Archive for the ‘Worker’s Party’ Category

Journalists staying in “Beverly Hills” of Pyongyang

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

A BBC reporter took a picture of “Guesthouse No. 24” in the housing compound supposedly under control of the International Department of the KWP:

Guesthouse-24

This area is in Pothonggang District near the new “General Satellite Control Center” (and the Pyongyang City branch of the Ministry of State Security).

Guesthouse-24-google-earth

The article mentions that other journalists are staying here as well, but it is unclear just who all is there at this time.

Presumably Pyongyang’s hotels are filled with people that western journalists would like to interview for their stories on the historic KWP Congress this week, so this would be a nice, comfortable and isolated place to keep foreign journalists under control.

Anna Fifield reports that journalists are being spread across town. Some are in the Yanggakdo Hotel and others are in the Koryo Hotel.

It is still unclear where the local delegates to the conference are being kept. Here is what Rodong Sinmun had to say:

Senior Party, State, Army Officials Visit Lodging Quarters of Participants in WPK Congress

Senior party, state and army officials Tuesday visited the lodging quarters of the participants in the Seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK).

Senior party, state and army officials Kim Yong Nam, Pak Pong Ju, Choe Ryong Hae, Choe Thae Bok, Pak Yong Sik, Yang Hyong Sop, Kwak Pom Gi, O Su Yong, Kim Phyong Hae and Kim Yong Chol and officials of party and armed forces organs visited the lodging quarters to meet the participants.

They referred to the fact that all service personnel and people of the DPRK have waged a dynamic struggle for the final victory in building a thriving socialist nation, registering special events and achievements by leaps and bounds one after another under the guidance of Marshal Kim Jong Un.

They called on all the participants to play a vanguard role in the drive to implement the idea and line of the Party in the future, too, bearing deep in mind the undying exploits the peerlessly great men of Mt. Paektu performed for the founding and development of the Party.

If I had to guess, I would say 4.25 Hotel in Mirim, but who knows at this point.

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Kim Jong-un’s Party Congress prep: construction projects

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Kim Jong-un has made at least two announcements recently, as the Korean Worker’s Party heads for its 7th Party Congress in May, about construction projects to be done. One of them is an orphanage in Ryanggang province, Daily NK reports:

Projects underway to promote Kim Jong Un’s legacy as a leader ahead of the 7th Party Congress in May are said to be in full swing across the nation. One such project taking place in Ryanggang Province calls for the full mobilization of residents to build an orphanage as an expression of the leader’s “love for the next generation,” Daily NK has learned.

“Authorities have recently been harassing residents saying that the orphanage under construction next to Kim Jong Suk Teachers’ College in Yonbong-dong needs to be ready for the Marshal’s (Kim Jong Un) inspection by the time of the Party Congress,” a source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK on Thursday. “The provincial party office has been hurrying people along, claiming the construction must be completed before the event.”

Progress was said to be slow during the winter, which was unseasonably cold, but construction efforts are now appearing to ramp up.

The project is being driven by the provincial head secretary and other cadres from the provincial Party and People’s Committee and is being promoted as a means to express loyalty to the leader, who has emphasized his “love for children,” said the source.

She added that cadres associated with the efforts, who have confidently stated that the facility will see completion before the Party Congress, have also been intensifying crackdowns on those seeking to avoid mobilization, out of concern that failure to complete the project on time may lead to issues of accountability.

“Vendors who are busy trying to make a living in the market were often able to get out (of mobilization) with bribes, but even that isn’t easy now,” a separate source in Ryanggang Province explained.

“The price for skipping a day of mobilization is now up to 10 RMB (13,000 KPW) a day per head, so some find it more affordable to just go to the construction site.”

The 13,000 KPW demanded is enough to purchase approximately 2kg of rice based on current prices, which is far from negligible for most members of the public. The higher price tag in effect acts as a tool to turn up the heat on people for mobilization.

The pressure to complete the project before the major political gathering has led to mobilization of students in the afternoons and workers at state-run factory as well.

The near full mobilization also involves specialized colleges, meaning that among the younger generation, stormtroopers (who are working on a railway project in Samjiyon) are seemingly the only group among ordinary residents that are exempt from the orphanage project.

Full article:
Kim Jong Un calls for construction of new orphanage in time for Party Congress
Kang Mi Jin
Daily NK
2016-04-19

IFES at Kyungnam University has also published an analysis of the news about the Ryomyong street project, which Curtis has already written about in this blog. They note that the recent sanctions do not seem to have altered plans for the project. Kim Jong-un’s rhetoric instead highlights the project as a blow against the international community and the US — North Korea will go full steam ahead on its own policies and no outside pressure can hold them back (my emphasis below):

On March 18, the state media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that Kim Jong Un declared the construction of ‘Ryomyong Street’, which is to be built between Kumsusan Palace of the Sun and the Ryonghung Crossroads in Pyongyang. The street’s name signifies a place where ‘the dawn breaks in the Korean revolution’. Kim also mentioned that the area is to be surrounded by magnificent skyscrapers and multi-level buildings that fit the geographical characteristics surrounding the palace, displaying the Party’s idea of giving importance to science and talents in socialist Korea.
[…]
Along these lines, Kim put emphasis on the policy of securing building materials in constructing the new street and to diversify the size, design and color of decorative objects on the exterior of buildings. He also instructed for the mobilization of ‘soldier-builders’ who previously worked on the construction of Mirae Scientists Street. The construction of the new street shall be carried out with “Mallima speed” during the country’s ‘70-day campaign’ in run-up to the Party Congress scheduled for this upcoming May. The news report also stated that “the party, state, and society should render positive assistance to the construction and the Cabinet, commissions, ministries and national institutions take the lead in this work.”

