Archive for the ‘Kim’s New Year Address (Joint editorials)’ Category

Korea Business Consultants Newsletter (1/09)

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Korea Business Consultants has published their January newsletter.

Here is a link to the PDF.

Topics covered:
New Year Joint Editorial
Year of DPRK-China friendship
UNDP to resume DPRK operations
Buddhist Leader to Head DPRK’s ROK Affairs
DPRK Railroad Engineers Study in Russia
Housing Construction Progresses Apace
Orascom Opens Bank in Pyongyang
DPRK Tackles Clothing Shortage
“DPRK Harvest Best in Years”
China to Invest in NK Coal
US$ 3.75 Million in Australian Aid for DPRK
The Principles of the DPRK’s Foreign Trade
ROK Farmers Send Rice to DPRK
New SNG Kaesong Plant Idle
“Inter-Korean Trade Slides Due to Weak ROK Won”
ROK to Build Nursery in Kaesong Complex
DPRK Opens Consulate in Dandong
DPRK, China Foreign Officials Meet
Seoul Forum Highlights DPRK Films
“NK Martial Arts Team Best in World”
PUST Opening Delayed
DPRK TV Takes Note of Park Ji-sung
The Korean War


Assessment of the 2008 DPRK economy, outlook for 2009

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
ICNK Forum No. 09-2-2-1


In the 2008 North Korean New Year’s Joint Editorial, Pyongyang established the year 2012 as “The Year of the Perfect Strong and Prosperous Nation,” while labeling 2008, “The Year of Turnabout,” and, “The Year of the Betterment of the Livelihoods of the People.” As the year marked the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the regime projected a highly motivated façade, but there was no sign of new changes in the North’s economic policies.

Faced with the inability to produce any substantial results in the realm of international economic cooperation, North Korean authorities focused on how to put a positive spin on international conditions that were tied to the progress of 6-Party Talks. However, no visible measures appeared to emerge. Internally, North Korea’s chronic supply shortages drove further disparities between official and market pricing and monetary exchange rates as authorities were unable to stabilize the domestic economy. The growing global economic instability also caused economic policy makers to act more conservatively.

In 2008, North Korea’s food production in 2008 amounted to 4.31 million tons, recording a 7.5 percent increase over the previous year, while energy production is estimated to have grown by approximately 10 percent. Through joint development projects for North Korea’s underground resources, the North received raw materials for light industries (soap and shoes) amounting to 70 million USD in 2007, and 10 million last year. In addition, DPRK-PRC trade and inter-Korean economic cooperation both grew (DPRK-PRC trade increased significantly, while North-South cooperation grew only slightly), but it is difficult to measure the extent to which these increases impacted the North’s economy.

It appears that overall, North Korean trade and industry has improved since 2007, and the 2008 economic growth rate was positive. However, when estimating the North’s economic growth rate in light of the quickly rising exchange rate for South Korean won, DPRK economic growth for 2008 could be seen as a negative value.

While North Korea’s overall industrial production grew in 2008, when compared to previous years, and the primary reason for such was the refurbishment of equipment in most stable industries, development assistance and heavy oil aid as part of the 6-Party Talks, the provision of raw materials for light industries by South Korea, and the rise in prices on goods internationally.

Because of favorable weather conditions and increased production of fertilizer in the North, the agricultural sector showed a relative increase in production in 2008, despite the suspension of fertilizer aid from South Korea. Grain production was up 300 thousand tons, for an estimated total of 4.31 million tons last year. Boosted energy production was helped by improvements in hydroelectrical production and heavy oil tied to 6-Party Talks, and the provision of parts and materials for power plants, which considerably increased power production, at least in the first half of the year. This played an important role in the increase in industrial operations, as well. As electrical supply is the biggest obstacle to raising the operating rate of production facilities, more power resulted in overall production increases.

