Archive for the ‘Byongjin’ Category

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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North Korea’s H-Bomb Test: The (Impossible) Economic Context

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Who decides what in Pyongyang? Do fierce political battles rage between hardliners and reformers, where the former group struggles to replace nuclear belligerence with liberal market economics and trade? Whenever a purge or suspicious death occurs in Pyongyang, speculations come alive about potential policy changes by the regime.

It is a fool’s errand to make guesses about how North Korea’s claimed (but unlikely) hydrogen bomb test fits into the speculative dichotomy of modernizers versus conservatives. After all, such simple divisions are rare in the political life of any country. But looking at the test in the context of the past year makes it clear that Pyongyang is pursuing a messy mix of policies that are mutually exclusive.

At the same time as one “hand” of the regime attempts to draw foreign investment, diversify its investor base to include other countries than China, and take its industrial zones from plans to reality, the other “hand” is actively working against economic progress by nuclear tests and diplomatic belligerence. Either the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, or it does, but just doesn’t want it to succeed.

Perhaps this is the way that Byungjin – Kim Jong-un’s strategy of parallel development of nuclear weapons and the economy – was intended to work. (If so, the regime seems to be dedicating much more resources and energy to the nuclear part, while the economic one still mostly consists of words.) In any case, Pyongyang is trying to achieve two goals at the same time, and it isn’t working.

For example, in 2013, the North Korean regime announced the creation of over ten special economic zones, with more added in both 2014 and 2015. Progress has been uneven. Still, the North Korean regime has continuously indicated that the zones are a priority and will continue to be improved. Just in November last year, new regulations were announced for the special economic zones. Visitors and analysts report that elite businesses have been doing better and better in North Korea, and that the economic environment has become increasingly freer.

Whatever the list of Pyongyang’s priorities may look like, January 6th was not a good day for those North Koreans tasked with planning, building and administering the country’s special economic zones and projects. North Korea is already an unlikely destination for most foreign investors. Many low-wage competitors already sit relatively close by the country, such as Vietnam and Cambodia. North Korea’s comparative advantages are really quite few. Things are already difficult and the claimed H-bomb test certainly won’t help.

The international sanctions are just one part of the problem. Even with knowledge of what the current sanctions regime permits investors to do, the test is a stark reminder that legal hurdles will keep being added as nuclear and missile tests continue. This should deter any investor without special connections, political motives or a financial death wish. Not to mention the terrible PR and public criticism that would follow any (at least western) company deciding to invest in North Korea.

And then, there is of course the China factor. Sure, Beijing doesn’t comply with sanctions the way it is obligated to do. Moreover, as the Choson Exchange blog points out, North Korean and Chinese businesses tend to find a way to get around the sanctions. Last but not least, to a large extent, Chinese investment and cooperation with North Korea is a regional issue, with much of it driven by the northeastern border regions that depend on trade and exchange with the country.

But this doesn’t mean that Beijing won’t ever take concrete action felt by Pyongyang. China’s worries about North Korea’s nuclear tests are arguably more warranted than those of any other country. Residents in Yanji, a Chinese city on the North Korean border, even felt tremors from the bomb test, and teachers and students were reportedly evacuated from schools near the border. A trend is only a trend until it is no more. At the very least, events like the nuclear test don’t exactly make Chinese officials more prone to want to facilitate economic cooperation and infrastructure investments for North Korea.

It’s almost painful to think of all those hours spent in the North Korean administration, drawing up plans for new economic development zones and projects, new laws for investments and other institutional changes to improve the economy, only to see their colleagues in another part of government work in the opposite direction. If (and this is a big “if”) there are indeed policy factions in the government, with modernizers and conservatives, the latter have scored a victory on January 6th, at the expense of the former.

UPDATE 2015-01-07: James Pearson and Ju-Min Park at Reuters have done a very interesting overview (with Michael Madden of NK Leadership Watch) of the people behind North Korea’s nuclear program. It’s an important illustration of the fact that interest groups are not just a thing of business, but also of politics and ideas. Read it here.

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The limits of agriculture reform in North Korea

Friday, December 18th, 2015

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein 

Agricultural reforms in North Korea became a hot topic of discussion almost right away when Kim Jong-un took power in 2011. Only a number of months into his tenure, news began to come out of the country about attempts at agricultural reforms. It is unclear when (or even if) the June 28th Measures were finally extended to the whole country.

At the very least, three years in, it seems beyond reasonable doubt that North Korean agriculture has undergone major changes. These have been aimed at boosting production by creating better incentives for farmers to produce and sell more of their output to the state rather than diverting it to the market. The most important aspects of these reforms are the decreased size of work teams and new rules that let farmers keep 30 percent of their production plus any surplus above production targets, while the state takes the remaining 70.

These changes have been met with optimism among some. However, no one really knows exactly what impact these reforms have had. North Korean agriculture may be faring better than it used to – although this is also doubtful – but even so, it is too simplistic to assume that government reforms in agricultural management are doing all the work. As long as North Korea’s agriculture continues to be centrally planned by the state, there will be limits to how much better it can get no matter what reforms the state implements.

To see why, consider some of the news that have been coming out of North Korea in the past few months, as reported by Daily NK. In late November, the online daily reported that in despite by multilateral aid organizations, North Korea had seen relatively good harvests this year. However, the increased harvests, according to people inside the country, were not caused by changes in the agricultural management system of state-operated collective farms.

Rather, the North Koreans interviewed for the story claimed that private plot farmers had been better able to protect their crops from adverse weather impacts by using water pumps and other equipment. Even though trends like these alone probably have a limited impact, this shows that many circumstances other than state management matter.

A few weeks later, Daily NK published another interview carrying a similar message. According to sources inside the country, harvests from collective farms have declined, while private plot production has gone up (author’s emphasis added):

The amount of food harvested this year from the collective farms has “once again fallen short of expectations,” he said, adding that the farmers who work on them have criticized the orders coming down from the authorities, saying that “if we do things the way they want us to, it’s not going to work.”

Although the regime has forced people to mobilize, the source asserted that farm yields are not increasing. So, then, “the best thing to do would be to further divide the land up among individuals,” he posited.

Our source wondered if individual farms were not more successful because each person tending them personally grew and watered their plants. Currently, farmers must follow directives regarding the amount of water they can use on collective farms. He warned that if the system is not completely overhauled, crop yields will fail to improve.

In other words: as is so often the case, management orders from above often do not align with the reality on the ground.

One should be careful not to draw too many general conclusions based on individual interviews, but this is a well known general problem in all planned economies. Even with the best intentions, the state can never be fully informed about conditions and resources on the ground in an entire society.

This is one of the many reasons why economic central planning falters. We have seen this, too, with Kim Jong-un’s forestry policies. The state gives orders that have unintended consequences on the ground, because information is lacking. No central planning team can be fully informed about the reality prevailing throughout the system. The information problem becomes particularly dire in authoritarian dictatorships like North Korea, where people at the lower end of hierarchies often have strong incentives not to speak up about implementation problems when orders come from the top.

Ultimately, no matter what management reforms the North Korean regime implements, the country’s economic system remains the basic stumbling block. As long as central planning continues to be the ambition of economic and agricultural policies, there will be a limit to the success that agricultural policies can reach. We may expect to see agricultural reforms continuing, but as long as the system remains, they can hardly be revolutionary.

