North Korea appears to stress the importance of increasing corporate profits, an indication of a shift in its economic policies from centralized planning, according to a North Korean university’s newspaper obtained Tuesday by Yonhap News Agency.
The newspaper, published by Kim Il-sung University, North Korea’s top university, on March 5, 2017, carried an article saying, “Net profits gained by individual corporations are fundamental to the establishment of a powerful economy.”
The article, titled “Establishing Way of Economic Management in Our Own Style Leads to Basis of Economic Powerhouse,” apparently lays emphasis on individual corporations’ profits becoming the financial basis for economic development, encouraging the corporate sector to make more profits.
“All corporations should set up scientific strategies and management strategies of their own and ensure they have the maximum effect in their production and management activities so that they could fulfill their duties to provide the state with more profits,” the article said.
This is interpreted as the North Korean economic authorities’ request that corporations focus their management activities on seeking effect and profits rather than relying on centralized planning and guided management.
Since the North’s current leader Kim Jong-un came to power in 2012, the North has taken measures to achieve economic reforms aimed at expanding elements of the market economy, including the country’s new economic management system announced in June 2012.
The university’s newspaper also indicated that the North has introduced a set of measures to strengthen corporations’ autonomy to its economy. Under the implementation of the measures, called “the socialist corporate responsible management system,” companies are given more autonomy than ever in their management and take care of economic problems arising from their production and management processes on their own, according to the article.
But the article made sure that the ruling party will not depart from its control on the economy, saying, “In our country’s socialist system, corporations’ independent management activities are to be carried out under the guidance of the party right down the line.
“I understand North Korean corporations currently pay 30 to 40 percent of their profits to the authorities,” said Cho Bong-hyun, a senior analyst at IBK Economic Research Institute. “The more profits corporations earn, the more national finance increases.”
Cho said the North appears to support its finance by spurring corporations into increasing profits amid the implementation of U.N. sanctions aimed at halting Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile development.
Read the full story here:
N. Korea emphasizes corporate profits in economic policies Yonhap
Here is the Uriminzokkiri broadcast of Kim’s speech:
Here are links to the Rodong Sinmun text (English, Korean). I have not looked at them carefully, but they appear to be the same length (implying that the English and Korean versions are the same).
Many outlets are focusing on the security implications of the speech, but I want to focus on the economic aspects. At the Seventh Party Congress held in May of 2016, North Korea announced a “Five Year Plan“. “Plan” was not the right English word however. It was actually a “Five Year Strategy.” This translation error was corrected in the English text of Kim’s 2017 New year Address, which correctly refers to the “Five Year Strategy”.
Here is the relevant text from Rodong Sinmun:
We should concentrate our efforts on implementing the five-year strategy for national economic development.
This year is of key importance in carrying out this strategy. In order to open up fine prospects for the implementation of the strategy and develop the country’s overall economy onto a higher plane, while building on the successes gained last year, we should attain the goals for this year’s struggle without fail.
“Let us accelerate the victorious advance of socialism with the great spirit of self-reliance and self-development as the dynamic force!”–this is the militant slogan we should uphold in this new year’s march. We should wage a vigorous all-people, general offensive to hit the targets of the five-year strategy on the strength of self-reliance and self-development.
The strength of self-reliance and self-development is that of science and technology, and the shortcut to implementing the five-year strategy is to give importance and precedence to science and technology.
The sector of science and technology should concentrate efforts on solving scientific and technological problems arising in modernizing factories and enterprises and putting their production on a regular footing with the main emphasis on ensuring the domestic production of raw materials, fuel and equipment. Production units and scientific research institutes should intensify cooperation between themselves, and enterprises should build up their own technological development forces and conduct a proactive mass-based technological innovation drive, propelling economic development with valuable sci-tech achievements conducive to expanded production and the improvement of business operation and management.
The electric-power, metallurgical and chemical industries should take the lead in the efforts to hit the targets of the economic strategy.
The electric-power industry should carry out its production plan without fail by ensuring good maintenance of generating equipment and structures and stepping up its technical upgrading. It should run the nationwide integrated power control system effectively and organize alternated production scrupulously to ensure balance between power production and consumption; it should also develop the various sources of power to create a new generating capacity on a large scale.
