Archive for the ‘2012 Strong and Prosperous Nation (Kangsong Taeguk)’ Category

Are the DPRK’s universities closed?

Monday, July 11th, 2011

UPDATE 2 (2011-9-2): According to KBS:

The Voice of America (VOA) reported Friday that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has confirmed that North Korean universities were ordered to suspend studies.

In a report on North Korea covering the first half of 2011, the International Red Cross said that all universities in the Communist nation had been on leave since June to work on construction sites in regions including Pyongyang. The report said the enforced leave of absence will likely continue into April next year during the centennial celebration of the birth of late North Korean founder Kim Il-sung.

VOA said the report appears to have been confirmed by a North Korean authority, as it contained the contact number of a North Korean Red Cross official.

UPDATE 1 (2011-7-11): According to the Daily NK:

Large numbers of additional soldiers and students have been mobilized to try and address the slipping schedule for the construction of 100,000 homes in Pyongyang by 2012, with universities in the capital and some bigger local universities having received a ‘socialist construction mobilization order’ in mid-June.

A Pyongyang source, explaining the situation today, said, “I know that students from universities in Pyongyang like Kim Il Sung University and Kim Chaek University of Technology have been sent to the construction of 100,000 houses. I hear that they will be at the construction site for at least two months or more.”

The mobilization could easily be extended depending on the status of the construction project, he further added.

Another source from North Hamkyung Province reported similar news on the 7th, saying, “Since July, juniors and seniors from No. 1 and 2 Colleges of Education in Chongjin have been mobilized for construction projects under the ‘socialist construction mobilization order,’” and confirming that the students have been sent to Pyongyang.

He went on, “I hear that the center (meaning Party central authorities) notified each university of the number of people required for the Pyongyang construction work. Accordingly, each university selected a certain number of students and sent them to Pyongyang.”

However, the order does not appear to amount to a full, nationwide shutdown of universities. For example, certainly some universities in Yangkang Province have evaded the mobilization order. One college student living in Hyesan, the provincial capital said, “There has been no ‘socialist construction mobilization order’ handed down. We are going on summer vacation in late July.”

Mobilized personnel are reportedly working primarily on construction in neighborhoods where major public works idolizing the Kim family are to be found.

The Pyongyang source reported, “Construction of houses in Changjeon Street, where the Suryeong’s statue is, started in early May. Soldiers have been mobilized to this construction site in large numbers; even some previously involved in construction in the Hyeongjesan district have been in that region for about a week.”

He added, “Equally, the Mansudae region (Kim Il Sung’s birth place) is another place where ‘construction must be completed even if it is not completed elsewhere’, so they have mobilized people from construction sites in other regions.”

According to sources, the pace of construction in those places where soldiers have been mobilized is markedly quicker than elsewhere, although interior construction remains problematic because it calls for special materials.

One source reported, “In Seopo and Hadang 2-dong, where there are soldiers, buildings have already been erected, so people can move in there in August. However, the interiors have not been completed, so people don’t actually want to move in.”

However, on those sites staffed by people from enterprises, events are characterized by a lack of basic materials and the siphoning off of what is available.

The source said, “They are short of materials, while individuals are selling off existing materials and cement to buy rice because the authorities are not providing them with any support. Of the construction overseen by enterprise work units, almost none have been erected. In Hyeongjesan district, with the exception of those sites for which soldiers are responsible, they have only erected the bottom floor.”

According to one source, on April 1st the National Defense Commission ordered, “Complete the construction of 100,000 homes by April 15th, 2012 and get people to move into the new homes without condition.”

However, reports suggest widespread skepticism of this, with one source saying, “According to rumors, there was even a threat, ‘Those in charge of construction who cannot complete it must prepare to leave their posts.’ However, there are many people saying that the 100,000 houses won’t even be done by 2017.”

See more on the priority construction projects here.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-6-30): According to the University World News (thanks to a reader):

Close watchers of North Korean affairs were caught on the hop this week by reports that universities in the hermit kingdom would be closed from 27 June for up to 10 months while students are sent to work on farms, in factories and in construction.