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May 30 Measures (5.30 Measures) [UPDATED]

Monday, June 1st, 2015

UPDATE 13 (2015-7-16): A new report by the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) indicated that the DPRK has made progress in reducing sub-workteam units, however it is experiencing secondary problems related to the transition.

North Korea Seeks Supplementary Measures for the Field Responsibility System

North Korea has been promoting the “field management system” as a part of its agricultural reform. Nevertheless, drawbacks exist, and it is trying to overcome shortcomings in the process by blending the new system with the advantages of collectivism.

In the past, farmers were able to follow the technical guidance of skilled workers. But since the implementation of the “field management system,” many are struggling to keep up with the advanced modern technology and agricultural methods.

As a result, North Korea is engaging in training and education programs for farmers to raise their skill level to that of skilled workers by encouraging the collective farming method of communal sharing of labor.

North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun reported on July 10 that, “in the current reality with the implementation of the ‘field management system’, it is impossible to farm with limited technical capabilities.”

The field management system under the bunjo management system (or the subworkteam management system) divides the work unit consisting of 10–25 people into smaller units of 3–5 people, responsible for farming a smaller field. This is virtually a preliminary stage which could lead toward private farm ownership.

The field management system expanded countrywide after Kim Jong Un’s rise to power. It is considered to have contributed in part to the increase of agricultural production.

The newspaper cited pesticide as one example of the problem. In the past, spraying pesticides were for skilled workers; but in recent years, ordinary farmers are responsible for spraying pesticides on their own. However, from lack of experience, many farmers struggled with proper handling of pesticides and ended up wasting them or damaging their crops.

The newspaper, however, also introduced the story of jujube cooperative farms in Anak County of Hwanghae Province, praising one farm’s success in planting rice seven days earlier than planned, despite the adverse weather conditions.

Reportedly, the farmers at this cooperative farm underwent training in modern agricultural technology for 30 minutes every morning.

Another problem pointed out is that because the skill level of every farmer differs, some farmers may mistime rice planting during the planting season. In the past, task teams were formed based on skill level and could eliminate the discrepancies between farms; under the new system, problems are inevitable. Accordingly, it is reported that Anak County jujube cooperative farms are collectively helping each other to overcome this shortcoming.

The newspaper stressed that “when all farmers claim ownership of their field and subworkteam, one can create innovation in the farming operations.” Thus, the North Korean authorities are encouraging “collectivism” to overcome the limitations of the “field management system.”

UPDATE 12 (2015-7-10): The Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) reports on the DPRK’s effort’s to reduce sub-workteam units and increase food production:

Despite Drought Last Year, Food Production Increased Due to Field Responsibility System

North Korea experienced its biggest drought in 100 years last year. However, North Korea claims that this did not affect its food production. North Korean authorities are claiming the main factor behind the increased food production is the will of farmers to produce more after the expansion of the “field management system,” or pojon tamdangje.

In an interview with the weekly newspaper, Tongil Sinbo, Chi Myong Su, director of the Agricultural Research Institute of the Academy of Agricultural Sciences of the DPRK commented, “the effectiveness of field management system (pojon) from cooperative farm production unit system (bunjo) is noticeable and succeeded in increasing grain production despite the adverse weather conditions.”

The field management system under the bunjo management system or the subworkteam management system divides the work unit consisting of 10-25 people into smaller units of 3-5 people, responsible for farming a smaller unit of a field. This is a measure to increase the “responsibility and ownership of farmers.”

From the July 1st Economic Management Improvement Measures enforced in 2002, the autonomy of cooperative farms and enterprises expanded. The “field management system” was piloted from early 2004 in Suan, North Hwanghae Province and Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province, but was suspended soon afterward. However, this system is reported to have been implemented widely after the first National Conference of Subworkteam Leaders in the Agricultural Sector was held in Pyongyang in February 2014.

Economic principles behind the field responsibility system are stated as, “under the sub-work team structure, a smaller subworkteam consisting of 2 to 3 families or 3 to 4 people depending on the scale and means of production, is responsible for a specific field or plot (pojon) from planting to harvest stage to inspire farmers with enthusiasm for production by distributing the shares of production in accordance with the output of production planning.”

The newspaper added, “Despite the adverse weather conditions last year, the high grain yield was possible due to implementation of scientific farming methods and field management system to increase enthusiasm of farmers,” and “based on this experience, many cooperative farms across the country will expand subworkteam management system to field management system.”

Director Chi stated, “Since the field management system was implemented, farmers’ labor capacity increased to 95 percent. The planting time for corn and rice that took 20 to 30 days in the past is shortened to 10 to 15 days. In the autumn season, grain threshing that took 50 days is now only taking 10 days. This is changing the farming landscape.”

In addition, the distribution shares for farmers increased as well as the state’s procurement last year. This is attributed to “socialist distribution principles that distributed grains produced to farmers in-kind based on their efforts after excluding a specified amount of grain procured by the state.”

He added, “There are quite a number of farming households that received several decades worth of distribution after a year of farming. There is an increasing number of families with growing patriotism to increase the amount of grain procurement to the state.”

UPDATE 11 (2015-6-1): Andrei Lankov reports in Radio Free Asia that the DPRK has slowed down recently announced economic adjustment measures:

If we are talking about the economy, the last two or three years have been a time when hitherto unheard of stories began coming out of North Korea with ever greater frequency. Indeed, from late 2012, the North Korean government began to quietly implement reform policies highly reminiscent of what China did back in the late 1970s. Such reformist policies largely centred around two important documents, namely, the so-called ‘June 28th Instructions’ of 2012 and the so-called ‘May 30th Measures’ of 2014.

The most important part of these sets of policies was a far reaching change to North Korea’s incentive mechanism in agriculture. The ‘June 28th Instructions’ envisioned that farmers would be permitted to work in family-based teams and allowed to retain 30% of the harvest. As economists often say, incentives work, and sometimes even work wonders. Working under the new system, North Korean farmers have produced more food than at any time in the last 25 years, bringing the country quite close to the goal of food self-sufficiency.

The ‘May 30th Measures’ were even more ambitious in their scope. The measures allowed factory managers to buy industrial supplies and produce at market, while also being permitted to sell what their factories were to produce to whomsoever they pleased. They were also given the right to hire and fire personnel at will, as well as setting wages at levels they choose. This system was first implemented in early 2013 in some experimental enterprises. Such enterprises were easy to spot because workers there were paid what can be described as exorbitant wages by North Korean standards. Musan Iron Mine, for instance, being one such experimental enterprise, pays its workers 300,000-400,000 won a month (roughly 100 times what workers would get paid under the old system).

Slowdown but no reversal

The ‘May 30th Measures’ envisioned that the new system would be expanded to include all North Korean enterprises, but this is not what has happened. Reports emanating from North Korea in the last two months leave little doubt that the expected transformation has at best been postponed, at worst, cancelled entirely. Right now, only a minority of North Korean industrial enterprises have been allowed to implement the new model.