The metallurgical industry should introduce advanced technologies to lower the iron production cost and ensure normal operation of Juche-based production lines to turn out iron and steel in larger amounts. The state should take stringent measures to supply raw materials, fuel and power to the Kim Chaek and Hwanghae iron and steel complexes and other metallurgical factories.
The chemical industry is a basis for all other industries and plays an important role in consolidating the independence of the economy and improving the people’s living standards. This sector should revitalize production at the February 8 Vinalon Complex, expand the capacity of other major chemical factories and transform their technical processes in our own way, thus increasing the output of various chemical goods. It should direct efforts to establishing a C1 chemical industry to carry out the tasks at every stage promptly and satisfactorily.
The coal-mining industry and the rail transport sector should meet the demands for coal and its transport by power stations and metallurgical and chemical factories on a top priority basis.
The machine-building industry should be rapidly developed. Machine factories should step up their modernization, perfect the processes for the serial production of new-type tractors, vehicles and multi-purpose farm machines, and produce and supply different kinds of high-performance and quality machinery and equipment.
This year light industry, agriculture and fishing industry should be radically developed to make greater progress in improving the people’s living standards.
Light industry should work out proper management strategies, regarding use of domestically available raw and other materials as their core, so as to revitalize production and bring about a turn in diversifying the range and types of consumer goods and improving their quality. It should normalize production in the mines and enterprises in the Tanchon area, so that they can prove effective in improving the people’s living standards.
The agricultural front, the major thrust in building an economic giant, should raise a strong wind of scientific farming and push forward the movement for increasing crop yield. It should widely introduce seeds of superior strains and scientific farming methods, whose advantages have been proved in practice, expand the area of land under two-crop farming, and be proactive in inventing and introducing high-performance farm machines. By doing so, it can attain the production goal of grains. It should adopt measures to run the livestock farming base in the Sepho area on a normal basis and increase the production of fruits, mushrooms and vegetables, so that the people can enjoy benefits from them.
The fishing sector should conduct a dynamic drive for catching fishes and push perseveringly ahead with aquatic farming. It should build modern fishing vessels in a greater number and lay out a comprehensive fishing equipment production base in the east coast area, so as to consolidate the material and technical foundations of the fishing industry.
The construction sector should complete the construction of Ryomyong Street at the highest level and concentrate its forces on the major construction projects including the building of the Tanchon Power Station, modernization of the Kim Jong Thae Electric Locomotive Complex and the development of the Wonsan area. It should also build more educational and cultural facilities and houses in an excellent way.
Upholding the slogan of self-reliance and self-sufficiency, every field and every unit of the national economy should launch a dynamic struggle to increase production and practise economy to the maximum, and thus carry out the plan for this year on all indices.
The whole country should turn out in land administration. We should further transform the appearance of the land of our country by building modern tree nurseries in provinces, perseveringly pressing on with the forest restoration campaign and conducting river management, road repair and environmental conservation on a planned basis.
In order to bring about a turnabout in implementing the five-year strategy for national economic development, it is imperative to carry on economic guidance and business management with clear objectives and in an innovative way. The Cabinet and other economic guidance organs should work out tactics to ensure the sustainable economic development by putting the overall national economy definitely on an upward track, and implement them with an unflinching perseverance.
The speech itself contains nothing remarkable [to me]. There are thought to be economic adjustment measures in agriculture and enterprise management that are decentralizing authority and allowing greater economic incentives to be implemented (on an uneven basis) across the country. These policies have gone by various names: 5.30 Measures (for enterprises), 6.28 Measures (for agriculture) as well as the moniker “Our Style Economic Management Methods” or “Economic Management System in Our Style”, but whatever these policies actually are, they appear to still be unworthy of Kim’s public endorsement.
The most interesting part of the speech was at the end where Kim appeared to critique (criticize?) his own performance. I can’t imagine reading such words from Kim Jong-il:
As I am standing here to proclaim the beginning of another year, I feel a surge of anxiety about what I should do to hold our people in greater reverence, the best people in the world who have warmly supported me with a single mind out of their firm trust in me.
My desires were burning all the time, but I spent the past year feeling anxious and remorseful for the lack of my ability. I am hardening my resolve to seek more tasks for the sake of the people this year and make redoubled, devoted efforts to this end.