The construction sector has focused efforts on Pyongyang, and in particular on efforts to improve the lifestyles of its residents. Housing (averaging 20,000 family dwellings per year), restaurants, waterworks, roads, and other construction and repair projects have been aggressively undertaken.

North Korean authorities emphasized the science and technology sector in 2008, although it appears that the actual impact of this campaign topped out at the supply of some practical technology and the at production facilities, power plants, and other factories, and the promotion of modernization and normalization of industrial production.

At the mid-point of 2008, inter-Korean trade had grown by 1.2 percent compared to the same period the year prior, reaching 1.82 billion USD. The freeze on the annual supply of 400 thousand tons of rice and between 300~350 thousand tons of fertilizer from the South had a negative impact on the North’s food situation. On the other hand, DPRK-PRC trade from January-November 2008 jumped by 29.3 percent over the same period in 2007, considerably more than the 14.9 percent recorded in 2005, the 14.9 percent seen in 2006 and the 16.1 percent rise last year.

The increase natural resource development and improvements in core industries, the possibility of expansion of markets, and the advantage of low-cost labor give China, Russia, and other adjacent countries positive perceptions regarding investment in the North, and as Pyongyang continued to expand economic cooperation with these countries last year, it also improved economic relations with Europe as well as Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries.


If one looks at North Korea’s domestic economic policies, one will see that basically, in the 2009 New Year’s Joint Editorial, North Korea’s domestic and international economic policies have not undergone any significant changes. However, in order to accomplish the goal of establishing a Strong and Prosperous Country by 2012, it is expected that all efforts will be poured into reviving the economy. Based on the Joint Editorial, this year, the North’s economic policy is not one of reform due to transformation of the outside environment, but rather a revival of pas, conservatively grounded economic policy. Regarding international economic relations, the 2008 Joint Editorial specifically stressed the building of an economically strong nation based on the principle of the development of external economic relations, but there was no particular reference to this in 2009.

In 2009, resolution of agricultural problems was again prioritized as the task most necessary for the realization of a Strong and Prosperous Nation by 2012. Along with this, the North’s economic policy for 2009 will prioritize the modernization and normalization of the economy’s ‘vanguard sector’, and it is expected to continue to strengthen efforts to revive the economy. As it continues to work toward creating an environment in which it can concentrate efforts on the building of an ‘Economically Strong Nation’, North Korean authorities are expected to issue new measures to strengthen the economic management system, including the planned industrial system, the distribution and circulation framework, and an effective market management system. The North is also expected to further emphasize efforts to modernize the People’s Economy, as it considers modern vanguard science and technology to be the answer to recovery from its current economic crisis.

There is a possibility North Korea’s foreign trade, including that with China, will shrink in the future, as its external economic activity is hit by the current international economic situation and the rising value of the U.S. dollar and Chinese Yuan. Just as was seen in 2008, with the shrinking growth of the Chinese economy, DPRK-PRC trade will be hit negatively. Progress on the rail link being promoted between Rajin and Hasan, as well as the redevelopment of the Rajin Harbor is also expected to face difficulties. This is likely to lead to further efforts by the North to expand economic cooperation with the EU and Middle Eastern countries.

Despite North Korea’s removal from the U.S. list of terrorism-sponsoring states, because sanctions against North Korea still remain, the North will need to make progress in non-proliferation, human rights improvement, and marketization in order to see real economic benefits from improved relations with the Obama administration. However, because of a lack of confidence regarding market reform, differing stances between the U.S. and DPRK on denuclearization, and deeply rooted mistrust, there is a more than a small chance that progress on the nuclear issue will be stretched out over the long term.

Looking at prospects for the main domestic economic sectors of North Korea, firstly, the amount of development in the energy and mining sectors could take a favorable turn if there is movement on the nuclear issue, and this would have an overall positive effect on the entire industrial sector. The drop-off of demand due to the international financial crisis could have a considerable impact on the North’s mining sector, making it difficult to see much growth past the levels seen in 2008.