Diplomats in Pyongyang confirmed that students were being drafted into manual labour on the outskirts of the city until April next year to prepare for major celebrations to commemorate the centenary of the late leader Kim Il Sung’s birthday. But they said this did not mean the closure of universities.

Reports originating in South Korea and Japan suggested that the Pyongyang government had ordered universities to cancel classes until April next year, exempting only students graduating in the next few months and foreign students.

The reports said the students would be put to work on construction projects in major cities and on other works in a bid to rebuild the economy. This could indicate that the country’s food crisis and economic problems are worse than previously thought.

Experts on North Korea said full-scale university closures would be unprecedented. However, it was not unusual for students to be engaged in manual labour, with the academic year sometimes shortened in order to send students onto farms and construction sites.

Peter Hughes, British Ambassador to North Korea, told University World News by email from Pyongyang: “There has been no official announcement in DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] about university students being sent to carry out manual labour for the next 10 months, but I can confirm that students from all the universities in Pyongyang have been mobilised to work at construction sites in the outskirts of the city until April 2012.

“Some two years ago the DPRK announced that it would build 200,000 units of accommodation in the city to ease the chronic housing shortage. To date only some 10,000 units have been built, so the students have been taken out of universities in order to speed up the construction of the balance before major celebrations take place in April 2012 to commemorate the 100th birthday of the founder of the DPRK, Kim Il Sung.”

Universities are not closed as lecturers and postgraduate and foreign students remain on campuses, Hughes said on Thursday.

“The UK has an English language teacher training programme at three universities in Pyongyang. The mobilisation of the students should not affect this programme as the majority of activity is focused upon teacher development and not teaching students.”

Charles Armstrong, Director of the Centre for Korea Research at Columbia University who returned from Pyongyang earlier last week, said he had visited two state-run universities, Kim Il Sung University and Kim Chaek University of Technology in Pyongyang, as well as the private Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) in the last few weeks.

At the two public universities the vast majority of students were not present, Armstrong told University World News. “It is also a very busy time for rice transplanting and you see a lot of young people in the fields.”

However, students were studying as normal at PUST, a postgraduate institution funded by Korean-American and South Korean philanthropists that teaches mainly engineering.

“It is very hard to get information in and out of the country and there may be some confusion because every summer students have to go down to the fields to help with the rice planting. It is not the first time that I have heard reports that universities have shut down for a period,” Armstrong said.

“My impression is that there is not a lot going on in terms of teaching and studying in public universities and student time is taken up with ‘extra curricular’ activities including political education. This is a regular part of university life but I have not heard of the universities being shut down completely except for a short while during the 1990s [famine],” he added.

A major famine and economic crisis in the late 1990s meant that much farm equipment went unused and simply rusted in the fields, so the need for manual labour has grown. Students and army recruits are mobilised to help, often having to travel far from where they live.

“My understanding of the university system is that it is largely dysfunctional. Resources are lacking, many professors spend their time earning from private tuition – so my impression is that it would not make a great deal of difference if they are shut down,” said Armstrong.

Aidan Foster-Carter, a writer and researcher on North Korea, formerly at Leeds University in England, said: “North Korea sets great store by these anniversaries. They decreed a few years ago that 2012 would be their date for becoming a great and prosperous nation defined in economic terms. It would make sense having extra persons out there to help with construction, though normally it is the army that does it.”

But any mass use of student labour for longer than the summer vacation months would mean a trade-off against achieving economic goals that required educated workers, he said.

“North Korea’s is a strange and broken economy but they also need educated people to pull them out and it would be a major precedent to close the universities. It could be a sign that they are in a worse mess than we thought.”

Hazel Smith, professor of security and resilience at Cranfield University who also lectures at Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung University, said North Korean universities were operating as usual in and outside the capital when she was there in May.

She said it would be counterproductive for the regime to close universities. Despite huge labour shortages throughout the country, the regime is “fully aware that people need to be taught IT and technology and of course nuclear [engineering].

“They are dependent to fulfill their economic goals on people who are computer literate and engaged in advanced science. I don’t think [closures] will last very long. There are too many other priorities to deal with.”