Previously, all the people used to sing the song We Are the Happiest in the World, feeling optimistic about the future with confidence in the great Comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. I will work with devotion to ensure that the past era does not remain as a moment in history but is re-presented in the present era. On this first morning of the new year I swear to become a true servant loyal to our people who faithfully supports them with a pure conscience.
And I will push the effort to set up across the Party a revolutionary climate of making selfless, devoted efforts for the good of the people.
As long as the great Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism is illuminating the road ahead of us and we have the single-hearted unity of all the service personnel and people around the Party, we are sure to emerge victorious.
Let us all march forward dynamically towards a bright future, holding up the splendid blueprint unfolded by the Seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea to develop ours into a powerful socialist country.
For what it is worth, here is how KCNA reports on Rodong Sinmun’s summation of the year:
Pyongyang, January 3 (KCNA) — The last year was a year to be specially recorded in history as the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea was held, Rodong Sinmun Tuesday says in an article.
It was also a year of historic significance when all the people started a grand general advance towards the final victory of the revolution in hearty response to the programme set forth by the Congress, the article says, and goes on:
Last year a new milestone was laid in the struggle to further strengthen the Party and accomplish the revolutionary cause of Juche.
In May last year the 7th WPK Congress was held significantly amid the revolutionary enthusiasm of all the party members, service personnel and other people throughout the country and the great interest of the world.
The Conference of Chairpersons of the Party Primary Committees held last year for the first time in the history of the WPK was a meeting of significance and glory as it paved a shortcut to developing the WPK into the great Kimilsungist-Kimjongilist party and accomplishing the cause of socialism.
The congresses of the youth league and the women’s union, the General Federation of Trade Unions of Korea and the Union of Agricultural Workers of Korea held in succession in wake of the 7th WPK Congress marked an epoch-making milestone in further consolidating the working people’s organizations, the transmission belts of the Party, and enhancing their militant role as required by the developing revolution in which the modeling of the whole society on Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism is pushed ahead in all spheres.
Last year saw a radical turn in bolstering up the defence capabilities of Juche Korea and a turning phase brought about on all fronts for building a powerful socialist country.
All the brilliant successes made by the DPRK in all fields of the revolution and construction are by no means attributable to any good conditions, nor are they a fortuitous result of any divine power.
It is thanks to the experienced and tested guidance of respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un that the year of 2016 was recorded as a year of great turn in the development of the Party and the revolution and the struggle and life of the people.
The mysterious power that brought out the epoch-making miracles and victories in the worst adversity is the result of the single-minded unity and the great self-development capability of the army and people.
It is unfortunate that books published in South Korea are often difficult for reader’s in the United States and Europe to get a hold of without waiting out the very long waiting times for online purchases or library orders. Readers of this blog may well be familiar with Kyungnam University professor Philip H. Park’s work on the institutional side of the North Korean economy. One of professor Park’s books on the North Korean economy was recently translated into English and published under the name of Rebuilding North Korea’s Economy. Sadly I have not yet personally been able to read the book for reasons stated at the beginning of this post, but a review in Daily NK summarizes some of the core arguments:
“Rebuilding North Korea’s Economy” is a detailed history of the evolution of North Korea’s economic institutions. It is a newly published English translation of the original Korean work. The author is a professor of political science and diplomacy at Kyungnam University. The book details how a series of crises stimulated a procession of changes in North Korea’s economic strategy. Each new strategy reacted to and attempted to amend the problems created by its predecessor. However, each policy also sowed the seeds for future crisis by creating new inefficiencies.
Phillip Park’s central contribution is to correct a common misconception about marketization and the decentralization of North Korea’s economy. Park argues that North Korea did not begin its process of marketization with the July 1st Measures in 2002 – as is commonly believed. Instead, he presents evidence that North Korea actually started spinning the gears of this process much earlier, most significantly with the adoption of the Ryonhapkiopso System (Complex Industrial System) in 1986. In theory, this economic approach allowed limited market mechanisms and practical planning to replace more ideological economic initiatives. The system’s implementation was largely a response to stagnated growth and the impending collapse of one of North Korea’s key sponsor states, the Soviet Union. Aside from inefficiency, North Korea’s principal economic problem has always been striking a balance between sectors while also pursuing self-sufficiency. The Complex Industrial System aimed to address that problem.
