Archive for the ‘DPRK Policies’ Category

Is North Korea’s food situation really getting worse? The markets don’t think so.

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Since early 2016, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) has been sounding the alarm bells on North Korea’s food situation. In an interview a few weeks ago with Voice of America’s Korean-language edition, FAO-official Christina Cosiet said that this years’ harvest would be the worst one in four years. One question, dealt with before by this blog, is how bad this really is. After all, the past few years seem to have been abnormally good in a long-run perspective.

But another obvious question is: why do market prices in North Korea tell the opposite story about food supply?

Prices for both rice and foreign currency (US-dollars) have remained remarkably stable for a situation where people should be expecting a worse-than-usual harvest. It is important to bear in mind that prices are largely seasonal and tend to increase in September and October. But unless prices somehow skyrocket in a couple of months, things do not look that bad.

There seem to be two possibilities here: either official production and food supply through the public distribution system simply does not matter that much, because shortages are easily offset by private production and/or imports. Or, the FAO projections simply do not capture North Korean food production as a whole.

For an overview of food prices in the last few years, consider the following graph (click here for larger version):

graph1

Graph 1: Prices for rice and foreign currency, in North Korean won. Prices are expressed in averages of local prices in Pyongyang, Sinuiju and Hyesan. Data source: DailyNK market prices.

As this graph shows, both the exchange rate and rice prices have remained relatively stabile over the past few years. Thus far, this summer has been no exception. The following graph shows exchange rates and rice prices from the spring of 2015 till July 2016 (click here for larger version):

graph2

Graph 2: Prices for rice and foreign currency, April 2015–July 2016, in North Korean won. Prices are expressed in averages of local prices in Pyongyang, Sinuiju and Hyesan. Data source: DailyNK market prices

This does not look like the behavior of a nervous market where supply is declining at a drastic rate. Of course, a number of caveats are in order: again, prices are likely to rise through September and October, as they have in the past. Moreover, markets may react to any harvest declines at a later point in time, as they become more apparent.

Even so, it seems inconceivable that market prices would remain so stable if North Korea was experiencing a steep dive in food production. After all, farmers would be able to see signs fairly early on, and their information would presumably spread through the market as a whole. In short, it is logically unthinkable that markets simply would not react to an unusually poor harvest.

This all begs the question of how much market prices tend to correlate with the FAO:s harvest figures overall. The short answer appears to be: not much. The graph below (click here for larger version) shows the average prices for rice and foreign exchange per year on the North Korean market since 2011, and harvest figures drawn from reports by the FAO and the World Food Program (WFP). (See the end of this post for a more detailed explanation of the underlying calculations.)*

graph3

Graph 3: Yearly average market prices for rice and US-dollar (in North Korean won), and FAO food production figures. Data source: DailyNK market prices

As this graph shows, there is generally fairly little correlation between market prices and harvests as calculated by the FAO. Harvests climbed between 2009 and 2015, while market prices climbed and and flattened out from 2012, around the time of Kim Jong-il’s death. Exchange rates and rice prices unsurprisingly move in tandem, but appear little impacted by production figures as reported by the FAO.

It is possible that prices react in a delayed manner to harvests, and that the price stabilization on the market is a result of increased harvests over time. But the consistent trend over several years, with prices going up as harvest figures do, is an unlikely one. Again, it is also difficult to imagine market prices not reacting relatively quickly to noticeable decreases in food production.

So what does all this mean?

It is difficult to draw any certain conclusions. But at the very least, these numbers suggest that the FAO food production projections are not telling the full story about overall food supply in North Korea. Moreover, market signals are telling us that food supply right now is far from as bad as the FAO’s latest claims of lowered production would have it. Rather, prices seem normal and even slightly more stabile than in some previous years with better harvests. In short, the narrative that this year’s harvest is exceptionally poor seems an unlikely one.