Analysts in Japan and South Korea suggested there could be other reasons behind the decision to disperse the students across the country, including the possibility of demonstrations at campuses inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings, which began at universities.

They noted that North Korea had purchased anti-riot equipment from China in recent months, including tear gas and batons, while there has been an increased police presence at key points in Pyongyang in recent weeks.

Foster-Carter said North Korea watchers have been closely monitoring for signs of unrest since the spring, but there had not been any.

“The amount of information from the Middle East reaching the ordinary citizen is very, very limited and there has been nothing at all in the official media,” Armstrong said. “There has been no student unrest that we know of for the last 50 years.”

According to North Korea analysts, party controls are in place to prevent student uprisings, including political indoctrination and strong surveillance. Some analysts said surveillance on campuses had relaxed in recent years because many party officials had not been paid.

However, experts agreed that the possibility of universities being shut would be an ominous sign of tension. “The most likely reason [to shut universities down completely] would be for military mobilisation if they thought they were going to be attacked,” Smith said.

Read the full story here:
North Korea: Learning stops as students sent to work
University World News
Yojana Sharma
2011-6-30

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Science and technology and improving the lives of the North Korean people

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief 2011.06.30

North Korea designated this year as the “year of light industry” in an effort to increase consumer goods production and enhance the lives of the people. In addition, a June 23 editorial in the Rodong Sinmun reiterated the importance of science and technology for building a strong and powerful nation and improving the lives of citizens.

Science and technology was mentioned as one of the three pillars for building a strong and powerful nation — the other two being ideology and advanced weaponry.

The editorial emphasized, “We must construct a self-reliant economy and stand on our own two feet no matter what,” and stressed that production system of Juche steel and Juche fertilizers is a victory for the Juche ideology and the science and technology policy of North Korea.

In addition, the column highlighted the importance of promoting Juche, modernization, and informatization in all sectors. “Modern successes in science and technology must be fully adopted and institutionalized in order to enhance production and economic effectiveness. To do so, we must engage in the fight for conserving energy, fuels, materials and national resources.”

The role of scientists and technicians was also accentuated. The future development of science and technology and construction of a strong and powerful economy was depicted to be in the hands of this group. In particular, importance for science research in light industry, agriculture, people’s economy, and modernization for industries was further highlighted.

“To meet the demand of modern times of integrating science and technology and production, technological revolutionary movement must be started and combine the collective knowledge of producers and masses.” It was said that the core and fundamental technology (information, nano, and bioengineering technologies) along with cutting-edge technology (new materials, energy, and space science technologies) must be incorporated to fully contribute to the building of a powerful socialist state.

This editorial appears as an attempt to encourage the growth of production in light and agriculture industries in order to meet the goal of reaching the “strong and powerful nation” by 2012. In this year’s New Year Editorial, revolutionary development in science and technology, tight integration of science and technology with production, revolution of light industry and development of people’s economy through science research were mentioned as chief objectives of the year. It was said that significant weight will continue to be placed on the economy and technology including “integration of science and technology and production” and “technological revolutionary movement of the masses.”

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Eberstadt on the North Korean Economy

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Nicholas Eberstadt offers some stark economic data on the DPRK.  According to his article:

While it is true that the DPRK suffered a severe economic shock from the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, this unexpected economic dislocation did not automatically presage log-term economic failure, much less famine. The counterexample of Vietnam–another socialist Asian economy heavily dependent on Soviet subsidies in the late 1980s–proves as much. According to the World Bank, Vietnam’s per capita income rose by over 150% between 1990 and 2007, and its per nominal per capita exports (in US dollars) rose by a factor of over 7 times during those same years, whereas North Korea’s nominal per capita exports slumped by over 25% between 1990 and 2007.

Further, it is of course true that the US–and in more recent years, Japan and South Korea–have imposed a plethora of economic sanctions on North Korea (America alone has over 30 such legal and administrative strictures in force today). But these penalties cannot explain North Korea’s miserable economic performance with the rest of the OECD countries, most of which are in principle open to commerce with the DPRK.