In 2009, the supply-demand situation regarding North Korean grains is expected to improve over last year. North Korea requires 5.2 million tons of grain, and is expected to harvest 4.9~5 million tons, falling only 200~300 thousand tons short. This is an improvement over the 790 thousand ton shortfall the North suffered in 2008. However, the actual amount of grains distributed to the people may not increase, because some of the 2008 shortage was relieved through the release of emergency rice reserves, and so some portion of the 2009 harvest will need to be set aside to restock that emergency reserve.

In the manufacturing sector, the increase in electrical production and increase in large-scale equipment operations in metalworks, chemicals, construction materials, and other heavy industries, the supply of materials for light industries as well as fertilizer will be extended, but the reduction of inter-Korean economic cooperation and foreign capital will mean a reduction in the ability to import equipment and materials, making it difficult to meet 2008-level growth in industrial production numbers.

In the construction sector, housing construction in Pyongyang and other areas will not fall off suddenly, but with the anniversary of the founding of the Party Museum upcoming and the impact of the furious construction activity that has been underway, it is likely to slow down in 2009. With North Korean authorities restricting private-sector economic activity, controlling the size of markets, and other measures controlling commerce in the North are expected to strengthen, which will considerably restrict anti-socialist commercial activity. To what extent official commerce networks will absorb this activity will be pivotal.

Trade between North Korea and China is expected to shrink as the global economic crisis drives down the price of raw materials that the North exports to the PRC. Following the North Korean authorities’ enforcement of a measure reducing inter-Korean economic cooperation on December 1, 2008, without improvement in the North Korean nuclear issue, and in U.S.-DPRK relations cooperation between Seoul and Pyongyang will gradually shrivel. Trade with other countries is also expected to fall as a result of the current global economic situation. Therefore, reduction of inter-Korean economic cooperation, North Korea’s principle provider of foreign capital, and sluggish trade between Beijing and Pyongyang will weaken the North’s foreign reserves supply-and-demand situation.

As for the investment sector, if North Korea is to succeed in its push to build a Strong and Prosperous Nation by 2012, it must attract foreign investment through aggressive policies of opening its economy. In order to improve the investment environment, Pyongyang must work more aggressively to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, but despite the demands of the surrounding countries, it is likely North Korea will insist on recognition as a nuclear power, making it difficult to expect progress on this front. Therefore, foreign investors’ interest in North Korean markets, and North Korea’s assention into international financial institutions through improved relations with the United States, appears to be a long way off.


DPRK relic in Ethiopia

Thursday, January 29th, 2009


The Dialachin Monument (a.k.a. Victory Monument, Derg Monument) was a gift from Pyongyang to Addis Ababa’s Derg regime in the 1970s.

You can see the location of the monument in Wikimapia here.

You can learn more about the Derg here.

See more photos of the monument here.

*This location will be added to the next version of North Korea Uncovered (North Korea Google Earth).  If readers are aware of other construction projects the DPRK has supported, please let me know.  I am especially interested in locating the North Korean restaurants in China, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Bangladesh.  Are there others?


DPRK outlines region-specific economic growth plans

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
Nk Brief No. 09-1-23-1

Following the recent North Korean New Year’s Joint Editorial and its calls for economic measures, on January 5, more than 100,000 people attended a rally in Pyongyang at which customized economic tasks were presented for each of the North’s provinces, taking into account each region’s particular industrial concentration or specialty.

According to North Korean media reports on January 20, Pyongyang stressed reforms in steel, power, coal, railway, and other sectors it considers ‘Priority Sectors of the People’s Economy.” It also presented tasks for the promotion of housing construction, refurbishment of pig farms, and the increase in production of farms and light industries providing daily necessities to the people of the North.

South Pyongan Province was tasked with increasing the production of ‘Juche’ steel’ at the Chollima Steel Complex, which kicked off the “new revolutionary upsurge” late last year during an on-site inspection by Kim Jong Il, as well as full operation of the newly built ‘superpower electric furnace’, and called on all the people of the province to increase production of organic fertilizer in order to boost food production.