What happened? Frankly, it is unlikely we will receive a definite answer to this question any time soon. Of course, it is quite possible that Kim Jong Un suddenly changed his mind and decided to stop reformist activities that he found to be politically dangerous and ideologically suspicious. It is also possible that the reforms faced determined opposition from conservative members of the bureaucracy and military. Last, but not least, it is also possible that North Korean leaders have come to understand the problems that such reforms would face without prior and proper changes to the financial system.

Whatever the reasons, it is clear that the North Korean government has decided to slow down the reform process. At the same time, there has as yet been no reversal.

One can only hope that the North Korean government will not spend too much time in such oscillations between reformism and conservativism. Time is running out for Kim Jong Un, and this is largely because of popular political psychology.

Kim Jong Un, contrary to what many might believe, is quite popular in North Korea. According to many inside and outside the country, the ordinary North Koreans have pinned their hopes on Kim Jong Un for improving their lot. If he wants to succeed, he should not waste the potential that such popular support gives him. Many changes are potentially controversial and painful, and popularity can help smooth the process.

However, reservoirs of good will are depleted unless leaders live up to expectations. Painful reforms need to be implemented quickly, if he waits too long such reforms could prove to be dangerous.

Unlike his father and grandfather, Kim Jong Un cannot afford to ignore the popular will. His father and grandfather had a great deal of control over society and they could always count on the North Korean people’s docility and obedience. However, the surveillance network is not what it was twenty years ago. People are increasingly aware about how poor their country is and how prosperous China and South Korea are. They can also make a living outside government structures, making them potentially less easy to control.

Thus, in such circumstances, it is crucial that Kim Jong Un does not waste time. Let us hope that reforms will get back on track because they may otherwise be grave for Kim Jong Un and the North Korean people alike.

Lankov wrote in a follow-up piece in Al Jazeera on June 11:

The new management system was supposed to be implemented across the entire country starting in 2015, with nearly all industrial enterprises switching to the new model. But it did not happen.

The information emerging from North Korea through different and unconnected sources leave little doubt that the expected switch to the new managerial system has not happened.

As usual, official media is silent, but foreign investors and businessmen, as well as Chinese nationals who visited their relatives in North Korea, and some trusted North Korean contacts, all tell the same story: Reforms are not being implemented as expected.

The new rules

As was the case last year, there are a number of industrial enterprises which operate in accordance with the new rules. However, such enterprises are few and far between, and are still officially considered “experimental”. Most plants and factories still ostensibly follow the ossified rules of a Leninist command economy.

Simultaneously, foreign investors began to feel increasing pressure. They began to face arbitrary changes of rules, demand for additional payments, and other similar actions.

An acute observer described the current situation to the author: “For a couple of years, the North Korean economy resembled a car climbing a steep slope at a good speed. But a few months ago, they switched off the engine, and the car has just begun to slide down the slope.”

Given the highly secretive nature of the North Korean government, one can only guess what made Kim and his advisers change their minds. The decision to stop reforms might reflect some internal governmental turmoil, but also may be a result of a sudden change of Kim’s mind-set – indeed, the North Korean dictator is remarkably moody at times, and reforms are wrought with political risk.

It is even possible that the reforms were slowed down in order to better prepare the wider economic landscape for their full-scale implementation: This full switch to the new system could potentially trigger severe inflation, so some kind of preparatory “groundwork” is advisable and possibly even necessary.

Experimental enterprises

Whatever the reason, the reforms appear to have been stopped, albeit not rolled back. The farmers still receive their share of produce, and some factories work according to the new system, often paying exorbitant salaries to the employees. A miner at the Musan iron mine, where the “experimental enterprise” system is functional, can now easily earn $70 a month, almost 100 times the average nationwide salary of less than a dollar a month.

This gives us reason to hope that sooner or later the reforms will be resumed, and that the current halt is merely provisional. After all, the introduction of household-based agriculture a few years ago followed a similar pattern: The new policies were first announced in June 2012, then shelved, but began to be fully implemented during the spring of 2013.

Nevertheless, the news remains disturbing. If North Korea rejects reforms, it will slide back into a state of stagnation. This will mean life will become even more difficult for North Koreans and will create a great deal of trouble for North Korea’s neighbours. A reforming North Korea has the possibility of survival, while a stagnant and stunted North Korea is inevitably bound to collapse.

UPDATE 10 (2015-5-27): According to Cao Shigong a member of the Korean Peninsula Research Society, Chinese Association of Asia-Pacific Studies, in the PRC’s Global Times:

A series of proactive measures to adjust economic policies and expand exchanges with foreign countries recently adopted by North Korea have drawn widespread attention. The moves aim to help the country escape the long-lasting economic woes, improve the nation’s political and social stability, and promote economic cooperation within the region. Therefore, they deserve welcome and encouragement. However, it is inappropriate to regard these measures as a signal of overall reforms or a starting point of further opening-up.

North Korea is always reluctant to label its measures for economic development as “reform and opening-up.”

To begin with, China’s implement of reform and opening-up is based on absolute disapproval of the mistaken route that deemed class struggle as the guiding principle. Yet North Korea, as a hereditary regime, does not allow any doubt or modification of its former leaders’ ideologies and political lines such as juche (“self-reliance”) and songun (“military-first”).

Besides, China’s reform has broken the traditional planned economy and set up a market-oriented socialist economy with the coexistence of other diverse forms of ownership, especially allowing the development of private business. But North Korea still cleaves to its old beliefs that planned economy and the public ownership of the means of production are the key characteristics of socialism, and that if they are changed, socialism will be lost.

In addition, as a big country, China enjoys strong tolerance and endurance. Even it is wide open to the world, under the pressure over intruding foreign cultures and values, it can still safeguard its political and social stability. North Korea, however, will find it hard to do the same if it opens up like China, against the backdrop of US hostility, the north-south divide, and fierce competition over systems.

Consequently, North Korea took the measures of “our-style (North Korea-style) socialism” and corresponding “reforms,” including the 7.1 Economic Management Improvement Measures, 6.28 Economic Reform Measures and 5.30 Measures. Though similar to the reform and opening-up of China, they have their own distinguished features.

For instance, the country initiated “land contracts,” yet did not end cooperative farms; it encourages its business to be flexible, yet without changing the way their property is held; it established special economic zones and economic development zones, but with focusing on advantageous areas and corridors.

The basic features of North Korean “reform” measures are improving the policy flexibility, introducing new management styles, and bringing the function of the market into full play, without changing its fundamental system. The country also introduces and utilizes foreign capital under the control of the government. Apparently, these practices stem from the nation’s domestic conditions.

It is generally acknowledged that North Korea’s reform measures have achieved initial success. North Korean economy has recorded positive growth for three consecutive years, with its domestic markets and consumption becoming more active and the strain on food and living supplies eased.

On the other hand, confrontation between North and South Korea is rumbling on, and the arrangements around the only industrial complex between the two sides, the Kaesong Industrial Region, is constantly encountering conflict, which has made business people skeptical about economic collaboration with North Korea. Especially as North Korea keeps conducting nuclear tests, it remains hard for it to break the sanctions and isolation from the international community.

All these factors prove the uncertainty of North Korea’s economic reforms. Hence, media and scholars should be reminded to deliver accurate and comprehensive information over North Korea to the world, in order to prevent giving misleading impression or weakening the risk awareness of investors, causing irreparable losses as a result.