Let’s exclude Japan, South Korea, and America from OECD trade for the moment. Between 1980 and 2007, the import market for these other OECD countries expanded in nominal US dollars from just over $1 trillion to nearly $7 trillion–but according to the UN COMTRADE database, North Korea’s exports to those same countries collapsed: plummeting from $330 million to $177 million. When one takes inflation and population growth into account, this means the DPRK’s per capita exports to the rest of the OECD fell by almost 80% over those 27 years–and since these same export markets were growing all the while, North Korea’s share was twelve times smaller in 2007 than it had been in 1980.

What then is the problem? Closer inspection strongly suggests that North Korea’s long-term economic failure is directly related to the policies and practices embraced and championed by the Pyongyang government. North Korea’s current “own style of socialism” [or Urisik Sahoejuui] is a grotesquely deformed mutation of the initial DPRK command planning system, from which it fatefully and increasingly devolved over time.

North Korea is still in principle a planned Soviet-type economy: but for almost two decades it has in reality been engaged in “planning without facts”, and even in “planning without plans” (in the memorable phrase of Japanese economist Kimura Mitsuhiko). In and of itself, this would be enough to consign the North Korean economy to trouble. But to make matters worse, North Korean leadership has insisted on saddling the economy with a monstrous military burden under its campaign of “military-first politics” [Songun Chongchi]. Further, in contradistinction to virtually all other contemporary economies, North Korean trade policy for almost two generations has systematically throttled the import of productive and relatively inexpensive foreign machinery and equipment, thereby guaranteeing that the national economy would be saddled with a low-productivity, high-cost industrial infrastructure of its own making.

Add to this North Korea’s unrelenting war against its own consumers (no other modern economy has ever seen such a low ratio of consumer spending to national income, even at the height of Maoism or Stalinism) and Pyongyang’s stubborn, longstanding policy of “reverse comparative advantage” via a juche food policy that attempts to devote no more funds to overseas cereal purchases than foreigners pay for North Korean agricultural products in a country where cropland is scarce and growing seasons are short, and one begins to see how North Korean leadership engineered the country’s remarkable Great Leap Backward–and eventually, even a famine.

There is, to be sure, a grim logic to the DPRK’s destructive policies: for the same strategy that has ruined the country’s economy has also served to sustain its peculiar political system and ruling elite. In fact, given Pyongyang’s narrowly racialist ideology, its now-improbable but continuing quest for absolute mastery of the entire Korean peninsula and its undisguised fear that “ideological and cultural infiltration” will subvert the DPRK’s political order, the policies that the North Korean government pursues today may be regarded as careful, deliberate and faithful representations of the state’s overarching priorities.

Unfortunately, Pyongyang’s official policies and practices just happen to make the North Korean economy incapable of anything like genuine self-reliance, juche slogans notwithstanding, So DPRK state survival depends upon successfully generating a steady stream of subventions and concessional transfers from abroad.

Even so: the North Korean economy is so dysfunctional that it a positive net flow of foreign subsidies is not always enough to prevent calamity. After all: the Great North Korean Famine of the 1990s took place when the country (to judge by the import and export figures of its international trading partners) was receiving hundreds of millions of US dollars a year more in merchandise for abroad than it was shipping out. Quite obviously, that surplus was too small to overcome the grave built-in defects of the modern North Korean economy, or to forestall mass hunger.

So to continue its very existence, the North Korean system must commit itself to a permanent, predatory hunt for life-giving foreign funds: monies that it extracts from abroad by stratagems of military extortion, humanitarian hostage-negotiations (for the external feeding of its own population), and what might be called “guerilla commerce” (i.e., duping credulous foreigners who think there is money to be made from the DPRK by any but the country’s own elite).

North Korea, incidentally, seems to make it a point of honor not to repay its foreign creditors–and although “imperialist” banks and businesses from the West have learned this fact to their sorrow in abortive attempts to do commerce with Pyongyang, this is a bad habit that goes back to the early years of the Cold War, when the DPRK’s routinely reneged on loans from its “socialist comrades” in Beijing and Moscow.