For North Pyongan Province, “mass reforms” for the metalworks sector and concentrated efforts to increase electrical production at the Supung and Taechon power plants were called for. In addition, increased production at the Kujang Earth Colliery Complex, Rakwon Machinery Complex, and the Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory were ordered, as was the institution of advanced agricultural management methods.

Efforts in South Hwanghae Province are to be focused on increasing iron ore mining and scrap iron collection at sites such as the Eunryool and Jaeryung mines, and agricultural production goals are to be met through the introduction of high-yield crops and double-cropping.

North Hwanghae Province was ordered to focus on increasing production at the Hwanghae Iron Complex, the Yesong River Youth Power Plant No. 1, the 2.8 Madong Cement Factory, the Sariwon Poultry Farm, and the Sariwon Pig Farm. In addition, high-yield crops are to be introduced and construction of irrigation systems is to begin, as land management efforts are to be implemented in order to expand agricultural land in Mirubol. North Hwanghae Province is also to build a new library, a new arts theater, and a new housing.

In South Hamgyung Province, efforts are focused on construction of the Keumya River and Keumjin River Guchang power plants, as well as improving mining capacity at the mines in the Danchun area while renovating production facilities at the Sudong Mines. Aggressive promotion of construction on the second stage of the 2.8 Vinylon Complex was also emphasized. Provincial authorities were also ordered to complete the initial stage of refurbishment in the Heungnam Pharmaceutical Plant, improve production at the Kwangpo Duck Farm and the Hamju Pig Farm, and accelerate home construction in Hamheung City.

North Hamgyung Province was tasked with perfecting ‘North Korean-style steel production methodology’ at the Kim Chaek Iron Complex and Sungjin Steel Complex, and modernizing exploration, mining and processing equipment at the Musan Mining Complex in order to boost output, along with bringing the Seodusu Power Plant and Chungjin Thermoelectric Power Plant fully on-line. Another important task prioritized was the completion of the second stage of the Urangchun Power Plant.

In Kangwon Province, construction of the Wonsan Army-People Power Plant, increased production at the Munchon River Ironworks, modernization of the Wonsan Shoe Factory and the Wonsan Textiles Factory, and the refurbishment of the Munchon Poultry Processing Plant were emphasized, along with the diversification of management in farming communities in order to resolve food shortage problems.

Ryanggan Province, in the northern Gosan region, was tasked with improving management of the Samsu Power Plant, which entered service in May 2007, and construction of the Baekdu Mountain Military-first Centennial Power Plant and other electrical facilities, and the establishment of a ‘hometown of potatoes’ for the quick increase in potato cropping.

The Jagang Province was tasked with modernizing its metalworks sector and increasing electrical production at the Gangye Youth Power Plant and Janga River Power Plant, construction of small and medium-sized power plants, and increasing its logging production. Jagang Province was also tasked with normalizing production in its pig, duck, and chicken factories, and software development for local organizations was emphasized as a priority task for the Electronic Business Research Institute in Ganggye City, which was visited by Kim Jong Il after its grand opening last year.


DPRK establishing yearly economic development plans

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 08-1-9-1

The Jochongryeon mouthpiece, Chosun Sinbo, reported on January 5 that North Korea is working to boost economic production by establishing “concrete attainment goals” in each sector in a “yearly, phased plan” from last year until 2012 in order to reach the goal of establishing a “Strong and Prosperous Nation” by the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung. The paper reported that the North had not made an official announcement regarding this plan, but that it was currently in the process of implementing a 5-year economic development plan

In the textile industry, North Korea is focusing efforts on upgrading equipment in five weaving factories, including major sites in Pyongyang and Sariwon, with the goal of increasing cloth production 400 percent by 2012. The newspaper also reported that North Korea is aiming to increase coal production over the next few years, with the goal of reaching 1980s-levels of production. Coal production peaked in 1989 at 43 million metric tons, and it is estimated that North Korea has over 20 billion metric tons of coal reserves, but the Bank of (South) Korea estimates that in 2007, the North mined a mere 24.1 million metric tons of coal due to a lack of electricity and spare parts. Many of North Korea’s coal reserves are below the waterline, and require constant electricity in order for pumps to maintain an environment in which mining can take place. Last year, in order to boost coal production, North Korea increased budget allocations for energy, coal and metal industries by nearly 50 percent.