 

*A note on graph 3:

 For market prices per year, I calculated an average price from all observations in a given year. The DailyNK price data is reported for three cities separately: Pyongyang, Sinuiju and Hyesan. I have used an average of these three cities for each data observation as the base for calculating yearly averages. This is a somewhat tricky way of measuring, as the amount of data observations, as well as their timing, sometimes varies from year to year. The steep decline in 2009–2010 is primarily caused by the currency denomination, and should not be taken for a real increase in supply.

The FAO food production figures are not reported by calendar year, but published in the fall and projected for the following year. Since these figures best indicate available supply for the year after they are reported, I have assigned them to the year following the reporting year. That is, the figure for 2014 comes from the WFP-estimate for 2013/2014, and so on and so forth.

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New loyalty campaign in North Korea, to boost the 5-year plan

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Just as one mass campaign ended (the “70-day battle”), another one begins. This time, it’s a 200-day campaign to boost the economy and fulfill the 5-year plan. Perhaps a grim premonition of what is to come as the 5-year plan is implemented further. Yonhap:

North Korea kicked off a new loyalty campaign to get people to work more as part of its five-year economic program announced at its seventh ruling party congress, state controlled media said Sunday.

According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), a meeting of ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), government, economic and military officials was held Thursday through Saturday, where participants agreed to launch the “200-day campaign of loyalty” that can bolster growth.

The announcement comes on the back of Pyongyang concluding its “70-day campaign of loyalty” program just before the start of the rare congress that took place early this month. That campaign ran from mid-February to May 2.

The new effort is being pursued as the United Nations sanctions take bite, and the country finds itself more and more isolated from the outside world. The global body slapped its toughest sanctions to date on the reclusive country for its fourth nuclear test in January and the firing off of a long-range missile the following month.

The KCNA said that leading members at last week’s gathering in Pyongyang concurred on the need to join forces to bring about the successful conclusion of the new campaign in accordance with the guidance put forth by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Kim outlined his new five-year economic growth plan running from this year to 2020 and called on North Koreans to meet the growth goals.

Article source:
N. Korea kicks off new loyalty campaign to prop up economy
Yonhap News 
2016-05-29

Here is a statement from the Pyongyang Times (2016-5-30):

Joint conference takes measures for five-year economic development strategy, declares 200-day campaign

A joint conference of Party, government and military officials was held between May 26 and 28 in Pyongyang to discuss the ways to implement the tasks set forth at the Seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

It was attended by senior officials Pak Pong Ju, Choe Thae Bok, Pak Yong Sik, O Su Yong, Kwak Pom Gi, Ri Man Gon and Jo Yon Jun and other officials from Party and military organs, the Cabinet, working people’s organizations, ministries, national agencies, local Party and government organs and major industrial establishments.

The joint conference, the first of its kind in the history of the WPK, discussed scientific and realistic ways to carry through the national five-year strategy for economic development put forward at the Seventh WPK Congress and important measures to achieve the grand objective for building a socialist power by inspiring all the service personnel and people to the campaign to create the Mallima speed.

Premier Pak Pong Ju, member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee, delivered a report.

He said the Party, army and people are faced with the important and honourable task of accomplishing the cause of a socialist power as early as possible when the independent ideal and desire of the people are being translated into reality in an all-round way under the banner of Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism.

In the five-year period, he noted, we should resolve the energy problem, put the vanguard sectors and key economic industries on a normal track and increase agricultural and light industrial production by adhering to the Party’s new line of simultaneously promoting the two fronts, thereby radically improving the people’s standards of living.

Specifying the targets for implementing the five-year strategy by major indices, he pointed to the issues to be settled in all sectors of an economic giant building, including the concentration on easing power shortage, the master key in economic development and improved livelihood of the people.

To thoroughly implement the important tasks set forth at the Seventh Party Congress, he pointed out, it is imperative to enhance the state’s function as the organizer of the economy and establish a Korean-style economic management method embodying the Juche idea in an all-round way.

“Officials of the Cabinet, ministries and national agencies should work out phased plans for implementing the economic development strategy in a realistic manner on the basis of the Party’s line and policy, arrange economic work scrupulously and make persistent efforts to carry them through,” he stressed.