North Korea has honed impressive skills in separating foreign governments from their own money. According to the US Congressional Research Service (CRS), for example, the USA transferred for than $1 billion in humanitarian, economic and security assistance to North Korea between 1995 and 2009: this despite a supposed “hostile US policy”. By the CRS’ reckoning, North Korea obtained over $4 billion from South Korea over those same years–and those were only the officially acknowledged payments by Seoul.

But China’s aid to North Korea puts all these Western subsidies in the shade. Beijing is almost completely opaque about its economic relations with Pyongyang–yet Chinese trade statistics suggest that North Korea has enjoyed a net resource transfer from China of over $9 billion since 1995, and the annual transfers look to have jumped markedly after 2004 (although China has never offered any sort of public explanation for why it would have increased its economic assistance to Pyongyang so significantly in recent years).

Earlier this year, North Korea announced a new “Ten Year State Strategy Plan for Economic Development” designed to lift the DPRK into the ranks of “the advanced countries by 2020”. Although the details of the plan have not yet been revealed, we can be sure it has enormous investment requirements–running into the tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars. It is also a safe bet that Kim Jong Il’s visit to China in May 2011 was a sort of fundraising tour aimed at securing some of the many billions of dollars envisioned by this ambitious plan.

After Kim Jong Il’s return from China, Pyongyang unveiled a new “joint economic zone” with China on two border islands in the Yalu rive–a projectr meant to underscore a new direction for the North Korean economy, and to jumpstart the new development campaign. But haven’t we seen this movie before? Ever since Kim Jong Il’s highly publicized visit to China in the early 1980s, there has been recurrent foreign speculation that would “inevitably” have to embrace economic reform. Yet all North Korean efforts at “opening” and “reform” to date have been confused and half-hearted, and every one of these initiatives has ultimately ended in failure.

Will this latest plan mark a decisive break from decades of ever more wayward North Korean economic policy? Some in China clearly believe that the DPRK can be gradually coaxed onto a path of pragmatic economic policymaking. To judge by Beijing’s swelling economic subsidies for North Korea, Chinese leadership may be banking on as much. The results of any such wagers, however, remain to be seen.

In China and other socialist countries, big changes in economic policy have typically followed, and depended upon, big changes in national leadership–but Pyongyang appears absolutely intent upon carrying the Kim family’s dynastic rule into its third generation. North Korean policymakers may genuinely want the DPRK to be what they call a “prosperous and powerful state” [Kangsong Taeguk]–but at the same time they have been totally unwilling to risk the sorts of steps that could actually generate such prosperity. Until this contradiction is resolved, North Korea is most likely to remain the black hole in the Northeast Asian economy.

Read the full story here:
What Is Wrong with the North Korean Economy
American Enterprise Institute
2011-7-1

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The recent trend of Kim Jong Il’s official activities after China visit

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief 2011-6-13

Kim Jong Il has made four official appearances from May 28 to June 3 since his last visit to China, starting with industrial facility inspections. This could be construed as North Korea’s attempt to highlight current facility-building projects and the superiority of its leadership in improving the people’s economy, and to rally the North Korean people.

Kim commemorated his recent unofficial visit to China by attending a celebratory performance. In a speech, he commented on the outcome of the visit and encouraged solidarity and morale building of its people.

On his return from China, Kim provided field guidance at the construction site of Huichon Power Plant. He called for the early completion of the plant as an essential step in resolving North Korea’s chronic power shortage. Specifically, Kim commented, “Resolving the power shortage is the major task in order to build a strong and prosperous nation . . . . appropriate units must ensure timely production of facilities, equipments and materials.” Kim is reported to have visited the construction site of Huichon on five occasions from September 2009 to December of last year.

In addition, Kim visited a fish breeding institute and Kosan Fruit Farm, encouraging the pursuit of technology development projects through modernization and scientific advancement.

At the fish breeding institute, Kim called for the improvement of the ecological environment of the fishery and for the increase in fish production by constructing more fish farms and by advancing the facility in a way that meets the demands of industrialization and modernization.