This year’s New Year’s Joint Editorial placed heavy emphasis on the metals industry, and emphasized that efforts last year to modernize equipment and improve technology increased 2008 steel production by 150 percent at the Chollima Steel Complex and the Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex. The newspaper stressed that these plans were not merely wishful thinking, but that they were “the basis for meaningful achievements,” pointing out that last year, the North Korean cabinet increased investment into both basic industries and vanguard enterprises 49.8 percent. In 2008, North Korea either refurbished or newly constructed over 140 new production facilities, and, “in particular, actively promoted metal, instrument, science, and light industrial sectors.”

According to the newspaper, North Korea would continue to promote economic development in the new year, as well, citing the current global economic crisis and the need to build an independent economic foundation not reliant on South Korea.


2009 Joint Editorial published

Monday, January 5th, 2009

North Korea’s “New Year’s Day Joint Editorial” lays out the government’s policy priorities for the year—similar to a US State of the Union address. In the editorial, which is quite long, the government committed to strengthening the military, ridding the peninsula of nuclear weapons, improving the economy (energy, agriculture, and transport) and improving the people’s quality of life.  Although the editorial is quite long, KCNA published a summary (KCNA link here, PDF here).

Today the Korean Worker’s Party threw itself a rally in Kim il Sung Square in support of the 2009 Joint Editorial. 

Here are some reactions in the press:
Jon Herskovitz in Reuters, Korea Times, AFP, Xinhua.


World oil and grain prices up, DPRK feels the pinch

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Bfrief No. 08-3-13-1

International fuel and food prices are skyrocketing, while the cost of Chinese goods continues to rise, so that this so-called ‘triple-threat’ is sending shockwaves through the North Korean economy. In this year’s New Year’s Joint Editorial, North Korea championed the banner of a ‘strong and prosperous nation’, and declared that this year would focus on the economy, however this ‘triple-threat’ will likely make it extremely difficult for the North to meet its policy goals.

With oil prices peaking at over 110 USD per barrel, if these high oil prices continue, North Korea, which imports crude and refined oil from China, Russia and other countries, will face a growing import burden. In accordance with the February 13th agreement reached through six-party talks, South Korea, the United States and others will provide some heavy fuel oil, and the agreement stipulated the amount of oil to be delivered, rather than the value, so this will not be affected by rising prices. However, this oil does not cover all of the North’s needs, and as for the remaining portion, either the amount imported will have to be reduced, or the North will have no choice but to invest considerably more in fuel. In addition, as a large portion of North Korea’s oil is imported from China, Pyongyang’s trade deficit with its neighbor will also grow.

According to the Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), North Korea imported 523,000 tons of crude oil from China in 2005, 524,000 tons in 2006, and 523,000 tons last year, each year accounting for approximately 25 percent of total oil imports. North Korea’s trade deficit with China has shown a steadily growing trend, reaching 212,330,000 USD in 2004, 588,210,000 USD in 2005, and 764,170,000 USD in 2006. With grain prices also skyrocketing, and North Korea depending largely on China and Thailand for rice and other grain imports, the burden on the North’s economy is growing, and this is one factor in the instability of domestic prices in the DPRK.