Read the full story here:
North Korean economic reforms tightly tied to domestic conditions
Global Times
Cao Shigong
2015-5-27

UPDATE 9 (2015-3-4): The Associated Press reveals additional details through an interview with Ri Ki Song, professor of the economic science section at Pyongyang’s Academy of Social Science:

The measures give managers the power to set salaries and hire and fire employees, and give farmers more of a stake in out-producing quotas. Some outside observers say they are a far cry from the kind of change the North really needs, but they agree with North Korean economists who say it is starting to pay off in higher wages and increased yields.

The changes were introduced soon after Kim took over in late 2011, codified last May and, according to North Korean economists who recently spoke to The Associated Press and AP Television News, are now being expanded to cover the whole country.

The focus is on management, distribution and farming, said economist Ri Ki Song of the Economic Science Section at Pyongyang’s powerful Academy of Social Science, in an interview in February with AP Television News. Ri said the goal is to prod North Korean managers and farmers to “do business creatively, on their own initiative.”

An embrace of capitalism it is not.

Pyongyang has not formally disclosed details of the measures, believed to have been approved on May 30, 2014. But according to the North Korean economists, these are some of the major points:

–Managers can now decide on salaries without following state-set levels. Once an enterprise has paid the state and reinvested income to expand production, develop technology and pay for the “cultural welfare” of its employees, it can use the remaining funds to determine pay levels. As an example, Ri said that since instituting this system, the Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory has raised its average monthly salary from 3,000 won (less than $1 or 119.5 yen on the black market) to 80,000 won, with the highest earners collecting 110,000 won. The new salary levels are more in tune with actual living expenses and costs in the real economy.

–Factories or other enterprises can directly negotiate trade deals with foreign entities and hire or fire workers at their discretion. They can also decide what materials to buy and from whom, and negotiate prices.

–On cooperative farms, subunits of 4 or 5 people have been set up so that each farmer has a greater stake in producing a better yield from their plot. Again, after giving the state its share and covering expenses, the surplus–either in cash or produce–can be distributed on a point-based system at the cooperative itself.

If the farming measures are implemented in a way that gives families long-term responsibility for specific plots, they could go a long way toward transforming millions of North Korean peasants from serfs who merely work the land to sharecroppers who gain at least some direct benefit from their labor. Ri said it was an important reason why crop yields were comparatively good last year, despite severe droughts.

Officials, meanwhile, insist they are holding fast to North Korea’s own brand of leader-centric socialism and are only trying out “new management methods of our own style.”

“Our country admits that our economic situation is difficult,” Ri Jun Chol, director of international economic relations at the academy, said in an earlier interview in Pyongyang with the AP. “What I can say is that looking at every quarter, it has made a lot of increase compared to the last year.”

The impact of the measures is impossible to verify because North Korea doesn’t announce economic indicators, saying such data would be useful to its enemies.

Officials also are not ready to give the nod to capitalist-style markets and small enterprises that have sprung up all over the country with the breakdown of the government’s ration system in the famine years of the 1990s. This shadowy private sector is a key engine of the North’s real economy–making up as much as 30 percent of the whole pie. The Kim regime has been more lenient than his father’s, but insists it is a temporary blip.

“In the future, the marketplaces will no longer exist,” the international economy specialist Ri said in his interview with AP. “The main role of the markets is to sell things that factories and other enterprises can’t supply. We allow the markets because the country right now doesn’t have sufficient capacity to produce daily consumer goods.”

UPDATE 8 (2015-2-28): The Economist has published a good article summarizing recent economic changes int eh DPRK–including mention of the 6.28 agriculture policies and the May 30 measures.

UPDATE 7 (2015-2-24): The Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) has published a report on the “Socialist Enterprise Management System”:

“Socialist Enterprise Management System” under Full Implementation

According to the Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan, North Korea began to strengthen its economic reform measures by enhancing autonomy in industries from August 15, 2013.

The article entitled, “A Look to the Bright Prospects of Building a Powerful Economic Nation” was introduced. It covered a research forum held on February 11 in Japan in commemoration of the Day of the Shining Star.

The article quoted Professor Jae-Hoon Park of Choson University in Japan: “The new economic management method that was adopted into the industrial and agricultural industries from August 15, 2013 was recently formalized into the ‘Socialist Corporate Responsible Management System’ and specific measures were named to fully implement the measures.” He elaborated further on the achievements of the economic reform measures.

This is the first time to hear that a new economic reform measure went into effect in North Korea from August 15, 2013. Previously, North Korea had announced its plans to undergo new economic measures in June 28, 2012 and May 30, 2014.

The Choson Sinbo explained the ‘Socialist Corporate Responsible Management System’ is a new economic reform system in which, “business enterprises are granted certain rights to engage in business activities autonomously and elevate the will to labor through appropriately implementing the socialist distribution system.”

This measure emphasizes the autonomy of business enterprises and is seem to be an expansion of the previously mentioned June 28 and May 30 measures.

In addition, another participant at the forum, Professor Ho-il Moon, explained that “[Work Team] (pojon) responsibility system was introduced from 2013 nationwide. This system was developed to overcome the limitations of equalization of product distribution that goes against socialist distribution principles.”

This year North Korean state media is emphasizing the production in the agricultural industry, and touting the fruition of the pojon system. As a result, the Kim Jong Un regime’s agriculture reform with the pojon system at the core of the changed policy is expected to gain in strength.

According to the Rodong Sinmun, an article on February 6 introduced a successful case of pojon system in an article entitled, “Pojon Responsibility System that Produced Silver.” The article introduced the successes of a cooperative farm in Yongchon District in North Pyongan Province where it is reported to have reaped in more than one ton per chong (or 9,917 square meter) of crops from the previous year in 2013.

The pojon responsibility system reveals a reduction in size of work units working on cooperative farms (previously 10 to 15 people) to a smaller number (3 to 5 people per farm), with each group responsible for cultivating a portion of land. Speculation is that this measure by North Korea may be a precursor step before transitioning to a private farming system.

UPDATE 6 (2015-2-17): The Tongil-Ilbo claims to have a four-page document produced by the North Koreans to explain the 5.30 Measures to foreigners. They did not publish the four page document (why?), but they wrote about it on their web page. Here are some English translation notes from the article:

Could 1st Sec. Kim Jong-un become the North Korean Deng Xiaoping?

– On March 30th, 2013, North Korea adopted Byungjin (병진). Based on this strategy, for now, Kim Jong-un focuses more on economic construction. In 2015 New Year’s address, he emphasized enhancing the living standard of the people.

– Some say that Kim Il-sung tried to construct a political ideology for the nation through the Juche Idea. Kim Jong-il emphasized a “military power nation” based on nuclear power through its military first policy. Kim Jong-un is trying to be Deng Xiaoping in North Korea through economic development.

– Last year, Kim Jong-un proposed the direction of new economy policies through 5.30 Measures, and there is a strong likelihood that North Korea announces specific economic measure from the conception of policies this year marking the 70th anniversary of founding Workers’ Party.

Our Style Economic Management Methods
– 5.30 Measures (5.30담화), announced on May 30th last year with officials who are in charge of the party, state, and military organizations, are about establishing “Our Style Economic Management Methods” (우리식경제관리방법) according to the needs of the day for development.