Similarly at the Kosan Fruit Farm (located in the Gangwon Province), production was stressed once again as an important task. Kim called for the improvement in fruit production through modernization and the integration of science and technology. This was Kim’s third visit to the farm since 2008.

Kim’s official visits this year are slightly fewer in number compared with the same period of time last year: from 70 visits in 2010 (19 military-related, 29 economic-related, 6 foreign-related, 13 other activities), to 60 visits in 2011 (13 military-related, 28 economic-related, 6 foreign-related, 13 other activities) in 2011.

All major DPRK news outlets covered Kim’s recent visit to China. The Politburo of the Workers’ Party of Korea Central Committee organized a meeting calling for the strengthening of DPRK-China relations. Likewise, the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly praised the current DPRK-China economic cooperation activities and growing friendship between the two nations.

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Mansu Hill Kim Il-sung statue under wraps

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

UPDATE 4 (2011-9-9): The statue appears to no longer be under wraps.  It was covered up apparently to protect it from nearby construction debris. Read more here.

UPDATE 3 (2011-6-30): According to images on display at the 2011 Pyongyang Architecture Exhibition, the Mansudae Grand Monument appears to keep its basic structure after the renovations are completed.  So this raises the question of what exactly they are doing to the statue…

Pictured above are architectural  and satellite imagery of Pyongyang’s  Mansudae area, currently under renovation.

UPDATE 2 (2011-6-8): According to the Pyongyang Times, the North Koreans are building “a monumental structure in the area in central Pyongyang where the statue of President Kim Il Sung stands”.

UPDATE 1 (2011-6-5): We have some pictures of the monument renovation:

Pictured above we can see a recent photo of the Kim Il-sung statue at the Mansudae Grand Monument.  It is covered in a white sheet (or plaster?).  There is some scaffolding around the lower half of the statue and a crane overhead.

The surrounding neighborhood is also being renovated.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-6-1):

Pictured above (Google Earth): The Kim Il-sung statue on Mansu Hill, Pyongyang

A recent visitor to the DPRK emailed me to say that the Mansudae Grand Monument has been covered up and will be closed to visitors until next March.  It appears they are renovating the national icon for Kim Il-sung’s 100th birthday next year.

I am unsure if just the Kim Il-sung statue is covered or if the entire monument is under wraps.

An undertaking this prestigious would have to be approved at “the highest level”.

Construction of the Tower of the Juche Idea was similarly shrouded in secrecy until it was unveiled to Kim Il-sung in 1982 to commemorate his 70th birthday.

Projects like this are conducted by a special division of the Mansudae Art Studio located in Phyongchon District, Pyongyang.

The Pyongyang residential neighborhood to the south of the monument is also being renovated.

If you plan on visiting the DPRK in the near future, please try and get a picture!

 

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Western Aid: The Missing Link for North Korea’s Economic Reviva

Monday, May 9th, 2011

AEI Working Paper
Nicholas Eberstadt

Download PDF here

[T]his past January, for the first time in over two decades, Pyongyang has formally unveiled a new multi-year economic plan: a 10-year “strategy plan for economic development” under a newly formed State General Bureau for Economic Development. The new economic plan is intended not only to meet the DPRK’s longstanding objective of becoming a “powerful and prosperous country” [Kangsong Taeguk] by 2012 (the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung), but also to promote North Korea to the ranks of the “advanced countries in 2020.”

Details on the new 10-year economic plan are as yet sketchy. South Korean analysts report that the plan envisions massive amounts of new investment in North Korea: up to $100 billion, by some accounts.3 But even if the investment target is more modest than such rumors suggest, North Korea will be counting on more than just domestic capital accumulation to secure this funding. It will have to rely upon major inflows of both foreign private capital–and foreign aid.