According to the report, Kim Jong Un also said that “The construction of the street is not merely for formation of a street but serves as a political occasion of clearly showing the spirit of the DPRK standing up and keeping up with the world, despite all sorts of sanctions and pressure by U.S. imperialists and their followers, the appearance of the country advancing to realize the great ideal of the people and truth that the DPRK is able to be well-off in its own way and nothing is impossible for it to do.” The construction of the street appears in part as a means to show off the strength of ‘Songun’ Korea, following in the footsteps of Kim Jong Il’s policy.

Despite the strong sanctions imposed upon the country by the international community, North Korea is striving to achieve some form of economic success. The 70-day campaign has been initiated in the run-up to the Seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party. North Korean media are boasting about the country’s successes on the production front since the campaign’s initiation, saying “under the Juche ideology, people are working hard especially in the fields of electricity, coal, metal, and railroad transportation that they have achieved great success in the [campaign’s] first week.”

Full article here:
North Korea to Construct ‘Ryomyong Street’ Despite Sanctions
Institute for Far Eastern Studies
03-29-2016

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The UNSC sanctions and the North Korean economy

Friday, March 11th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

In the past few days, Daily NK has carried a number of interesting reports on how the latest round of UNSC sanctions have impacted the domestic economy in North Korea. Below, I’ve gathered a compendium of sorts. I’ll continue updating it as more stories surface.

Only a short while after the sanctions were announced, trucks carrying mineral exports were blocked from entering China. Some businesspeople were apparently surprised at China’s relatively forceful implementation of the sanctions, given that little impact had been seen from past sanctions:

Chinese authorities began prohibiting mineral exports from North Korea on March 1st in a move not strictly related to the passing of UN Security Council Resolution 2270, which outlines sanctions against North Korea. North Korean authorities and foreign-earning currency enterprises tied to the military did not see this move coming and expressed embarrassment and shock.

In a telephone conversation with the Daily NK on March 4, a source from North Pyongan Province said, “Beginning on March 1, mineral exports such as coal and ore have not been allowed to pass through Chinese customs into China. Trucks loaded with mineral deposits have been idly waiting in front of Chinese customs near Dandong. The foreign trading companies are simply waiting for instructions from the higher authorities.”

Full story:
Trucks loaded with mineral exports blocked from entering China
Seol Song Ah
Daily NK
2016-03-07

A few days later, Daily NK reported that “panic” had begun to set in, not just among high-level businesspeople and traders involved in the mineral extraction industry, but also among market vendors who worry that they won’t be able to buy products for import from China:

“The news that the UN resolution containing sanctions against North Korea passed unanimously is spreading like wildfire through [domestic] cell phones. People in the North had little interest in sanctions in the past, but these days they are expressing concern that ‘this time things are going to be different,’” a source in South Pyongan Province reported to Daily NK on March 7.

A source in North Hamgyong Province corroborated this news, reporting the same developments on the ground in that region.

“Sinuiju is known as the gateway to China and the ultimate symbol of friendly relations between our two nations. That’s why news of its closure to mineral exports is causing dismay,” she explained, adding that a rumor has also taken off that international customs offices in other border towns such as North Hamgyong’s Rajin and Hoeryong will be shuttered.

Further anxiety is being stoked by the fact that trusted allies such as China and Russia are participating in the sanctions and the fact that residents are getting detailed information about the resolution’s specific clauses.

“People are further concerned because things have apparently changed significantly since China helped the country to overcome the difficulties during the ‘Arduous March,’ [famine] in the mid 1990s. People from all over the country are concerned that China might shut the border down totally. If that happens, it will become difficult for everyone to make a living,” the source indicated.

“Wholesalers and market vendors are feeling the most vulnerable to the UN sanctions. Their greatest fear is that they won’t be able to buy products. Merchants who have been selling Chinese products at cheap prices are expecting a cost increase and have momentarily discontinued sales.”

Full story:
Panic sets in as sanctions specifics circulate 
Daily NK
Choi Song Min
2016-03-08

Not just mineral exports to China have taken a hit. Food products specialties like hairy crab, frequently imported to cities like Yanji in China from North Korea’s northern fishing cities like Rajin, are now being sold at domestic markets instead:

“These days items that were previously hard to find because they were earmarked for export are suddenly emerging at the markets,” a source from North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Thursday. “The price haven’t gone down enough yet, so you don’t see too many people actually buying them. But you do see flocks of curious people coming out to the markets to see all the delicacies for sale.”

She added, “High-end marine goods like roe, sea urchin eggs, hairy crab, and jumbo shrimp and produce like pine nuts, bracken, and salted pine mushrooms were once considered to be strictly for export, but now they’re easy to find. The number of such products, referred to as ‘sent back goods,’ at Sunam Market and other markets around Chongjin is growing by the day.”

Additional sources in both North and South Hwanghae Provinces reported the same developments in those regions.

