea needs to split roles of Cabinet, firms: newspaper
Yonhap
2015-11-23

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Naenara reports on Wonsan SEZs

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

Naenara carried an interview with Choe Yong Dok, Director of the Economic Zone Development of Kangwon Provincial People’s Committee.

In the interview, Director Choe commented on the Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang International Tourist Zone and the Hyondong Industrial Development Zone.

I tried copying the text here, but was not successful. Here is the PDF.

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North Korea to attract foreign capital through foreign media

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2015-5-7

As North Korea struggles to attract foreign investment due to international sanctions, an argument is growing in North Korea that it needs to launch an investment charm offensive targeting foreign media.

Already skilled in socialist propaganda, North Korea appears intent on fully employing those skills in the attraction of investment, the essence of management in capitalism.

In the January 20th issue of the monthly Kim Il Sung University newspaper (vol. 1, 2015), an editorial was published entitled, “The Importance of Proactively Using Various Means to Attract Investment.” This editorial emphasized the importance of using the media in order to attract investment.

It argued that if the government invited esteemed members of the media when publicizing developments like a new investment environment or policy and the media reported on these events to their respective news agencies, it “could promote these developments widely at home and abroad through such special reports.”

Following this, the editorial advised that authorities select widely-circulated newspapers and magazines commonly read by investors and companies and submit to these publications news regarding things such as the progress of talks, the signing of contracts and agreements, the scale of businesses and related events.

It also suggested that authorities advertise in TV commercials during peak-viewing time. In the case of newspapers, it advised that they pay attention to their selling price, political inclination and religious nature when considering the daily, morning and evening papers.

While stating that maintaining relations with media outlets is important, the editorial also entreated that the government invite members of the press to investment-related events or inform them at the proper time regarding news of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs).

Furthermore, it argued that in order to effectively publicize investment opportunities, economic development zones themselves need to create homepages and make employees proficient in how to use the Internet and search for information that investors request in a timely manner.

At the same time, because “decadent and reactionary ideas and cultures can infiltrate, and information regarding investment targets can be carried away” through the Internet, the editorial did not forget to suggest that authorities only enable selected institutions and interested parties will be permitted to use the Internet.

In addition, in order to facilitate the exchange of information with investors, the editorial encouraged the government to introduce detailed procedures and methods for maintaining email accounts and to use programs like Excel for managing data and documents.

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Kim Jong-un’s 2015 new year address

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

Martyn Williams has posted the best video of it (with English subtitles):

Here is coverage of the speech in the North Korean media (KCNA):

1. Kim Jong Un Makes New Year Address

2. Kim Jong Un Refers to Achievements Made by DPRK Last Year

3. Kim Jong Un Underlines Need to Consolidate Country’s Might as Socialist Political and Ideological Power

4. Kim Jong Un Calls for Fresh Turn in Building Revolutionary Armed Forces and Enhancing Defence Capability

5. Kim Jong Un Advances Tasks to Effect Upswing in Building Socialist Economic Giant and Civilized Nation

6. Kim Jong Un Set Forth Ways of Carrying out This Year’s Tasks

7. Kim Jong Un Deals with Issue of National Reunification

8. Kim Jong Un Deals with Issue of Foreign Relations

9. New Year Address Having Public Response

10. Workers and Farmers Meet to Vow to Implement Their New Year Tasks

Here is coverage of the speech in the international media:

1. N. Korean leader’s speech ‘meaningful’: Seoul (Yonhap)

2. N. Korean leader’s speech arouses cautious optimism (Korea Herald)

3. Kim Jong-un says North Korea is open to ‘highest-level’ talks with South (Guardian)

4. Kim Jong Un Makes Apparent Summit Offer to South Korea (Wall Street Journal)

5. New Year’s Address Reveals a Nervous Leader (Daily NK)

6. Kim’s New Year’s speech reveals economic priorities (Lankov/NK News)

7. Jumping to Conclusions…Again (Klingner/38 North)

8. What’s New in Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s Speech (38 North)

9. Kim Jong Un’s New Year Speech: The Prospects for the 2015 Economic Policy (IFES)

10. Pyongyang’s ‘Year in Review’ Package Emphasizes Kim (Wall Street Journal)

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North Korea increases production of consumer goods according to consumer demands and preferences

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2014-8-25

Due to the strengthening of capitalism and competition in North Korean society, it appears that the status of consumers has risen considerably.

In the North Korean economy — which has clung to a supply-oriented, planned economic model — it is extremely rare to see production change in response to consumer demands and preferences.

The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, published an editorial on August 3, 2014, calling for the “Brisk Opening of the August Third Consumer Goods Production Movement.” This editorial encourages the public by assuring that the consumer products will be made according to the needs and demands of the people.

“A socialist society cannot think about the production of consumer goods that are above the reaches of the people,” the editorial emphasizes, and that “the peoples’ demands and interests are [the Party’s] absolute top priority, and it is the noble duty of the Party to create these desired consumer goods for the people to enjoy.”