“Economic work should be planned and directed in such a way as to concentrate efforts on the main link and activate the economy as a whole. All sectors and all units have to establish strict discipline and order whereby they place all economic work under the control of the Cabinet and work according to its unified planning and direction in line with the requirements of the Cabinet-responsibility system and Cabinet-centred system.

“Relevant sectors and units should establish Korean-style economic management methods as required by developing reality, while factories, enterprises and cooperative organizations have to map out business strategies and conduct business activities on their own initiatives and in a creative manner in keeping with the requirements of the socialist system of enterprises managing themselves on their own responsibility, thereby putting production on track and expanding and developing it.”

As part of the joint conference, meetings were held by each economic sector.

The meetings discussed the tasks to be tackled by each sector and unit, presenting lots of innovative and creative ideas.

As he wound up the joint conference, the Premier said that it fully discussed scientific and realistic measures and ways to implement the tasks of the Congress, stressing that all the participants came to have firm confidence and optimism through the conference that they could well attain the targets of the five-year strategy.

He called on all officials to plan and command economic work of their sectors and units in a three-dimensional way and at lightning speed and carry out the tasks of the Congress at the risk of their lives as the standard-bearers of their ranks and buglers of advance, thereby fulfilling their honourable mission as commanding officials in the glorious era of Kim Jong Un.

At the conference, a 200-day campaign of loyalty was declared for making a breakthrough in the implementation of the five-year strategy.

On the other hand, a meeting of members of Party guidance teams for the 200-day campaign was held on May 28, where the significance of the campaign was mentioned and steps related to the campaign were emphasized.

Read out at the meeting were the names of members of the central and provincial headquarters of the Party guidance teams and those who would be dispatched.

Speakers expressed their resolve to keep up the heightened spirit of having brought about great victory in the 70-day campaign so as to win triumphs uninterruptedly from the outset of the new campaign, thereby making a tangible contribution to demonstrating once again the mettle and stamina of Juche Korea rushing forward towards a socialist power.

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North Korea Reveals Economic Plans at Seventh Party Congress

Friday, May 27th, 2016

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

In the Central Committee’s report at the Seventh Congress of the Worker’s Party of Korea, Kim Jong Un stated the country’s achievements—field by field—since the last (sixth) congress was held back in October 1980. The leader also revealed his upcoming plans. In the economic field, he specifically introduced goals of building a state that is economically independent and possesses highly developed scientific technology, a ‘five-year plan’ for economic development, and expansion of the country’s foreign relations, inter alia. Below are some of the highlights.

Building Economic Independence – According to the report, it was said that “both the party and the people have struggled to build the socialist economy along with economic independence. With the industrialization of the new century, factories and companies have experienced modernization in production line, resulting in an advancement of technology for the economy. We [DPRK] have already become a strong nation both politically and militarily, but still are lacking economically. The country we are trying to build with strength in economy is one that is independent and prospers through scientific technology. Thus we must reinforce our independence and identity. We must also seek self-sufficiency in food production.”

Five-Year Plan in Economic Development – According to the report, it was stated that “We must act in accordance with the Five-Year plan from 2016 to 2020. The goal of the five-year plan is to vitalize and balance the economy in order to continuously develop the economy. In the next five years, we must raise the quality of life for the people by initiating the Byungjin Policy and solve the energy related issues to put industries that have fallen behind back on track. The most urgent issue we face now is the energy shortage that we must build power plants as soon as possible and build an energy complex in Danchon to go hand in hand with the construction of nuclear power plants.”

Expanding Foreign Relations – The report also mentioned that “We must build and maintain our credibility in foreign trade while improving it by increasing the variety of our exports and the technology-based trade. We must also guarantee the environment and conditions for foreign investment on our special economic zones and put emphasis on the tourism.”

Previous posts on the new five year plan can be found here.