Despite the sanctions that have already kicked in, products from China are still flowing into North Korea. however, the goods sold in bulk to China–minerals like coal, marine products, etc.– have nowhere to go and are therefore making their way back into the country.

Full story:
Would-be food exports to China popping up in jangmadang
Choi Song Min
Daily NK
2016-03-11

Politically, too, the topic of sanctions has become highly sensitive. According to reports by Daily NK, surveillance authorities have increased their focus on certain groups that they deem as more likely than others to speak out about the added pressures from the sanctions:

The boost in surveillance is interpreted as a move by the regime to nip in the bud any rumblings of political unrest engendered by members of society more likely to speak out about the pressure squeezing North Korea. Those tracing the lines of the circumstances leading to this pressure, namely a volley of sanctions lobbed at North Korea by the international community in response to its nuclear test and rocket launch, are a threat to the regime’s authoritarian grip over the population.

A source with the Ministry of People’s Security [MPS, or North Korea’s equivalent of a police force] informed Daily NK on March 8 that internal orders came down at the beginning of March for the MPS to survey and track the recent movements of those anyone ascribed to the “wavering” cohort. Two separate sources in the same province verified this information, but Daily NK has not yet confirmed if the same orders are in effect in other provinces.

Full story:
MPS steps up surveillance to suppress potential ‘pot stirrers’
Kang Mi Jin
Daily NK
2016-03-11

(UPDATE 2016-02-18): a couple of days ago, Daily NK published another piece on this topic. They note that market prices have remained relatively stable, and that many people don’t seem to treat this sanctions round as anything out of the ordinary:

Market prices in North Korea have remained relatively stable despite stronger sanctions enforced by the international community, including China, as well as greater limitations on market operationsdue to nationwide preparation for Pyongyang’s May Party Congress.

Multiple Daily NK sources within the country have confirmed that rice prices in Pyongyang, South Pyongan Province’s Sinuiju, and Ryanggang Province’s Hyesan are trading at 5,100 KPW, 5,150 KPW, and 5,080 KPW per kilogram, respectively, similar to levels before sanctions were stepped up (5,100 KPW, 5,100 KPW, 5,260 KPW).

This is also the case on the foreign exchange front, with 1 USD trading for 8,150 KPW in Pyongyang, 8,200 KPW in Sinuiju, and 8,170 KPW in Hyesan, showing some signs of strengthening for the local currency from pre-sanction rates (Pyongyang 8,200 KPW, Sinuiju·Hyesan 8,290 KPW).

“There had been concern we would see fewer goods in the market because of UN sanctions, but in reality, there hasn’t been much difference,” a source from North Pyongan Province told Daily NK in a telephone conversation on Sunday. “The state is placing restrictions on opening hours for the market for the ‘70-day battle’ (mobilization for the Party Congress), but the markets have remained lively, and there’s not much change in terms of market prices.”

Further confirming trends previously reported by Daily NK last week, an additional source in North Hamgyong Province reported yesterday that some people had stocked up food worried about sanctions from the UN, but that this hasn’t led to a violent gyration in prices. “Actually, in some regions, we’re seeing prices of certain products drop,” he noted.

This price stability seen in the marketplace, in spite of the sanctions having kicked in earlier this month, can be attributed to the fact that most products are still trading as they would have save one of the North’s main export items: minerals.

The simple reality that people have experienced similar times before is also at play. “In the past, people who had stockpiled food during other sanctions discovered that after the political climate evened out a bit they were unable to get their money’s worth for everything they bought. This is why we’re seeing less of it,” a source from Ryanggang Province explained. “Initially there was a little bit of noise, but in general people are remaining calm.”

Full article:
Market prices so far showing resilience against sanctions
Daily NK
Kang Mi Jin
2016-03-14

Also, Marcus Noland recently launched a “Black Market Contest” at the Witness to Transformation blog, letting readers bet on what will happen with the unofficial exchange rate as a result of the sanctions:

The exchange rate issue has re-emerged with the imposition of sanctions. My colleague Steph Haggard leans toward the view that the imposition of a broader set of sanctions, particularly with respect to mining, together with enhanced Chinese enforcement will generate a balance of payments cum financial crisis with uncertain implications for political stability. I am more skeptical of both the additional coverage and the likely Chinese rigor in enforcement.

But this is an empirical issue. If the sanctions bite, then one would expect to see their effects manifested in the black market rate on the won. So we decided to offer up this conundrum to the wisdom of the crowd, or at least of our readership, in this Witness to Transformation Black Market Contest. Yes, you can ply your wits against North Korean loan sharks and black market traders. Or maybe the North Korean monetary authorities. Here’s how it works.

Steph thinks that within two months, evidence of the impact of sanctions should begin to emerge. So the object of the contest is to guess the black market won-dollar rate two months hence. Since the sanctions resolution passed 2 March, we will use the first DailyNK average rate applying to the post-2 May period as the reference. So you have the next month to analyze trade data, contact spies in Dandong, or call in favors in Switzerland to inform your estimate. Whoever guesses closest to the May black market rate wins. In the event of a tie, whoever submitted their entry first wins.

Please list your estimate in the comments section below. The entry period closes 15 April.