Through the use of various media, North Korea has propagandized the “consumer-focused” policy, claiming to have spurred competition and the increase in quality of products and services throughout the nation.

Joguk (Motherland), a media outlet of the pro-North Korean General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, published an article in their August 2014 issue entitled, “The Standard of Competition Is Determined by the People.” The article emphasizes production tailored to consumer demands, saying that “Product evaluation is something which can be done only by those who demand and directly use the product; it can only be done by the general public.”

The article further states that “Products popular among the general public and used by the masses are evaluated accordingly for their high quality.” It also mentions the cosmetic brands “Eunhasu” and “Pomhyanggi” as examples.

In a July 30, 2014 article, the Choson Sinbo introduced the Potong River Shoe Factory, which is responsible for the production of popular products such as the so-called “kill heel” high-heeled shoes, wedge-heeled shoes, and pointed stilettos. By working together with a department store and periodically reviewing customers’ feedback, the Potong River Shoe Factory can produce shoes to cater to shoppers’ preferences.

This method of setting the focus on consumer evaluation can also be found in North Korea’s education system.

On August 7, 2014, the Rodong Sinmun introduced the “bottom-up evaluation” system at Kim Jong Suk Middle School. This process, touted as one of the successes of educational reform, allows students to evaluate their teachers once per semester. By creating competition among educators, this system is expected to have effects all across the nation.

These types of changes are said to have close relations to the Kim Jong Un regime’s policy focusing on light industry, which also accounts for the improvement of standards of living for the people.

It appears that unlike the heavy chemical industry previously emphasized by the Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il regimes, light industry must consider not only production amounts, but the quality of the products as well. This inevitably leads to the emphasis being put on consumer product reviews.

Through consumer reviews, competition arises and productivity is increased, leading to the production of consumer goods with higher added value. Despite being called a “Socialist Competition,” in reality this system may not be so different from capitalism.

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Social Science Institute on the DPRK’s Economic Development Zones

Monday, January 20th, 2014

According to the Hankyoreh:

The latest issue of the quarterly publication of North Korea’s Social Science Institute – published on Nov. 15, 2013, and viewed on Jan. 19 – included an article titled, “Major Issues Pertaining to Making the North Korean Economy Stronger by Establishing and Expanding Economic Development Zones.”

According to the North Korean article, there are five important tasks that must be accomplished if the new Zones are to be successful.

1. building infrastructure such as roads and railroads

2. enacting laws for the special economic zones that take into account the profit of the government and of investors

3. providing benefits for foreign investors

4. operating and managing projects in a way that is suitable to the characteristics of the zones

5. creating the right political and military environment

Read more here:
N. Korea connects politics and military to economic development
Hankyoreh
Choi Hyun-june
2014-1-20

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North Korea promoting localization of raw materials for light industry and construction sectors

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2014-1-20

North Korea is encouraging “localization” of raw materials in light industry and construction from this year to improve the lives of the North Korean people.

On January 7, RodongSinmun reported that various cabinet organizations were espousing the New Year’s address of Kim Jong Un. It reported that 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.

A rally was held in Pyongyang earlier this month at Kim Il Sung Square where people pledged to accomplish the 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 industry and construction as the key sectors to improve the living standards of the people and asserting localization of raw materials as a priority to make advancements in these fields.

In his New Year message, Kim Jong Un emphasized that lighting industry must play a “major part in improving the people’s standard of living” and that the construction sector is “an important front for solidifying the foundations of a thriving country and creating bases for the people’s happy life.” He called for modernization of factories in light industry and normalization of production, placing importance on increasing the proportion of locally-available raw materials.

Many experts analyze this year’s rising emphasis on the localization of raw materials as reflecting the intentions of the North Korean authorities to focus on pragmatically achievable policy goals first. Of course, increasing the proportion of locally-available raw materials requires the construction of domestic production base, which remains complicated because of international sanctions and lack of foreign currency — issues that cannot be easily resolved– among other limitations.

From 2012, North Korea’s launch of a long-range rocket and third nuclear test was accompanied with rising emphasis on the importance of localization. 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.”

North Korea acclaimed that the launch of the 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 that “Thrilling clap of independent nuclear thunder broke out based on 100 percent of our own wisdom and technology.”

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Kim Jong-un’s new year address (2014)

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

A new year has begun, so most DPRK watchers are analyzing Kim Jong-un’s new year address (a return to a practice established by Kim Il-sung which was replaced by the “joint editorial” in the Kim Jong-il era). I have compiled most of the good analysis of the speech below.

First of all, you can watch the full speech here (in Korean):

You can read the full speech on KCNA here (English, Korean). For those of you who cannot access KCNA, click here to read a PDF of the speech in English and Korean.

Commentary:

38 North and here

New York Times

Washington Post

Institute for Far Eastern Studies

Yonhap and here

Choson Exchange

Stephan Haggard

Council on Foreign Relations

Nautilus Institute

Hankyoreh

New Focus International

Evans Revere

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