– In these measures, Kim Jong-un said the methods should be established based on Byungjin (병진) in order to successfully realize the construction of a strong and prosperous socialist nation.

– Especially, Socialist Corporate Responsible Management System (사회주의기업책임관리제) allowed factories (공장), enterprises (기업소), and cooperative organizations (협동단제) to have practical management rights over the means of production based on socialistic ownership (사회주의적 소유), which makes laborers fulfill their responsibility for production and management and realize the principle of collectivism.

– Kim Jong-un urged in the New Year’s address this year that all the factories (공장) and enterprises (기업소) should reduce import dependence or get rid of imports (수입병: “import disease”, too much dependence on imports) and to try to localize materials and facilities [AKA import substitution].

Emphasis on Both ‘Principle’ (원칙) or ‘Actual Benefit’ (실리)? Where should we be more focused?
– As Kim Jong-un pointed out not just the socialistic principle, but also the achievement of actual economic benefits through objective economic principles and scientific logic, he practically focused on “actual benefits”.

– The 5.30 Measures also highlights scientific technology including the importance of scientification (과학화) in economic guidance (경제지도) and all the procedures and elements of production (생산) and enterprise management (기업관리).

– It urges enterprises (기업소) to actively develop new technologies (기술) and new products (신제품), and improve their quality by exercising the authority over product development (제품개발권), quality management (품질관리권) and human resource management (인재관리권), which elevate their competitiveness.

– More specifically, it recommends that factories (공장), enterprises (기업소), and cooperative farms (협동농장) implement Responsibility System (담당책임제) to use and manage national/cooperative property (국가적 협동적 소유) including machine facilities (기계설비), land (토지), and facilities (시설물).

– It is also provides that enterprises (기업소) should assess labor, and distribute in compliance with socialism so that workers receive (받다) fair/commensurate (공정한/일한것만큼) compensation.

– Kim Jong-un urged officials to learn advanced management knowledge and eventually to raise the level of management.

– In the 2015 New Year’s address he emphasized the importance of improving people’s standard of living and constructing an economically powerful and self-supporting economy (자립경제). He also proposed to diversify foreign economic relations (대외경제관계) and to actively carry on its economic special district development business (경제개발구개발사업).

Working-level Taskforce(실무 상무조) is a new generation, assembled for planning and implementation
– It seems that a taskforce (실무 상무조) that normally consists of executives (간부) of each ministry (성) and committee (위원회) was constructed around cabinet executive office (내각 사무국) and national planning committee (국가계획위원회), and it is making specific implementation plans, said Jung Chang-hyun, an adjunct professor of Kukmin University.

– It seems that the taskforce is composed of a younger generation staff, and unlike the 2002 7.1 Measures which were comprehensively implemented, the 5.30 Measures are likely to be implemented incrementally.

– This year, the 70th anniversary of independence, at the same time, for North Korea, the 70th anniversary of the establishment of Workers’ Party, there would be a great celebration on October 10th for the anniversary of founding the party in North Korea, and success or failure of the celebration would depend on economic development, especially, the improvement of living standard of the people that Kim Jong-un proposed at the New Year’s address.

UPDATE 5 (2015-2-9): A Chinese journal has published information on the May 30  Measures.

UPDATE 4 (2015-2-5): Andray Abrahamian at Choson Exchange writes about the May 30 Measures in the Wall Street Journal

UPDATE 3 (2015-2-5): A new report by the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) refers to a Choson Sinbo article and implies that financial reforms will also be part of the May 30 Measures:

New Economic Management Improvement Measures to Support Financial System Reform

North Korea has a new economic development goal with a target to draw the accumulated capital of North Korean people to promote economic development. Changes to the financial system are being introduced including development of various savings products and promotion of people’s credit card use.

The president of the Central Bank of the DPRK, Kim Chon Gyun, interviewed with Choson Sinbo (a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan) on February 3 and explained the role of the bank — responsibility for the state’s overall monetary distribution, financial leadership and management — and the recent changes taking place in the bank.

According to President Kim, “The country is trying to better circulate domestically hoarded money to meet the demand for cash in the country’s developing economy.” In this effort, the regime is developing various financial products as well as encouraging its people to use credit cards.

This is an indication that the regime is working on various measures via the development of a variety of banking products to attract more people to deposit money in the bank and use credit cards for purchases.

With increasing international sanctions against the country, North Korea is suffering from foreign capital shortages and is attempting to attract people’s private funds to the bank to fund economic development plans.

“With the establishment of our-style economic management methods, there are plans of improving the methods of financial and economic institutions and installing financial measures in accordance with the emergence of entrepreneurial activities,” said Kim.

This shows that the spread of the market economy is expanding the autonomy of enterprises and increasing the role of the bank in lending activities to provide funds for companies.

Accordingly, speculations are that financial reform is taking place to raise capital in relation to the recent announcement by Kim Jong Un of the May 30th measures, through expansion of individual’s disposition rights, autonomy of enterprises, and decentralization of power.

Meanwhile, the Rodong Sinmun reported on February 3 that “Choson [North Korea] has steadfastly entered the road to happiness.” The newspaper vaunted the achievements of the Kim Jong Un regime, listing as successes the construction of Pyongyang Nursery, Wisong (Satellite) Scientist Street, and Munsu Water Park.

The news reiterated that major changes are underway to resolve food shortages, expressing confidence in economic measures with significantly increased autonomy of economic units. This hints at how the autonomy and decentralization granted to economic agents is acting as an important engine for economic development.

I am still trying to track down a link to the original Choson Sinbo article, but I believe this is it. Here is additional coverage in the JoongAng Ilbo and KBS.

UPDATE 2 (2015-1-26): The Choson Sinbo published an article called “Construction of economy based on the parallel pursuit of economic development and nuclear armament /병진로선에 기초한 경제건설/사회과학원 연구사가 말하는 《현장의 변화》”. A respected colleague has translated the parts related to the “May 30 Measures” and the earlier “June 28 Agriculture Measures” below:

Professor Ri Ki-song [economic research laboratory of the Academy of Social Science] also mentioned that the “Our style economic management /우리 식 경제관리방법의 확립”, which is receiving attention from other countries, also promptly meets the needs of today in terms of North Korea’s earnest strive for economic revival in a peaceful environment.

“At the end of 2011, our supreme leader Kim Jong Un gave guidance on the direction of North Korea. Scholars and workers of the economic field have examined the improvement proposals and broadened its implementations after demonstrative introductions in some units. Last May, our supreme leader also clarified the principle problems concerning ‘Our style economic management methods’.”

According to the professor there are three “clarified principles”. First is accomplishing government’s unified guidance and strategic administration in the economy sector. Second, properly accomplishing responsibility management system of socialist companies in factories, corporations and collective organizations and lastly guaranteeing the party’s leadership in economic business while also firmly promoting political business.

In the meantime, the parliamentary cabinet system along with the parliamentary center system of North Korea has been strengthened and a series of rights (programming rights, organization of production rights, development of products rights, labor management rights, financial rights, joint cooperation rights, etc.) that enable all enterprises to actively and emergently lead business activities, have been readjusted.