Full article:
Witness to Transformation Black Market Contest
Witness to Transformation blog
Marcus Noland
2016-03-16

(UPDATE 2016-05-02): DailyNK continues to cover domestic prices in the context of the sanctions. In late April, vegetable prices rose, but rice prices remain notably stabile:

Despite these high prices, movements on the rice and foreign currency front have remained relatively stable, leading people to believe the spike in vegetables will be short lived.

“Vegetables are not export items and therefore their prices are determined by domestic supply and demand,” the Pyongyang-based source noted. “However strong the sanctions may be, rice prices have nonetheless remained the same and, under these conditions, not many will choose to eat expensive cabbages over rice,” the source added, suggesting that prices are likely to return to normal as the markets readjust for supply and demand.

Full article here:
Vegetable prices spikes, rice remains stabile 
Daily NK
Kang Mi Jin
2016-04-28

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North Korea emphasizes economic independence amid pending international sanctions

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

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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Friday fun with North Korea’s new slogans

Friday, February 19th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

What better way to start off the weekend than to go through North Korea’s latest batch of political slogans (“Joint calls/공동구호”)? These were issued collectively by the Central Committee and the Central Military Commission on Wednesday February 17th, and printed on the frontpage of Rodong Sinmunas part of the run-up to the 7th Party Congress to be held later this year.

Below I have gathered those that relate to the economy, and a few other interesting ones, with brief annotation:

The calls underlined the need to make hurrah for the WPK and socialism resound far more loudly this year when the Seventh Congress of the WPK is to be held by staging an all-out death-defying struggle for building a thriving nation and improving the people’s living standard.

The Byungjin line is alive and well.

Let’s dynamically wage this year’s general advance in the same spirit as shown in succeeding in the H-bomb test!

Let’s build an economic giant as early as possible with the strength and the spirit of Korea and at the Korean speed!

Send more satellites of Juche Korea into space!

As often before, the satellite launch and the hydrogen bomb test are tied into the theme of economic development: both are technological advancements, showing the overall progress of the economy.

Produce more new-generation electric locomotives and passenger cars!

A shout-out to the domestic car industry?

Put the manufacture of Korean-style world-class underground trains on a serial basis!

The domestically manufactured subway cars haven’t been forgotten. One wonders if people living outside Pyongyang feel as strongly about them.

Step up the modernization of the mining industry and keep the production of nonferrous metal and non-metallic minerals going at a high rate!

Provide more resources for building an economic giant by channeling effort into prospecting underground resources!

At least now Jang Song-taek can’t touch them anymore.

Make the foreign trade multilateral and diverse!

This is interesting, and a clear statement about an important rationale for the SEZs: North Korea will remain politically and economically vulnerable as long as China continues to be its single largest trading partner by a large margin.

Let’s greet the 7th Party Congress with proud achievements in the improvement of the people’s living standard!

The people “will never have to tighten their belts again”, as Kim Jong-un said in his first public speech in 2012.

Achieve a great victory on the front of agriculture this year!

Which the regime has already claimed it did last year. The UN doesn’t agree.

Let’s give a decisive solution to the problem of consumer goods!

Let’s produce more world-competitive famous products and goods!

North Korean media has highlighted strides in consumer goods production several times this year.

Make Wonsan area an icon of city layout and build it into a world-level tourist city!

A shout-out to the Wonsan tourist zone, presumably.

Establish Korean-style economic management method guided by the Juche idea in a comprehensive manner!

Sounds like the management reforms, with greater autonomy for enterprises, are still on the table.

Let the entire party and army and all the people turn out in the forest restoration campaign!

And make sure they “properly conduct fertilizer management“. This is the only reference among the slogans to the forestry campaign, where the regime has publically acknowledged some crucial and systemic problems, but is yet to find a credible solution.

Put an end to proclivity to import!

Does this tell us something about North Korea’s trade balance that the numbers aren’t showing?

The Korean People’s Internal Security Forces should sharpen the sword for defending their leader, system and people!

Note that “people” comes after both “leader” and “system”.

Let us thoroughly implement our Party’s policy of putting all the people under arms and turning the whole country into a fortress!

Enhance the fighting capacity of the Worker-Peasant Red Guards by intensifying their drills as the anti-Japanese guerillas did in Mt. Paektu!

Develop and produce a greater number of various means of military strike of our own style that are capable of overwhelming the enemy!

Enhance the fighting capacity of the Worker-Peasant Red Guards by intensifying their drills as the anti-Japanese guerillas did in Mt. Paektu!

These four slogans seem to be saying that the Four Military Guidelines, adopted in 1962 by the Central Committee, are still very much in play: 1) arming the population, 2) fortifying the country, 3) establishing a cadre-based army, and 4) modernizing military equipment. Mao would probably have been happy to know that his People’s War Doctrine lives on in North Korea.

The whole list of slogans is very long, and saying that policy areas need to improve, or that production in a certain area needs to go up, isn’t much of a policy line. Still, it’s interesting to see what areas are highlighted.

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Economic reforms to come at North Korea’s Party Congress, Daily NK says

Monday, January 11th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Daily NK today carries a piece reporting on economic reforms to potentially come at the Korean Worker’s Party Congress coming up this year:

In terms of the possibility of declaring new economic reforms, the source explained he would announce reform measures that stay within the overall framework of socialism. Taking an extra step forward from the new economic management system’s ‘June 28 Measures,’ which pertained to agricultural policies, the pending package of reforms will include provisions authorizing individuals to directly manage factories. In practice, this would enable the state to collect more taxes from the donju [newly affluent middle class] by providing them with more freedom to make money.