Additional Information:

1. This report has been added to the DPRK Economic Statistics Page.

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DPRK to distribute light industrial goods to the people by April 2012

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 11-02-08
2011-02-08

In last month’s New Year’s Joint Editorial, North Korean authorities reaffirmed the national drive to strongly develop the country’s light industrial sector by 2012, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung. On February 2, the Choson Sinbo, the newspaper of the pro-North Korean residents’ league in Japan, proclaimed that all efforts were being focused on delivering high-quality light industrial goods by April of next year.

North Korea’s minister of light industry, forty-seven year old Hu Chul San, was interviewed by the paper’s Kook Jang Eun. Hu stated that light industrial zones already in operation would be further bolstered and the provision of raw materials would be prioritized for celebrations surrounding the 100-year birthday of the country’s founder.

The North Korean regime has set 2012 as the year in which it will “open the doors to a great and prosperous nation,” and Kim Il Sung’s April 15 birthdate has been set as the first target for economic revival. Just as in 2010, this year’s Joint Editorial called for light industrial growth and improvements in the lives of the North Korean people as the ‘strong and prosperous nation’ goal is pursued.

Minister Hu gave one example of the expected boost in production, stating that all students, from elementary school to university, would receive new school uniforms by next April. “Originally, school uniforms were issued to all students once every three years, but as the nation’s economic situation grew more difficult, [the regime] was unable to meet the demand.” He promised that for the 100-year anniversary, “Rationing would take place as it did when the Great Leader was here.”

The minister also explained that all preparations for distributing light industrial goods to the people next April needed to be completed by the end of this year, since Kim Il Sung’s birthday fell so early in the spring. He stated that a strong base had already been established for the production of high-quality goods, and that many organizations had already mass-produced high-quality goods for the celebration of the 65th anniversary of the Korean Workers’ Party founding last year, offering the Pyongyang Sock Factory, the Sinuiju Textile Mill, the Botong River Shoe Factory, and the Pyongyang Textile Mill as examples.

When asked how North Korea would resolve raw material shortages, the minister explained that since the February 8 Vinalon Complex began operations last year, Vinalon and several other types of synthetic materials were available. The Sunchon Chemical Complex and other industries were also providing synthetic materials to light industrial factories throughout the country, strongly supporting indigenous efforts to increase production. He added, “Raw rubber, fuel and other materials absent from our country must be imported,” but that “national policies were being implemented” to ensure steady supply.

Minister Hu admitted that there was no shortage of difficulties, but that every worker was aware of the importance of meeting the April deadline, and that because raw material shortages were being resolved, light industries were now able to press ahead with full-speed production.

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KPA in charge of fulfilling 2012 Pyongyang construction

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

According to the Joongang Daily:

North Korea’s leadership wants “renovations” of its capital city of Pyongyang, a South Korean government source said yesterday, and much of the so-called renovations will reflect the rising power of the military.

The source said that leader Kim Jong-il and heir-apparent Kim Jong-un had given orders to hand the Ministry of Capital City Construction Development over to the military.

The source also said military men took over key positions in the ministry.

The modernization of the capital is a long-term project that began in 2001. The Ministry of Capital City Construction Development was included in the cabinet in that year.

In 2006, Kim Jong-il’s brother-in-law Jang Song-thaek, often called the second-most powerful man in North Korea, took charge of the ministry.

It is unclear, however, whether Jang will continue to head the ministry after the military takes over.

The change is being seen as part of North Korea’s often stated goal of becoming a “strong and prosperous country” by 2012.

That will also include improving Pyongyang and the economy as a whole, with the military controlling much of the activity.

Temporary youth brigades were mobilized last September to help with construction throughout the country. They were assigned to military brigades as regular soldiers.

North Korea analysts have said that the change in the ministry was for “mobilization and stronger control.”

“North Korea has recently stopped calling laborers and farmers the ‘leaders of the revolution,’ and said the soldiers are,” said Jung Chang-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Kookmin University in Seoul.

“Assigning civilian groups to the military means that the leadership aims to mobilize the people and gain effective control to create a strong and prosperous country by next year,” Jung added.

Kim Jong-il said in October 1996, during a speech honoring the 50th anniversary of Kim Il Sung University: “Only the military can be trusted.”