During the past 2 years, production has increased in many business entities that accordingly brought on a rise in employees’ standard of living. There were many cases that guaranteed much higher living expanses than previous also in the suburban factories that Professor Ri had visited. There was significant increase especially in units that produced exports such as the Rakwon Machine Complex Enterprise.

In collective farms, a system within the work team management, which makes the farmers take responsibility for their assigned fields, interconnected with the farmers’ enthusiasm for produce and increase in grain production was seen as a result.

Professor Ri pointed out that “there are objective conditions that enable ‘the method that makes farmers take responsibility for the farming of their assigned field’ to be effective”.

“One is establishing a financial basis for agriculture. That is, the nationwide land readjustment program and organization of the natural flowing waterway that were realized in the 20th century by the order of our supreme leader Kim Jong Un. Other is the increase of national investments in the agriculture sector following the parallel pursuit of economic development and nuclear armament of the Kim Jong Un era.

Farmers in collective farms also received increased shares of agriculture produces according to the work done.

So this article sets up the narrative that Kim Jong-un launched the process for establishing new management measures in 2011.

UPDATE 1 (2015-1-15): According to the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES):

In a January 8, 2015 article publish by the Choson Sinbo (a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan), the North Korean economy was described as a “flexible collectivist system,” adding that “Choson’s (North Korea’s) socialist economy promotes the establishment of a collectivist system that can flexibly respond to the current development.”

The news article explicated that this system is “under the plan and unified guidance of the state which guarantees the socialist enterprises to achieve economic development through ensuring active and evolutionary actions.” This hints at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s plans to continually promote a somewhat relaxed socialist planned economy in the future.

Since Kim Jong Un came to power, his regime has taken action to change the management structure and expand the autonomy (and incentives) of enterprises and farms, inter alia. Such changes can be interpreted as North Korea’s moves to highlight the flexibility of the system and the independent actions of economic agents.

The Choson Sinbo article continued: “By adhering to socialist ownership and strictly following objective economic laws in economic guidance and management, rational and just economic space will be created.” It added that “the ultimate conclusion in the establishment of our-style of economic management system is the improvement of people’s living standards.”

According to the article, “Kim Jong Un announced a historic measure regarding the establishment of ‘our-style economic management method’ in May 2014.” This seems to confirm that the recent economic policy announced in North Korea was headed by Kim Jong Un. (Note that in his 2015 New Year Address, Kim Jong Un also emphasized the need for the Cabinet, state, and Party organizations to “make proactive efforts to establish the economic management method of our style,” suggesting it as an important task of 2015.)

Until now, there was only speculation that North Korea had plans to expand elements of the market economy and widen the scope of the policy target. The speculation was based on last year’s announced ‘May 30th Measures’, the details of which were vaguely known. However, this recent article by Choson Sinbo seems to support the certainty of this policy.

The newspaper further elaborated the importance of North Korea’s ‘parallel policy of nuclear and economic development’, but also emphasized the regime’s focus on improving people’s living standards through the “defense industry’s lead to develop the science and technology sector and introduce its achievements to the economic sector associated with people’s livelihoods.”

In regards to the recent US sanctions against the DPRK following the Sony Pictures hacking incident, the news article explained that North Korea was embarking on a variety of strategies — such as seeking multifarious development of foreign economic relations, realizing various trade transactions, increasing the ratio of domestic goods (versus imported goods) of raw materials and equipment — in order to minimize the impact of the US sanctions against the DPRK economy.

The news article concluded that North Korea is not likely to give up its current ‘parallel policy’, despite the foreign threats. Rather, in response to the threats, the DPRK is developing existing foundations of the self-supporting economy in order to be self-sufficient in raw materials and equipment and improve the ratio of domestic goods to imported goods.

ORIGINAL POST (2015-1-15): I was on holiday break when all of the discussion on the “May 30 Measures (5.30조치)” broke out on the internet, so I am getting a late start to this.

First there were two reports (both in Korean) that apparently discuss new “May 30 Measures”. One report is by the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) and the second is by the Hyundai Research Institute. I will see if I can get these translated (the key parts anyway).

In the meantime, here is a summary that appeared in Yonhap (2014-11-30):

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un regime may announce a new policy vision for politics and the economy next year as the country intensifies efforts to open up a new era of the new leader, a report by a local institute showed Sunday.

“There is a possibility that North Korea may propose a new set of governing norms and power structures as it opens up the era of Kim Jong-un next year, in which the three-year mourning period for (late leader) Chairman Kim Jong-il will have been ended,” said the report by the Institute for Eastern Studies at the Kyungnam University.

“(The country) could suggest a new power structure that suits the Kim Jong-un epoch as the National Defense Commission system was (introduced) for the Kim Jong-il era and the premier system for the Kim Il-sung era,” according to the report.

On the economic front, the North is expected to push to legalize a set of new economic measures the country has experimented with in recent years, the report said, adding homegrown market forces have been pressing for economic reform.

“North Korea’s efforts to lure in foreign investment to its special economic and economic development zones may continue into the (following years),” it noted.

Andrei Lankov commented on the new economic measures mentioned in the two reports–implying that these measures are built on the success of the June 28 (6.28) Measures–with management changes in store for the agricultural and enterprise sectors of the economy. Writing in Al Jazeera, he noted:

This time, the big news is indeed a decision, the so-called “May 30th Measures”, jointly issued early this year by the North Korean cabinet of ministers and the Central Committee of the Korean Worker’s Party. This decision was initially classified, but because it was supposed to be read by so many people, its contents have become public knowledge.

The contents are revolutionary. It seems that, at long last, North Korea has decided to begin Chinese-style reforms. Marshal Kim Jong-un is obviously inclined to do what his late father, Generalissimo Kim Jong Il, was too afraid to, that is, to attempt to transform his country into a developmental dictatorship, largely similar to present-day Vietnam or China.

This decision did not come out of the blue. Indeed, it agrees very well with what Kim Jong Un and his advisers have quietly been doing over the last three years – albeit the slow-motion transformation of the country has attracted little attention from outside world.

The first significant step was the introduction of the so-called “June 28th Measures”. These measures were introduced in 2012, but only became fully into force in 2013. While on paper, they did not look that ground-breaking, they represent a sweeping reform of agricultural management in the North.

The “June 28th Measures” allowed North Korean farmers to create their own production teams of five or six people. It was not explicitly stated, but it was a signal that individual households should register as “production teams”. Such teams were given a plot of land, the assumption being that they would toil the same area for several consecutive years. The land technically remained under the jurisdiction of the state-owned and state-managed “collective farm”, but the produce would henceforth be split 70:30 between the state and the production team (ie the family). Up until then, North Korean production teams had been much larger, and all produce had to be submitted to the state in exchange for a fixed daily grain ration that was allocated to every farmer.

Given the precedent in agriculture, the “May 30th Measures” are not quite as surprising as they may first appear, though they are indeed truly radical by the standards of North Korea before 2013.

According to these measures, from 2015, North Korean farming households (for ideological purposes still branded “production teams”) will be allocated not 30 percent but 60 percent of the total harvest.

Additionally, farming households will be given large plots of land – some 3,300sq m – to act as their kitchen gardens. Until now, North Korea, unlike nearly all other communist states, never tolerated private agriculture to any significant degree, and thus, for decades, kitchen gardens were limited to a meagre 100sq m.