Aspects of these changes are already underway in select locales. “In some regions, municipal People’s Committee business offices have been granting donju increased license to earn money,” he said. “Provided that people can offer up the initial 6,000 RMB fee and build their own factories with basic infrastructure such as sanitation facilities they are relatively uninhibited in their business operations.”

Hints at reforms like these were largely absent from Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s Address, I argued in an earlier post.

Read the full article:
Major organizational changes to be announced at Party Congress
Choi Song Min
Daily NK
2016-01-11

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DPRK announces 7th party congress

Friday, October 30th, 2015

 

ORIGINAL POST (2015-10-30): According to Xinhua:

The ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) announced Friday that it will hold its seventh congress in early May next year.

The gathering will be the first of its kind in 36 years. The last WPK congress took place in 1980.

In an announcement carried by the KCNA, the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee lauded the party’s governance, saying the party has become “the organizer and leader of all victories for the Korean people.”

The conference is to be held to reflect “the demand of the party and the developing revolution that witness epoch-making changes in accomplishing … the cause of building a thriving socialist nation,” said the statement.

The WPK Central Committee can call party conferences between its congresses.

And in a separate story published the same day:

The Seventh Congress of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) will be held in early May in 2016, the official KCNA news agency reported Friday.

The political bureau of the WPK central committee announced the decision, in which it lauded the party’s governance, saying the party has become “the organizer and leader of all victories for the Korean people,” according to the report.

The conference is to be held to reflect the demand of the party and national development that “witness epoch-making changes in accomplishing …the cause of building a thriving socialist nation,” it said.

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Japanese police raid home of Chongryun chairman

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

UPDATE 1 (2015-5-29): Office 39 has been connected to the Japanese investigation. According to the Daily NK:

An investigation launched by Japanese police has revealed that Office 39, a special department charged with raising funds for Kim Jong Un’s use, is involved in illegal operation exporting pine mushrooms to Japan, Yomiuri Shimbun, a Japanese daily, reported on May 27th.

During a police raid on the home Huh Jong Do, the son of the head of the pro-North General Association of Korean Residents in Japan [Chongryon], the authorities uncovered documents revealing correspondence between the group and Office 39, revealing that North Korea has been exporting pine mushrooms to Japan in conjunction with Chosun Specialty Sales, an affiliate of Chongryon.

An official with the investigation said it was the first time documents explicitly stating “Office 39” have come to light, leading police to push ahead with the investigation and assert the shadowy agency’s direct involvement in the illicit operation.

Both Huh and Kim Yong Jak, head of Chosun Specialty Sales, were arrested on May 12th for violating laws administration of foreign currency. Police investigations revealed that these two men had imported approximately 1,800 kg of pine mushrooms from North Korea in September of 2010–a clear violation of Japan’s ban on trading with North Korea, implemented after North Korea’s second nuclear test in 2009.

Meanwhile, Washington D.C.-based Voice of America, quoting Japanese daily Sankei Shimbun, that Office 39, Huh, and Chosun Specialty Sales were all involved in the pine mushroom smuggling ring, dividing the profits among the involved parties.

ORIGINAL POST (2015-3-26): According to the Japan Times:

The head of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, or Chongryon, had his home searched by police on Thursday, and two South Korean men were arrested on suspicion of illegally importing matsutake mushrooms from North Korea.

Raids took place at six locations, including the Tokyo home of Ho Jong Man, chairman of Chongryon, a body which has functioned as a de facto North Korean embassy for many decades in the absence of diplomatic ties between Tokyo and Pyongyang.

Observers said the raid on the chairman’s home could affect stalled bilateral talks on Pyongyang’s abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s.

Police arrested Lee Tong-chol, 61, president of a Tokyo-based trading house, and Yoshihiko Kin, 42, an employee of the company. They are suspected of illegally importing about 1,200 kg of matsutake mushrooms worth around ¥3 million via China in September 2010.

The mushrooms are believed to have been sold in Japan, mislabeled as Chinese-grown produce.

Japan has banned imports from North Korea since October 2006 as part of economic sanctions imposed in response to Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear programs.

Both suspects are residents of Japan, and both denied the allegation. Investigators quoted Lee as saying he does not understand why he should be arrested, while Kin denied all knowledge of the matter.

Police are investigating the relationship between the suspects and Ho, who is a member of North Korea’s top legislature.

After the early morning raid on his home in Tokyo’s Suginami Ward, Ho told reporters angrily he does not even know the name of the trading company.

“The investigation is done unlawfully and this would lead to serious problems in the relationship” between North Korea and Japan, he said.

“This is political suppression against the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan,” he said.

Touching on the ongoing investigation into the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea, Ho said the Japanese authority is making things worse, interfering with the investigation by deliberately worsening relations with North Korea.

Meanwhile, a senior police investigator said authorities suspect a link between the illegal trade and Chongryon, and that they will do everything they can to investigate.

To that end, police have so far searched more than 10 locations, including the trading house and the homes of Lee and of Ho’s son last May.