 

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North Korean economic history snippet: Kim Il-sung on the food supply system, 1962

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Despite the rise of the markets in post-1990s North Korea, the public distribution system (PDS) retains an important function in supplying grain inside the country.

However, in the early 1960s, Kim Il-sung considered doing away with the official system for food distribution (식량공급제도). It is not clear how firmly such ideas were considered, but in a speech in Pyongyang in 1962 – or so his collected works from 2000 claim – Kim said he thought of abolishing it in favor of letting people purchase food freely.

Interestingly, in this speech, Kim cites relatively pragmatic reasons for sticking with central distribution of food. The issue, Kim says, would be that big families would fare comparatively worse if they had to depend on cash income for their food purchases. If food was bought and sold freely, a difference in living standards would arise (생활수준에서 차이가 생기게 됩니다).

Source: Kim Il-sung, Ch’ŏnjib (전집), vol. 29. Pyongyang, Korean Workers’ Party Publishing House, 2000.

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Pak Pong-ju promoted

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Bloomberg reports on the story, but I made some title corrections in the blurb below:

Kim this month named [Premier] Pak Pong Ju, 77, to the [Presidium of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the WPK], making him the highest-ranking official to lead a new five-year economic plan. The regime’s leader announced the blueprint at the first full party congress in 36 years, held as he seeks to tighten his grip on power.

Pak has had a rocky past, sacked as premier by Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, about a decade ago and demoted to supervisor of a chemical factory. His policy of encouraging free enterprise while increasing wages and consumer prices to help the country cope with the rise of unofficial markets had unnerved die-hard socialists.

Pak also serves on the Central Military Commission. More analysis here.

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Nit-picking coverage of the five-year plan

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

Numerous reports have claimed that the five year plan announced at the seventh party congress was the first since the 1980s. I did not think this was accurate, but was too busy to actually look the facts up. Fortunately someone else did it for me.

Here is a blurb from the recently released  report “North Korea’s Troubled Economy: The Real Challenges” by Ryo Hinata-Yamaguchi and Yeongseob Lee:

North Korea’s recent track record of economic plans have been far from effective nor consistent. Pyongyang’s Third Seven-Year Plan from 1987 failed to remedy the ailing economy, and the plan itself virtually disappeared during the so called “arduous march” of the mid-1990s. Moreover, in 2011, Pyongyang announced the “Ten-Year State Strategy Plan for Economic Development”, but there was very little follow-up from the regime on the progress.

The new Five-Year Economic Development Strategy announced at the recent Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Congress is therefore an attempt by the Kim Jong-un regime to politically reinvigorate the government’s uri-sik (our style) economic development strategy focusing on the energy and food crisis. While little details were disclosed, given the myriad constraints in capacity and resources, the prospects of genuine revival and development are questionable.

So the last plan was announced in 2011, not 1987.

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Electricity and the five year plan

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

According to Yonhap:

A pro-North Korean newspaper based in Japan said Tuesday that easing electric power shortages will be a prerequisite for North Korea to implement its new five-year plan for economic growth.

Without spelling out details, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un laid out a five-year strategy aimed at boosting the country’s moribund economy at the party congress which concluded its four-day run on May 9.

Kim stressed that resolving the shortage of electric power is critical to carrying out his vision for economic growth, saying that nuclear power generation needs to increase.

The Chosun Sinbo hailed the North’s economic plan, saying that if realized, the move will pave the way to improve the livelihood of people and boost balanced growth.

“North Korea is likely to focus on developing the defense industry…and to make efforts to tweak its advanced technology on the military and space programs to be applied into the improvement of North Koreans’ livelihood,” the newspaper said.

At the party congress, the North’s leader made it clear that he will “permanently” defend the pursuit of his signature policy of developing nuclear weapons in tandem with boosting the country’s moribund economy, commonly known as the “byeongjin” policy.

The newspaper said that the communist country is expected to lay out measures to back up the “dual-track” policy at the party level.

“As Pyongyang raised the issue of power shortages, the country is likely to focus on uses of nuclear power,” said Chang Yong-seok, a researcher at Seoul National University’s Institute for Peace and Unification Studies.