According to the Chinese Customs Bureau, North Korea imported 81,041 tons of rice and 53,888 tons of corn last year, increases of 109.9 percent and 37.4 percent, respectively. North Korea’s corn, rice and oil imports from China are subject to market price controls, so that rising international prices directly affect the North’s cost burden. Last year, the price of Chinese goods rose 4.8 percent, recording the largest jump in ten years, and this trend extends to a wide variety of goods. 80 percent of disposable goods in North Korea are produced in China, and rising Chinese prices are directly reflected in North Korean import costs, which is passed on to DPRK citizens.

As North Korea emphasizes the building of its economy, it appears unlikely that residents will feel any direct effects of Pyongyang’s promise to prioritize the stability of its citizens’ livelihoods.


2008 The New Year Joint Editorial

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

When President Kim il Sung was alive, he delivered a “state of the nation” address each new year.  Since his death in 1994 audio recordings of his past speeches have been played publicly.  However, the North Korean government did develop a new tool to fill the role of informing the public about the government’s policy goals without overshadowing the unique position of the deceased leader: the “Joint Editorial” published by three of the DPRK’s leading journals, Rodong Sinmun, the People’s Army, and the Youth Vanguard. Each January it is published and North Korea watchers rush to interpret and extrapolate what each line signals. If you have a lot of spare time, you can read some extensive excerpts here.

The title: Glorify This Year of the 60th Anniversary of the Founding of the DPRK as a Year of Historical Turn Which Will Go Down in the History of the Country

Although many publications have pointed out that North Korea missed yet another deadline to declare its nuclear facilities, South Korean reviews seem to indicate that the editorial was docile compared to previous years:



DPRK Economic Policy One Year after Nuclear Test

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 07-10-18-1

One year after the DPRK nuclear test, North Korea is still focusing all of their policy efforts on restoring their economy. North Korean leaders are convinced that an economic revival is crucial for the survival and stability of their regime.

The DPRK stated in this year’s New Year Joint Editorial, a publication that presents the regime’s policy direction for the year, that “the founding of a strong national economy is a crucial requirement for the revolution and advancement of our society, and is a historic undertaking toward becoming a fully prosperous and powerful nation.” The emphasis on “focusing all the state’s efforts on solving the economic issue,” was indicative of their sense of imminence regarding economic revival.

The Joint Editorial presenting the DPRK’s national goal of “founding a strong national economy” came out three months after the October nuclear test, which took place just over one year ago. Since its publication, the North Korean media has been stressing that the DPRK already realized powerful military strength and strong political ideology, and must now strive to establish a strong national economy. The military might of the nation was epitomized by the success of the nuclear test.

A copy of the North Korean quarterly publication “Politics & Law Review” obtained on September 14th emphasized the need to establish a strong national economy, stating that “without a strong national economy, it is impossible to strengthen the forces of political ideology and military power,” and, “the only way to block the infiltration of economic imperialism is by strengthening economic power.” It also added that “if we are weaker than South Korea, we will naturally look to them and depend on them.”

North Korean press claims that Kim Jong Il’s decision to carry out a nuclear test was the reason the 6-party talks have been working since January’s meeting between the United States and the DPRK in Berlin, thus easing tensions on the Korean peninsula by ameliorating the U.S.-DPRK relationship and advancing inter-Korean relations. The fact that 18 out of 55 public appearances (a significantly higher proportion than that of last year) made by Kim Jong Il this year were visits to economic bureaus also reflects North Korea’s economic ‘all-in.’ North Korea’s pro-active movement toward ameliorating relations with the United States, and its determination to expand inter-Korean economic cooperation, all stem from its urgency to develop their economy in order to stabilize their regime.


In the Name of the Father

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

Korea Times
Andrei Lankov

In July 1997, the five most important government agencies of North Korea published a joint declaration which informed the North Korea populace and the entire world that the country was introducing a new calendar. The year 1912 became the First Year of Chuche. The reason? This was the year Kim Il-sung was born.

The decision allowed the occasional use of the Christian-era years, but these four-digit numbers would accompany the new official chronological designation only when deemed necessary. Thus 2006 AD is the Year 95 of the Chuche Era. In other words, Kim Il-sung’s birthday replaced that of Christ in the official North Korean calendar.