The measures did not stop there, though. This time the North Korean leadership has set its sights on reforming the moribund and hollowed out state industrial sector. According to the reforms, directors of state factories will find themselves covered by a new “director responsibility system”. This system makes a director, hitherto state-appointed and carefully supervised representative of the party and state, into the approximate equivalent of a private businessman (factory managers in North Korea are almost always men). Under the new system, factory directors will have the freedom to decide how, when and where they purchase technologies, raw materials and spare parts necessary for their enterprises. They will also be allowed to decide who to sell to. They are also given the right to hire and fire workers, as well as to decide how much to pay for a particular job.

Under the new system, there is a tacit assumption that directors will be able to reward themselves generously for their own work – a feature that makes them virtually indistinguishable from private entrepreneurs in market economies. As a matter of fact, a few foreign delegations that recently visited North Korea were privately briefed about coming changes.

Lankov also wrote a similar article for the New York Times:

A new set of market-oriented reforms adopted by the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party and by the cabinet of ministers on May 30, 2014, appears to aim to liberalize the economy as a whole. The content of this classified economic policy document was first partially leaked to the South Korean daily Segye Ilbo in June. Later it was confirmed by many sources and is now widely discussed by Pyongyang watchers.

The “May 30 Measures,” as they’ve come to be known, envision the significant reduction of state control of the economy and a dismantling of central planning. Managers of state enterprises will be allowed to purchase items on a free market, making deals with other enterprises or even private businesses. They will be given the right to fire and hire workers, and pay them as much as they want.

At coal mines near the border with China, where the new “system of managerial responsibility” has been tested since late 2013, the best miners may now receive up to $70 a month, an exorbitant wage for the North.

Mr. Kim has also left untouched the unofficial private economy, which began to grow in the 1990s and now contributes significantly to North Korea’s tiny G.D.P., as much as 50 percent by some estimates. This economy of small businesses like food stalls, bicycle repair shops and truck deliveries, as well as larger ones like small coal mines and fishing companies, has never been explicitly accepted by the government. But since Mr. Kim’s ascension, officials have left this gray market alone.

The agricultural reforms are already bearing fruit. In 2013, the country enjoyed the best harvest in decades when — in a first since the 1980s — it produced nearly enough food to feed its population on a subsistence level.

Choson Exchange also offered some helpful comments from the Hyundai paper.

These items are probably also related:

1. Economic Management Improvement Measures – changes after one year (IFES, 2014-4-11)

2. North Korea’s ‘New Economic Management System’: Main Features and Problems (Korea Focus, Park Hyeong-jung)

3. Recent DPRK wage increases / economic management changes

4. Recent information on implementation of economic adjustment policies

5. “Securing economic profit,” fundamental to economic management (IFES 2014-10-31)

6. North Korea’s evaluation of its 2013 economic policy

7. Worker’s Party sets up Economy Department

8. North Korea making visible progress towards economic reforms

9. DPRK altering Commercial Distribution system

10. Kim Jong-un’s directions on improving economic management

11. Miners Fail to See Promised Salary Bump (Musan Mine)

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Concentration on economic construction based on nuclear deterrance

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2013-5-9

The official mouthpiece of the (North) Korean Worker’s Party, Rodong Sinmun, claimed on May 3, 2013 that the key to rapid economic growth was to concentrate on economic construction based on the country’s foundation as a powerful nuclear state and obtaining a powerful nuclear deterrent.

On the same day, it ran an editorial entitled “Our Party Line of Economic Construction and Nuclear Weapons Development Is Permanent”, which claimed that “as demonstrated throughout history, the greatest path to economic construction is developing a reliable nuclear deterrent.”

While this is a restatement of the nuclear weapons development and economic construction plan adopted on March 31 at a plenary session of the Party’s Central Committee, it also indicates that in the future North Korea may focus on capital investment in the economic sector.

The editorial mentioned the importance of developing the nuclear energy industry, uranium resources, and the knowledge and skills of North Korea’s nuclear technicians. It also mentioned that “Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il provided us with a robust nuclear energy industry and we possess both inexhaustible supplies of uranium and world-renowned nuclear technicians.” The article also claimed that “the Party’s policy is based on our sovereign right to nuclear power and while developing nuclear weapons, the Party aims to address the issue of insufficient electric power.” This can be seen as an indication that North Korea intends to make use of its nuclear technology in solving its electricity woes.

In respect to the current political situation on the Korean peninsula, the editorial commented, “the current state of affairs in the future is dependent on the attitudes of the enemy that could take a turn toward a nuclear war or appeasement.” It denounced the United States, saying that “whether it adopts a hard line or appeasement policy, its nefarious attitude toward our republic, contriving the collapse of the regime remains unchanged.”

It claimed the only solution to alleviate the tension on the Korean peninsula and to improve relations with the South was through reinforcement of nuclear power and economy which can “ultimately terminate the schemes of the external powers and accelerate our nation’s long-cherished wish of national reunification.”

The principle of self-reliance was named as the imperative strategy to engender major revolution and growth and encouraged “all sectors, ranging from the Workers’ Party to business administration, education, literature and arts, must establish innovative and effective ways that meet the realistic demands of development and overcome schemas and rigidity.”

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2013 plenary meeting of WPK Central Committee and 7th session of Supreme People’s Assembly

Monday, April 1st, 2013

On March 31, KCNA reported on the recent plenary meeting of the Korean Worker’s Party:

The historic March, 2013 plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea took place at the building of the WPK Central Committee, supreme staff of the Korean revolution, on Sunday.

First Secretary of the WPK Kim Jong Un guided the meeting.

Present at the meeting were members and alternate members of the WPK Central Committee and members of the Central Auditing Commission of the WPK.

Present there as observers were senior officials of ministries, national institutions, provincial, city and county committees of the WPK, complexes, major munitions factories and enterprises.

The participants paid silent tribute to President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il.

Taken up for discussion at the meeting were the following agenda items “1. On tasks of our Party on bringing about a decisive turn in accomplishing revolutionary cause of Juche as required by the present situation and the developing revolution”, “2. On personnel affairs issue to be submitted to the 7th Session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly” and “3. On organizational matter”.

Kim Jong Un made a report and concluding speech on the first agenda item.

The plenary meeting set forth a new strategic line on carrying out economic construction and building nuclear armed forces simultaneously under the prevailing situation and to meet the legitimate requirement of the developing revolution.

This line is a brilliant succession and development onto a new higher stage of the original line of simultaneously developing economy and national defence that was set forth and had been fully embodied by the great Generalissimos.

It was stressed at the meeting that the party’s new line is not a temporary countermeasure for coping with the rapidly changing situation but a strategic line to be always held fast to, in the supreme interests of the Korean revolution.

The nuclear weapons of Songun Korea are not goods for getting U.S. dollars and they are neither a political bargaining chip nor a thing for economic dealings to be presented to the place of dialogue or be put on the table of negotiations aimed at forcing the DPRK to disarm itself.

The DPRK’s nuclear armed forces represent the nation’s life which can never be abandoned as long as the imperialists and nuclear threats exist on earth. They are a treasure of a reunified country which can never be traded with billions of dollars.