Kim’s vision for economic growth came after the U.N. Security Council slapped its toughest sanctions to date on North Korea for its fourth nuclear test in January and long-range rocket launch the following month.

Analysts said that Kim’s five-year economic development vision is too short on detail, especially when compared with his grandfather Kim Il-sung’s blueprint for economic growth which was unveiled at the party congress held in October 1980.

The North’s founder unveiled the 10-point plan to build a socialist country by setting special targets in economic sectors.

Here is a link to the Choson Sinbo article.

Here is the text:

김정은조선의 진로/당 제7차대회 보고에서(2)

2. 사회주의위업의 완성을 위하여

인민들에게 유족하고 문명한 생활을/자강력에 기초한 부흥전략의 추진

조선로동당은 사회주의시책에 따라 모든 인민들에게 유족하고 문명한 생활을 보장하는것을 목표로 삼고있다.(조선중앙통신)
조선로동당은 사회주의시책에 따라 모든 인민들에게 유족하고 문명한 생활을 보장하는것을 목표로 삼고있다.(조선중앙통신)

경제강국의 표상

조선로동당 제7차대회는 온 사회의 김일성-김정일주의화의 목표와 사회주의강국건설강령을 제시하였다. 그리고 경제강국건설을 현시기 조선로동당과 국가가 《총력을 집중해야 할 기본전선》으로 규정하였다.

세기와 세기를 이어 벌어진 조국보위전, 사회주의수호전에서 승리를 거둔 조선의 진로는 《개혁》, 《개방》의 기발을 들고 경제를 추켜세운 나라들이 걷던 길과는 다르다. 조선의 적대국들은 제재, 봉쇄의 해제와 외국자본의 류입이 없이는 조선경제의 회생은 불가능하다며 병진로선의 포기를 강요하고있지만 흘러간 세월을 자랑차게 총화하고 고귀한 희생우에 이룩한 승리를 자부하는 당과 국가가 이제와서 부당한 압력에 굴복하여 타협과 종속의 길을 택하리라고 생각하는것은 어리석다.

당 제7차대회 보고는 조선이 건설하려고 하는 경제강국의 표상을 밝혔다. 그 하나는 《자립경제강국》이다. 다시말하여 국방건설과 경제건설, 인민생활에 필요한 물질적수단들을 자체로 생산보장하는 나라, 인민의 자주정신과 창조정신, 과학기술의 위력으로 전진하고 발전하는 나라다.

오늘 우리가 믿을것은 오직 자기 힘밖에 없다, 누구도 우리를 도와주려고 하지 않으며 우리 나라가 통일되고 강대해지며 잘살고 흥하는것을 바라지 않는다… 당대회 보고의 구절이다. 여기에는 현 국제정세와 세계경제질서에 대한 랭정한 분석과 판단이 깔려있다.

조선의 경제건설현장에 휘날리는것은 자강력제일주의의 기발이다. 당대회 보고는 자체의 힘과 기술, 자원에 의거하여 자기 력량을 강화하고 앞길을 개척해나간다는 주체적관점에서 모든 문제를 풀어나갈것을 강조하였다.

경제건설에서 사대와 외세의존을 배격하게 되는것은 조선의 지향이 일반적인 경제부흥이 아니라 사회주의경제강국의 건설에 있다는것과도 관련된다. 조선은 국내총생산이나 국민소득의 수치만을 높이는데 치우칠것이 아니라 사회주의시책에 따라 모든 인민들에게 유족하고 문명한 생활을 보장하는것을 목표로 삼고있다. 인민을 위한 인민의 나라, 사회주의경제강국의 건설은 자본주의방식으로 경제를 발전시켜온 나라들의 《선의》나 《원조》따위는 애당초 기대하지 말아야 할 전인미답의 길이다.

5개년전략의 수행

당 제7차대회는 2016년부터 2020년까지의 국가경제발전 5개년전략을 수행할데 대한 과업을 제시하였다.