Kim’s reliance on the military and the mobilization of civilians into the military reflects his songun, or “military-first,” ideology.

The moves also aim to solidify Kim Jong-un as the next leader of North Korea, with his name on the orders along with his father’s. If the projects improve people’s lives, the positive results can be attributed to Kim Jong-un, said Lee Jo-won, professor of political science at Chung-Ang University in Seoul.

The number of facilities in Pyongyang that have been renovated over the past 10 years are too numerous to mention here.  Most showcase factories, schools, theaters and restaurants have been renovated.  Some more than once.

Additionally, the North Korean government has sought to boost the quantity of housing in the city.  A high-profile project near the Potonggang Gate has already been completed, and labor units are busy trying to complete 100,000 new housing units by next February.

Here are previous posts on: Real estate and Construction.

Read the full story below:
Kims want to ‘renovate’ Pyongyang for people
Joongang Daily
Jeong Yong-soo
2/9/2011

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2010 marks KJI’s most publicly active year

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

According to Yonhap:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il conducted the largest number of public activities last year since he inherited the communist country from his father in 1994, according to figures aggregated by the South Korean government.

The 68-year-old appeared in North Korea’s official media a total of 161 times, the Unification Ministry said Tuesday in a release that suggested Kim was trying to tamp down outside speculation over his health. About one fifth of his activities last year were joined by his third son and heir-apparent Kim Jong-un, the ministry said.

Kim Jong-il reportedly suffered a stroke in 2008, a year during which he showed up only 97 times. Kim appeared in official media 159 times in 2009, increasing his visits to factories and other economy-related facilities. Last year, he made 63 visits to economic sites and 38 to military ones, the ministry said.

“He seems to be trying to unite the regime by showing both internally and externally that he remains healthy and that he is focused on enhancing the living standards of people,” a ministry official said, asking not to be named.

North Korea is trying to revive its economy ahead of 2012, which marks the centennial of the birth of Kim Il-sung, who founded the country and later passed his power to Kim Jong-il upon his death.

Outside analysts say the heavy focus on the economy is aimed at creating a setting favorable for another hereditary power succession, this time, to Kim Jong-un, believed to be about 28.

North Korea’s media have yet to report on Kim Jong-il’s first public activity this year.

Read the full story here:
N. Korean leader most active last year despite health woes
Yonhap
Sam Kim
1/4/2011

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DPRK plans Kim Jong-un lectures

Monday, December 27th, 2010

According to the Daily NK:

In advance of the new year, 2011, the North Korean authorities have released lecture materials to emphasize “Kim Jong Eun’s leadership.” It implies that they are going to make 2011 the year of Kim Jong Eun, though without the label of “successor.”

A source from Yangkang Province reported on Monday on “a lecture entitled, ‘In the New Year under comrade Kim Jong Eun’s leadership the whole people should be united impregnably around the Party and open the gate of 2012 as a strong and prosperous state.’ It has been spread to each organ and enterprise.”

The source added, “The secretary of the party cell reported that this material was handed down and said the party is going to hold a lecture around the 30th. He stressed that we definitely must attend the lecture.”

Since the North’s authorities announced publicly the Kim Jong Eun succession through the Delegates’ Conference of the Chosun Workers’ Party and on the founding day of the Party, they have been speeding up the process of the succession through releasing Kim Jong Eun’s public activities such as military or security related on-site inspections with his father through the state publications and orders handed down from Kim Jong Eun.

The source reported the mood there, saying that, “Even though the authorities have been clamoring for decades to ‘Protect the Suryeong (Absolute Leader) to the Death,’ there are still many citizens who don’t attend lectures. When they do go to the lectures, they think it is a time napping.”

He went on, “Nowadays as food prices and other prices are soaring, people say that it’s hard to live or they aren’t sure about the propaganda.”

The source construed the attempt to hold lectures about Kim Jong Eun’s leadership likely to be a countermeasure to eliminate people’s discontent with Kim Jong Eun.

Read the full story here:
Lecture Scheduled on Kim Jong Eun’s Leadership
Daily NK
Kang Mi Jin
12/27/2010

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