The world has seen other attempts to break with old calendar traditions. In France of the 1790s, the revolutionaries began to count years from the proclamation of the French Republic. In South Korea of the 1950s, the government tried to implement the so-called ‘Tangun Era.’ None of these attempts succeeded for more than a few decades.

However, the decision to introduce the Chuche Era was just one of the many manifestations of Kim Il-sung’s posthumous “personality cult.”

Indeed, the memory of the North Korea’s founding father is treated in Pyongyang with the utmost respect. Obviously, this was the intention of the dead founder when he chose to transform his country into the first communist monarchy in world history.

He saw what had happened to Stalin and Mao’s posthumous reputations, and arranged the transition of power within his family, so the new leaders have a vested interest in keeping the old man’s memory intact.

First of all, Kim Il-sung is to remain the country’s only president.

After his death, the President’s office was left vacant _ and is meant to remain vacant forever. Kim Il-sung is North Korea’s “eternal president” while Kim Jong-il runs the country not as president, but merely as “chairman of the national defense committee.”

Kim Il-sung’s body has been embalmed and left on public display in a special glass-covered coffin. Actually, in this regard they follow an established _ if bizarre _ communist tradition. Lenin’s body was treated in such a way in 1924 (against his own clearly expressed will), and since then many other communist leaders have had their bodies left on public display _ also often against their will.

However, the sheer size of the North Korean mausoleum is impressive. In other Communist countries, bodies of the dead leaders were held in specially constructed and relatively small _ if impressive _ buildings.

The North decided to transform the entire Presidential Palace into the mausoleum and major center of Kim Ilsung’s posthumous cult.

The construction of Kmsusan Palace began in 1974, and in 1977 it was presented to Kim Il-sung as a present for his 65th birthday. In Kim’s lifetime, the imposing building, with floor area of 35,000 square meters, was strictly off-limits to the public, but in recent years it has become the center of a government- sponsored pilgrimage.

Of course, portraits of Kim Il sung are everywhere, albeit often accompanied by images of Kim Jong-il and his mother Kim Jong-suk. From the late 1960s, the North Korean bureaucracy has developed intricate rules to determine where and how Kim Il-sung’s likeness would be displayed. I’ll probably say more about these rules later, but now it suffices to say that every living room, office, and entrance to every official building, as well as every railway carriage, has been adorned with the portrait of the leader from the 1970s.

After 1980, the portrait of his son has complemented that of the father.

The currently approved portrait of Kim Il-sung is officially known as the ‘sun image’ (taeyangsang in Korean). Here the Great Leader is depicted as smiling kindly at his subjects, and he is dressed in the Western suit and necktie that he actually preferred in the last years of his life (prior to 1984 Kim had worn a Mao suit).

These portraits are mass-produced by the ‘Mansudae Creative Group,’ a special workshop whose sole purpose is to design and manufacture portraits and statues of the Great Leaders.

An important part of Kim Ilsung’s posthumous glorification is the numerous “Yongsaengtap,” or “Towers of Eternal Life.” Their name reflects the official slogan: “Kim Il-sung will live with us forever!” These towers have a shape, slightly reminiscent of ancient Egypt’s obelisks, and they are decorated with slogans on Kim’s alleged “eternal presence” in his realm.

As of 1997, there were 3,150 “Towers of Eternal Life” nationwide. They are normally erected at crossroads, and every major town is required to have one. Most of these structures are relatively cheap and easy to build, but some of them are quite elaborate and expensive.

The tallest of all towers is, of course, located in Pyongyang. It has a height of 92.5 meters _ just a bit lower than the Chuche Tower, one of the city’s major architectural monuments.

However, Kim Il-sung’s cult is now giving way to the cult of his son, who has successfully become the new supreme ruler of the country.


An affiliate of 38 North