사회주의계획경제가 실시되는 조선에서는 과거에 《5개년계획》, 《7개년계획》과 같은 전망계획이 수립, 실행되였는데 1990년대 이후는 국가경제가 난관에 처하여 전망계획을 세울 형편이 되지 않았다. 이번에 단년도가 아닌 5년간의 목표가 《국가경제발전전략》으로 정립되고 당대회 보고가 그 수행문제를 강조한것은 조선의 경제가 본연의 체계를 갖추어나가고있음을 보여주는 징표다.

국가경제발전5개년전략의 목표는 인민경제전반을 활성화하고 경제부문사이의 균형을 보장하여 나라의 경제를 지속적으로 발전시킬수 있는 토대를 마련하는것이다. 이 전략수행의 선결조건이 바로 전력문제의 해결이며 당대회 보고는 원자력발전의 추진 등 일련의 방도들에 대해서도 언급하였다.

조선경제를 둘러싼 환경은 사회주의시장이 존재하고 그를 전제로 하여 다년도에 걸친 경제발전계획이 수립, 실행되던 1980년대 이전시기와 다르다. 경제부흥의 출로는 외부가 아니라 내부에서 찾아야 한다. 당대회 보고는 과학기술을 사회발전의 추동력으로 삼을데 대하여 지적하고 과학자들이 남들이 걸은 길을 따라만 갈것이 아니라 민족적자존심을 폭발시켜 년대와 년대를 뛰여넘으며 비약할것을 호소하였다.

한편 당대회 보고는 무역구조의 개선, 경제개발구들에 대한 투자조건보장 등 대외경제관계를 확대발전시킬데 대해서도 강조하였다. 자강력제일주의는 《페쇄경제》와 무관하다. 세계 여러 나라들과의 교류, 협력의 추진은 조선의 경제부흥전략에서 변함없는 기둥의 하나다.

병진로선의 실효성

조선의 사회주의경제는 시대의 요구와 인민의 리익을 반영하여 부단히 변화발전하고있다. 지난 세기 마지막년대에 직면한 최악의 경제적시련을 극복한 다음부터 나라의 경제사령부인 내각의 역할이 더 강조되고 내각책임제, 내각중심제에 따르는 경제작전, 지휘의 질서가 세워졌다. 새 세기에 들어서서는 《우리식 경제관리방법》에 대한 탐구와 실천이 새 차원에서 이루어지고 최근년간은 사회주의기업책임관리제가 실시되여 은을 내고있다.

당중앙위원회 제7기 제1차 전원회의에서는 경제사령부의 책임자인 내각총리가 당중앙위원회 정치국 상무위원(5명)과 당중앙군사위원회 위원(11명)으로 선거되였다. 경제건설과 핵무력건설의 병진로선을 철저히 관철하여 그 실효성을 더욱 높이는 대책들이 당적차원에서 이루어져나갈것이다.

국방공업을 우선적으로 발전시키면서 경공업과 농업을 동시에 발전시키는 방도, 군사와 우주개발부문 등의 최첨단기술을 민생기술로 전용하여 인민생활향상으로 이어가는 방법론 등 조선의 국력에 걸맞는 경제정책이 구체화될것으로 보인다. 조선식 사회주의경제의 진면모는 앞으로 당대회에서 언급된 국가경제발전5개년전략이 수행되는 과정에 보다 뚜렷이 나타날것이다.

Read the full story here:
Easing power shortage critical for N.K.’s new economy plan: report
Yonhap
2016-5-17

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North Korea’s natural resource risks: Kim Jong-il’s own take

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

As North Korea debates and experiments in economic strategies, it’s always interesting to go back and look at older debates of a similar nature. While reading vol. 14 of Kim Jong-il’s Collected Works (Sonjib) I stumbled upon an interesting speech attributed to Kim from 1995.* Whether it was foresight or just common logic of political economy, Kim actually warned of the risks of North Korea becoming a mere natural resource exporter to other countries, without reaping the full benefits of trade. Recall that one of the charges against Jang Song-taek was selling out the country’s natural resources for his own benefit. The issue itself, of course, is much older.