The locations searched Thursday include the Tokyo home of the pro-Pyongyang group’s vice chairman.

Read the full story here:
Police search home of Chongryon leader over suspected North Korea mushroom shipment
Japan Times
2015-3-26

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On the 349 slogans (not 310)–and the politburo meeting resolution

Friday, February 13th, 2015

Yesterday nearly every major media outlet reported that the DPRK had published 310 new slogans. This was inaccurate. The DPRK published 349 slogans. Here they are numbered in a PDF document. You might marvel that I would go and count them like this, but it was not that hard. Another friend told me there were 375, and he was also wrong.

Here is what Yonhap had to say about the slogans:

North Korea’s key governing party organs have released a set of campaign slogans calling for painstaking efforts to improve the livelihoods of its citizens, Pyongyang’s state media said Thursday.

The Central Committee and the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea announced the 310 slogans [ACTUALLY 349] to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the country from the 1910-45 Japanese colonial rule as well as the founding of the governing party, according to the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA).

Noteworthy among the long list were calls to shore up the North Korean economy and enhance the livelihoods of the country’s citizens.

Among the slogans calling for livelihood enhancement was, “Make tireless efforts with an extraordinary determination to resolve the problems of the people’s living at any cost!,” according to the KCNA.

The slogans also stressed the regime’s willingness to mend ties with South Korea.

“It is a long-cherished desire of all the fellow countrymen and an urgent task of the nation to put an end to the tragedy of national division that has lasted 70 years,” one of the slogans read.

Lately, the North has shown signs of attempts to thaw long-standing tension with Seoul, with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expressing his desire to open inter-Korean talks during his New Year’s address earlier this year.

North Korea often announces such slogans encompassing all sectors of society on special occasions, hinting at the communist country’s policy direction going forward.

But more importantly, today (February 13th) KCNA announced a meeting and resolution of the KWP’s politburo:

On February 10, Juche 104 (2015), the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea met in Pyongyang, capital of the revolution.

Attending the meeting were members of the Presidium of, and members and alternate members of, the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

The meeting adopted a resolution of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, titled, “On Greeting the 70th Anniversaries of the Founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the Liberation of the Country as Revolutionary, Auspicious Events of Songun Korea Which Is Prospering under the Leadership of the Great Party.”

The resolution stated that our Party, army and people will greet before long the 70th anniversaries of the founding of the glorious Workers’ Party of Korea and the liberation of the country in a meaningful way.

A grand celebration of the anniversaries will constitute an important occasion for exalting the brilliance of the immortal exploits performed by the great Comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, who achieved the historic cause of national liberation, founded a revolutionary party of the Juche type and led our revolution along the road resplendent with victory, and for demonstrating the high prestige and militant might of our Party, which is adorning the new century of the Juche era with proud victories and prosperity.

Holding fast to the banner of independence, the great Comrade Kim Il Sung defeated the brigandish Japanese imperialists by fighting a bloody war for 20 years and thus achieved the historic cause of national liberation; and on the basis of the organizational and ideological groundwork of building a party and the glorious revolutionary traditions created in the flames of the anti-Japanese revolution, he founded a revolutionary party of the Juche type, the Workers’ Party of Korea.

By enhancing the leadership role of the Party in the revolution and construction, he led to victory the Fatherland Liberation War, postwar reconstruction and two stages of social revolution, built the people-centred socialist system of our own style, achieved socialist industrialization of our country from scratch, and turned it into a powerful socialist country, which is independent, self-supporting and self-reliant in national defence.

The great Comrade Kim Jong Il formulated ComradeKim Il Sung’s revolutionary ideology as Kimilsungism and developed our Party into an ideologically pure and organizationally integrated body in which monolithic ideological and leadership systems are firmly established, into a motherly party which has formed a harmonious whole with the masses and serves them, into a seasoned and experienced party which is possessed of a high level of leadership art, and into a promising party which has definitely been assured of the leadership being inherited.

In the days of the Arduous March and forced march, when our people and revolution faced the worst-ever hardships and trials, he developed our Party into the guiding force of the Songun revolution, firmly safeguarding the sovereignty of our country and nation, developing our motherland into a single-heartedly united politico-ideological power and into an invincible military giant, which no formidable enemy dares to provoke, and kindling the flames of the industrial revolution in the new century to lay a firm foundation on which we can effect a great leap forward, great innovations, in building our country into an economic giant.

The exploits of the great Comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, who laid an eternal cornerstone for the victorious advance of our country and revolution by leading the cause of building a party of the Juche type and a prosperous country along the road resplendent with victory, will shine for all ages to come.

It is the steadfast will of the respected Comrade Kim Jong Unto further develop our Party and our Republic, which were founded by Comrade Kim Il Sung and led by him and Comrade Kim Jong Il, into the party and state that will shine forever together with the ideas and august names of the great leaders.

By formulating Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism as the eternal guiding ideology of our Party and revolution, he has provided a fundamental guarantee for developing ours into the party of the great Comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, and under the unfurled banner of modelling the whole society on Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism, he is wisely leading to victory the showdown with the United States and the building of a thriving nation.

Under his outstanding and seasoned leadership, the prestige and authority of our Party are being raised remarkably, and the history and tradition of victory of heroic Korea are being carried forward to the hilt, and the cause of building a thriving nation is advancing full of vigour despite the incessant moves of the imperialist reactionaries to isolate and suffocate our country.