The author uses North Korean economic journals as his primary sources. He admits that separating the useful information from the propaganda was a laborious task. So, while the information does need to be taken with a grain of salt, we can still learn a lot about the state of North Korea’s economy by observing how academic discussions and policy recommendations have evolved over time. The book does a good job contrasting policy dialogues with the results of subsequent implementations (or lack thereof). The book’s sources help dispel the myth that North Korea’s political economy is purely monolithic. Indeed, through the book, we witness key players – academics and officials alike – arguing over milestone policies.
One note of caution: Park dives headfirst into the North Korean understanding of economics. Yes, this means a heavy dose of Marxist concepts and five-syllable jargon. But those with a rudimentary understanding of socialist politics know that seemingly obscure theoretical points are sometimes used to justify sweeping changes. In particular, changes to North Korea’s economic institutions are often motivated by theoretical assumptions about how to best transition to a fully communist state. This is actually one of the book’s major charms. After we digest the dense vocabulary, we are presented with a reasonable framework for understanding the decision making of one of the world’s most opaque and incomprehensible dynasties. That in itself is a laudable achievement.
Let’s address a few downsides. Considering that the original Korean work was published a few years ago, it would have been nice to get an expanded forward with some new observations on Kim Jong Un’s performance as an economic manager. Also, abbreviations and technical jargon are used thoroughly in the book. A glossary of terms would have been a handy reference.
Although Park’s main argument may seem technical at first glance, the repercussions of this work are vast. The most immediate and profound impact is that it forces us to reconsider the history, nature, and trajectory of North Korea’s economic transformation. Marketization is typically described as a bottom-up process of slowly expanding black market activity. But Park gives us a reason to think that the picture is slightly more nuanced. It gives us a view into the thinking of North Korean economic planners. Readers are prompted to think more deeply about how institutions shape incentives in North Korea, and how these institutions have changed over time.
Kim Jong Un has appealed for all energy to be put into developing underground resources in order to implement the ‘Five Year State Economic Development Strategy’ (unveiled at the 7th Party Congress of the Workers Party of Korea held in May).
In reporting that appeared in Rodong Sinmun on July 13, 2016 it was asserted that “The task of developing and using underground mineral resources effectively to raise self-sufficiency and independence lies in front of party members and workers who are vigorously participating in a 200 day speed battle to make a breakthrough in the implementation of the Five Year State Economic Development Strategy in the country, which is known worldwide for its minerals.”
It went on to urge that “with the close collaboration between the state resources development sector and scientific research groups, all resources must be concentrated on prospective and current surveys (surveys that measure mineral reserves) to ensure that the Five Year State Economic Development Strategy succeeds.”
It added, “energy must be put in to find more as yet undeveloped potential sites for development . . . reserves must be secured to ensure that mine production continually rises.”
It also emphasized that “all illegal extraction of underground mineral resources by [production] units, factories and collective organizations for the benefit of their own unit alone must be gotten rid of . . . [and] the role of institutions supervising and controlling underground resources and environmental protection must be strengthened.”
Admittedly, the paper also demanded natural tourist attractions be protected: “the staff of supervisory institutions must engrave deeply in their hearts the earnest wish of the Great Leader by not developing Mount Kumgang and Mount Myohyang, regardless of how large the underground mineral deposits are there, and hand down their beautiful scenery and nature to posterity.”
At the aforementioned 7th Party Congress, Kim Jong Un unveiled the ‘Five Year State Economic Development Strategy’, and also set out to revolve energy problems and strengthen the self-sufficiency and independence of the people’s economy.
Early this month, Kim Jong Un conducted an inspection tour of the ‘Pyongsong Synthetic Leather Factory’ in South Pyongan Province, a facility producing consumer goods for the North Korean people. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on July 12 that while there he said that “this factory has grown to become a treasured factory that actively contributes to improving the lives of the people.”
Since being appointed Chairman of the State Affairs Commission on June 29, an image of Kim Jong Un as ‘the leader who loves the people’ has become pronounced, with Kim visiting a Pyongyang Secondary school and a soft-shelled turtle factory.
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):
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):
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.)*
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.
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.
N. Korea kicks off new loyalty campaign to prop up economy Yonhap News
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.