In the speech, given to an audience of Central Committee functionaries, Kim attacks cadres that have a faulty understanding of foreign trade under socialism, and think only about how their own “units” (단위) can make foreign currency profits (p. 8). He also emphasizes the need to calculate all the costs involved with foreign trade, including production costs at home, to calculate actual profit.

The most interesting part, in my opinion, however, is where Kim gets to the natural resource question. Kim states that natural resources shouldn’t just be sold to other countries, but processed (가공) domestically to the greatest extent possible (p. 10). He says that “now, capitalists are buying natural resources at a cheap price from our country, processing them and selling them to a higher price.”

Kim complains that it’s a grave crime that capitalists are pocketing their own wallets by selling off North Korea’s own resources by processing them, and that North Korea could become mere suppliers to monopoly capitalism if it doesn’t start processing their natural resources itself. He also states that those who just sell off natural resources without processing are just like slaves to foreign countries.

Kim also warns people about thinking that foreign currency can be earned “for free.” “The imperialists and capitalists never give anything to anyone for free,” Kim states, and says that if capitalists say they have anything to give, it is because they have their own desires” (p. 11).

This speech is a reminder that North Korea has grappled with how to handle its natural resources for a long time, and it suggests that controversies abounded in the 1990s as well.

*These works are sometimes edited after the fact, sometimes several times over, but this edition is from 2000, published by the Worker’s Party Publisher (N’odongd’ang chulpan’sa). All translations are my own, and if anyone has any corrections to offer, please get in touch.

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North Korea assesses three years of Byungjin Policy

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES):

Commemorating the third anniversary of Kim Jong Un’s announcement of the byungjin line — the parallel pursuit of nuclear weapons development and economic growth — North Korea emphasized the policy as a “milestone to the ultimate victory.”

On March 30, 2016 the North Korean state media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) self-evaluated the country’s three years of byungjin policy, claiming that it has “raised the DPRK to a prosperous country of the people with almighty nuclear power.”

The media then listed recent weapons-related tests — such as that of a hydrogen bomb (forth nuclear test), submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM), new-type large-caliber multiple launch rocket system (MLRS), simulation of an atmospheric re-entry of a ballistic missile, and solid-fueled engine that boosts the power of ballistic missiles — saying that the country “has both nominally and virtually shown its status as a world nuclear power.”

In regards to progress on the economic front, the media mentioned Wisong Scientists Residential District, Unha Scientists’ Street, Yonphung Scientists Rest Home, Mirae Scientists Street, Sci-Tech Complex, Munsu Water Park, and Masikryong Ski Resort, among others, claiming that “the plan has achieved three consecutive years of economic development and surprised the world.”

The report also emphasized that “the party’s byungjin line is not a temporary policy to confront the current stern situation, but the party’s revolutionary strategy and milestone to the ultimate victory, which will provide the greatest advantages in the revolution and the bright future for our nation.”

The media also noted that “the bright future awaits us upon our strong military and economic development by the nuclear program,” saying that “with the speed of Choson we will move forward to reach the top of strong prosperity.”

At the Party’s Central Committee plenary meeting on March 31, 2013, leader Kim Jong Un stated that “against the imperialists and their worshippers’ indiscreet nuclear threats and possible invasion talks, the party’s byungjin line will enable us to hold the nuclear power to build an economically strong country.”

In a new North Korean book publication, Looking at Today’s Choson from 100 Questions 100 Answers (in Korean), the byungjin policy is described as follows: “by relying on the nuclear energy industry, it will develop the nuclear capability and solve the energy shortage as well, thus strengthening the defense capacity and build the economy to better the living standards of the people.”

Meanwhile, to commemorate and signify the importance of the byungjin policy, on March 31, 2016 various North Korean run websites released photos of Kim Jong Un giving on-site instruction at military and economic-related facilities.

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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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