The respected Comrade Kim Jong Un said:

“We must hold up the great Generalissimos Kim Il Sung andKim Jong Il as the eternal leaders of our Party and people, as the sun of Juche, and step up modelling the whole society on Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism so as to build on this land a dignified, thriving socialist country, a powerful Paektusan nation, as wished by the great Generalissimos.”

All Party members, service personnel and people, rallied behind the Party ring after ring under the slogan “Let us all turn out in the general offensive to hasten final victory in the revolutionary spirit of Paektu!” must make greater efforts to create a new speed of the times, the speed of Korea, in building a thriving socialist country and demonstrate to the whole world the prestige and mettle of the prospering Songun Korea.

The Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea has adopted a resolution on the measures aimed at greeting the 70th anniversaries of Party founding and national liberation as revolutionary, auspicious events of Songun Korea which is prospering under the leadership of the great Party by giving full play to the revolutionary spirit and mettle of Paektu. The resolution reads in the following vein:

First, we will hold the great Comrades Kim Il Sung andKim Jong Il in high esteem as the eternal leaders of our Party and people and add eternal brilliance to their immortal revolutionary exploits.

We will splendidly lay out the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, where the great Generalissimos are preserved in their lifetime appearances, as the eternal sanctuary of the sun and defend it to the death, and have their bronze and coloured statues set up at such important units as those visited by them.

We will renovate the Korean Revolution Museum as befits the storehouse of national treasures, where one can learn the revolutionary careers of the peerlessly great men of Mt Paektu and their immortal exploits in a comprehensive way, spruce up other bases for education in revolutionary traditions and intensify educational work through them.

Second, we will strengthen the Party and consolidate rock-solid the single-hearted unity of our Party and revolutionary ranks.

This is a decisive guarantee for carrying forward through the generations and accomplishing under the leadership of the respected Marshal Kim Jong Un the revolutionary cause of Juche and the revolutionary cause of Songun pioneered on Paektu.

We will establish stringent organizational discipline whereby the whole Party acts as one under the monolithic leadership of the respected Marshal, and consolidate the political and ideological position of our revolution by taking hold of public sentiments and uniting the masses of the people firmly around the Party.

Third, we will hold fast to the Party’s line of the Songun revolution so as to build up our national self-defence capability.

In order to achieve final victory in the showdown with the United States and speed up the building of a thriving socialist country, it is urgent to strengthen the People’s Army, the buttress and main force of the Songun revolution, develop defence industry and step up the work of arming all the people and fortifying the whole country on a high level.

We will establish the monolithic command system of the respected Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un more firmly across the People’s Army and press on with the movement of winning the titles of O Jung Hup-led 7th Regiment and Guards Unit, in order to develop the army into an invincible force of guards who are fully possessed of the spirit of defending their leader and country to the death, the strongest in idea and faith, and capable of winning all battles.

We will display the same spirit and mettle as we did in conquering outer space to manufacture larger numbers of powerful, cutting-edge military hardware of our own style that are of high precision, light, unmanned and intelligent, so that we can cope with modern warfare, and develop defence industry by relying on latest science and technology.

Fourth, we will raise a fierce wind and achieve a major leap forward on all the fronts where we are building a thriving socialist country, in order to usher in a great golden age of Songun Korea.

That all sectors and all units of the national economy accelerate the onward march to bring about an upsurge in the building of an economic giant is a sure guarantee for fully demonstrating the country’s might as a politico-ideological and military power and achieving a brilliant triumph in the struggle to build a thriving nation and defend socialism.

We will open up a shortcut to the building of the knowledge-based economy by developing science and technology and going beyond the cutting edge, and bring about a radical turn in improving the people’s standard of living by resolving the food problem of the people with crop cultivation, animal husbandry and fishing as the main thrusts and directing great efforts to developing light industry.

In particular, we will firmly take hold of agriculture as an area of major thrust, enlist and concentrate nationwide efforts for agricultural production, speed up the building of the livestock farming base in the Sepho area, and make a fresh turn in the development of animal husbandry.

We will open up a new era of “gold sea” and make the whole socialist country permeated with the fragrant smell of fish and other kinds of seafood by decisively bolstering up the fishing sector, and direct uninterrupted efforts to developing light industry so as to increase the production of consumer goods for the people.

We will thoroughly translate the Party’s Juche-oriented idea on architecture into reality and usher in a new golden age of construction by completing without fail and by the dates set by the Party such major projects as building the Sci-Tech Complex, Mirae Scientists Street, second-stage Wisong Scientists Dwelling District, Terminal 2 of Pyongyang International Airport, Building No 3 of Kim Il Sung University, Pyongyang University of Architecture and Secondary School No 1 and renovating the Central Zoo and Mangyongdae Schoolchildren’s Palace.

We will make a leap forward in the vanguard sectors, basic industries, including electric-power generation, coal mining, rail transport and metal, chemical and machine-building industries, and other major sectors of the national economy.

We will direct nationwide efforts especially to expediting the construction of the Paektusan Songun Youth Power Station, the multi-tier power stations on the Chongchon River and the Wonsan Army-People Power Station, and to stepping up modernization of factories and enterprises.

We will bring about a new turn in the fields of education, public health service, art and literature, mass media and sports and in conserving the cultural heritage of our nation and exalting their brilliance by putting spurs to the building of a civilized socialist nation.

We will enlist the whole Party, the entire army and all the people in restoring the forests of the country and improving the work of land administration so as to transform the appearance of the country’s land.

We will arouse the whole society to vigorously conduct mass-based movements like those of winning the titles of Forest of Socialist Patriotism and Model County in Afforestation, and push ahead with the work of covering the whole country with fruit and other trees and flowers on the strength of cooperation between the service personnel and people.

Fifth, we will make a vigorous effort to achieve the historic cause of national reunification and promote international solidarity with our revolution.

Holding aloft the slogan “Let the whole nation join efforts to open up a broad avenue to independent reunification in this year of the 70th anniversary of national liberation!” we will resolutely frustrate the anti-DPRK war moves and nuclear and human rights rackets by the US imperialists and the south Korean puppets and open up a broad avenue to independent reunification by uniting firmly all the fellow countrymen in the north, in the south and abroad under the banner of patriotism, under the ideal of By Our Nation Itself; we will also develop foreign relations in a multilateral and proactive way, and strengthen international solidarity with our revolution.

Sixth, we will organize and hold events in celebration of the 70th anniversaries of Party founding and national liberation as grand political festivals.

We will hold in grand style a parade of the service personnel of the ground, naval, air and anti-aircraft and strategic forces of the Korean People’s Army and a procession of Pyongyang citizens in celebration of the Party’s 70th anniversary so as to fully demonstrate at home and abroad the might of the service personnel and people united single-heartedly behind the respected Marshal.

We will also hold different political events in a meaningful way to mark these landmark anniversaries.

The resolution, in its last part, stressed the need for Party organizations and other political organs at all levels to thoroughly implement the tasks set forth in the resolution by scrupulously arranging organizational and political work to carry it out and regularly keeping up-to-date with the progress of the work, and for the Cabinet and other relevant organs to take administrative and practical measures to carry out these tasks.

Looking back with deep emotion upon the immortal revolutionary exploits the peerlessly great men of Mt Paektu performed for the development of the Party and the building of a prosperous country, our service personnel and people are now filled with a firm determination to work harder to achieve the final victory of the revolution under the leadership of the great Party.

Invincible is the cause of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the party of the great Comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, which is advancing under the leadership of the respected Comrade Kim Jong Un holding aloft the banner of independence and Songun, and certain is the final victory of the building of a thriving socialist nation, a powerful Paektusan nation.

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Rungra 88 Trading Company

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

According to the Daily NK:

Neungna 88 [Rungra 88],  Trading Company, located in Suncheon, South Pyongan Province, has been a popular workplace for women, offering jobs in clothes manufacturing. It is one of the companies tasked with earning foreign currency for the North, but recently, with the wages standing at a mere 10th of individually employed workers, more people are leaving their posts, the Daily NK has learned.

“Workers employed by breweries or bakeries receive roughly 200,000 KPW a month,” a source in South Pyongan Province reported to Daily NK on Tuesday. “But at Neungna 88, workers on the clothing line only make 20,000 KPW even though they work in unsatisfactory environments.”

The trade company falls under the Chosun Workers’ Party’s Finance and Accounting Department and exports to China everything from coal and iron ore to medicine, alcohol, clothing, and health supplements, earning back foreign currency. The profits are offered up to the Department or are used to procure holiday gifts for Party cadres under Kim Jong Eun’s name.

Neungna 88 in Suncheon is a branch of the headquarters in Pyongyang, and focuses on exporting clothes in collaboration with China, meaning the company brings in the yarn, fabric, and designs from China, and then exports the final products back. It also runs a restaurant serving pizza to procure additional funds. Increasing foreign food availability is the latest method employed by these foreign-currency organizations to encourage resident spending, encouraged by the increased demand. For foreign currency-earning enterprises to extend their activities domestically is indicative of the increasing purchasing power of the middle-class.

“If you get to Daedong River in Sunchon, you’ll see a big sign on a three-story building that reads Neungna 88 Trading Company,” the source explained. “The first floor is a pizza place, and on the second and third stories, there are some 150 women making clothes.”

Their monthly wages are 20,000 KPW [2.3 USD], which is almost seven times higher than other state-run companies, but the lowest among trading companies.There are no standards as to how much these trading companies have to pay their employees, and each company decides based on the profits and amount of work allocated.

Unlike men, it is very rare for women in their teens or 20s to work for a trading company. Despite this fact, some women work on garment manufacturing lines because of the regular food rations and extra benefits offered on national holidays, regardless of the low wages.

However, recently more people have been quitting their jobs, as those who are hired by private businesses are able to receive up to a ten-fold increase in wages and work in a more pleasant environment, the source explained. This portends a growing number of women who are seeking more than a low wage with rations and instead looking for better employment opportunities.

With this trend, the company has been trying to hire more women with experience at state-run apparel factories, but not many are willing to due to the low salary. “Because of this, unless Neungna 88 raises its wages it will create obstacles for exports, not only due to technical difficulties, but also low morale,” she concluded.

Read the full story here:
Women Leaving Low Paying Trade Co. Jobs
Daily NK
Seol Song Ah
2014-10-16

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