Only when the nuclear shield for self-defence is held fast, will it be possible to shatter the U.S. imperialists’ ambition for annexing the Korean Peninsula by force and making the Korean people modern slaves, firmly defend our ideology, social system and all other socialist treasures won at the cost of blood and safeguard the nation’s right to existence and its time-honored history and brilliant culture.

When the party’s new line is thoroughly carried out, the DPRK will emerge as a great political, military and socialist economic power and a highly-civilized country which steers the era of independence.

The meeting set forth tasks for carrying out the new line and ways for doing so.

All the officials, party members and other people should wage bold offensive and all-people decisive battle with faith in sure victory and strong determination and thus make the flame of miracle and innovation sweep all fields of national economy.

The pilot fields of the national economy, the basic industrial fields should be drastically developed and production be increased to the maximum. Forces should be directed to agriculture and light industry, key fields in building an economic power to improve and put on a stable basis the people’s living standard at the earliest possible date.

The self-reliant nuclear power industry should be developed and the work for developing light water reactor be dynamically promoted to actively contribute to easing the strain on the electricity problem of the country.

Spurs should be given to the development of space science and technology and more advanced satellites including communications satellites be developed and launched.

The country’s economy should be shifted into knowledge-based economy and the foreign trade be made multilateral and diversified and investment be widely introduced.

The economic guidance shall be fundamentally improved as required by the new situation and Korean-style advantageous economic management methods be completed by embodying the Juche idea.

The DPRK’s possession of nukes should be fixed by law and the nuclear armed forces should be expanded and beefed up qualitatively and quantitatively until the denuclearization of the world is realized.

The People’s Army should perfect the war method and operation in the direction of raising the pivotal role of the nuclear armed forces in all aspects concerning the war deterrence and the war strategy, and the nuclear armed forces should always round off the combat posture.

As a responsible nuclear weapons state, the DPRK will make positive efforts to prevent the nuclear proliferation, ensure peace and security in Asia and the rest of the world and realize the denuclearization of the world.

Institutions in charge of security and safeguard, judicial and prosecution and people’s security and the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces should resolutely foil the vicious moves of the imperialist reactionaries and class enemies, devotedly defend the party, social system and people and surely guarantee the new line of the party with arms and by law.

The party and working people’s organizations and power bodies should increase their militant function and role in every way in the struggle for implementing the party’s line.

The meeting entrusted the Presidium of the SPA and the Cabinet with the matters of taking legal, administrative and technical measures for implementing the tasks.

At the meeting a decision on the first agenda item “On carrying out economic construction and building nuclear armed forces simultaneously and thus bringing earlier the final victory in the cause of building a thriving socialist nation” was adopted with unanimous approval.

The second agenda item, personal affairs issue to be submitted to the 7th Session of the 12th SPA, was discussed and decided at the meeting.

The meeting also dealt with an organizational matter, its third agenda item.

Members of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee, members and alternate members of the Political Bureau were recalled and new ones were elected to fill vacancies.

Pak Pong Ju was elected to fill a vacancy of a member of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee.

Hyon Yong Chol, Kim Kyok Sik and Choe Pu Il were elected to fill vacancies of alternate members of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee.

Members and alternate members of the WPK Central Committee were recalled and new ones were elected to fill vacancies.

Upon authorization of Kim Jong Un, Paek Kye Ryong was appointed as director of the Light Industrial Department of the WPK Central Committee and Yun U Chol as editor-in-chief of Rodong Sinmun, organ of the WPK Central Committee.

Members of the Central Auditing Commission of the WPK were also recalled and new ones were elected to fill vacancies.

Here is a video of Kim Jong-un’s speech:

Here is a transcript of the speech in English.

The strategy of pursuing both economic development and nuclear power was highlighted in both the DPRK and international media: Pyongyang Times, Joong Ang Ilbo, New York Times, Yonhap, Choson Ilbo.

Here is analysis from IFES:

Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea Stresses Development of Agricultural, Light, and Nuclear Industries
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2013-4-4

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on March 31 that a plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea was held. At the meeting, a new strategic line was announced to have been set, which called for building a stronger economy and nuclear arsenal. This meeting is drawing attention as it is suspected that Pyongyang will pursue a new economic policy.

The news described the new strategic line as, “most revolutionary and people oriented policy for the construction of a powerful socialist nation by consolidating defense capacity through development of defensive nuclear weapons and economic construction.”

It stressed that this policy is significant as a “creative and parallel policy for defense and economy continuing the policies of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, which must be adopted as a permanent strategy.”

At the plenary meeting, the main agendas for the parallel policy of economy and defense were announced as: 1) Improvement of the production of people’s economy and capacity enhancement for agricultural and light industries to stabilize prices to improve the lives of the people; 2) development of self-reliant nuclear power industry and light water reactors; 3) development and launch of more satellites including communication satellites through advancement in space science and technology; 4) transition to knowledge economy and diversification of foreign trade to vitalize foreign investments; and 5) establish legislation to be recognized as a nuclear state and develop nuclear arsenal both in quantity and quality until denuclearization is realized worldwide.

At the plenary, the new parallel policy was commended, “The supremacy of the policy is demonstrated by expanding capability in war deterrence and national defense without increasing defense budget and enabled concentration on economic development and improvement of the lives of the people.”

The statement released by the KCNA stated that the plenary meeting’s emphasis on transition to knowledge economy and diversification of foreign trade as the main tasks and appears to be pursuing a “fundamental improvement in economic leadership.”

In addition, the plenary assigned the presidium of the Supreme Peoples’ Assembly and the Cabinet to serve as the economic control tower to oversee the future projects decided at the plenary meeting.

North Korea is continuing to place emphasis on light and agricultural industries. The Kim Jong Un regime entered its second year. The leader was reported to have attended the light industry conference, which was held for the first time in ten years and underscored the importance of concentrating on development of the capacity of light industry.

The new Korean line, 병진 (Pyongjin, Byungjin) is the simultaneous development of nuclear weapons and the economy. Learn more about it here.

Following the central committee plenary meeting, the 7th Session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly was held. According to KCNA:

The Seventh Session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) of the DPRK took place at the Mansudae Assembly Hall Monday.

Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, first chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, was present at the session.

Present there were deputies to the SPA.

Also present there as observers were officials of party, armed forces and power bodies, public organizations, ministries and national institutions and those in the fields of science, education, literature and art, public health and media.

All the participants observed a moment’s silence in memory of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il in humblest reverence.

The session decided the following agenda items of the Seventh Session of the 12th SPA of the DPRK:

1. On amending and supplementing some contents of the Socialist Constitution of the DPRK

2. On adopting the DPRK Law on the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun

3. On adopting the ordinance of the SPA of the DPRK “On Consolidating the Position of Nuclear Weapons State for Self-Defence”

4. On adopting the DPRK Law on Developing Space

5. On adopting the decision of the SPA of the DPRK “On Setting up the DPRK State Space Development Bureau”

6. On the work of the DPRK Cabinet for Juche 101 (2012) and its tasks for Juche 102 (2013)

7. On the review of the fulfillment of the DPRK’s state budget for Juche 101 (2012) and state budget for Juche 102 (2013)

8. Organizational matter

The session discussed the first and second agenda items.

Deputy Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the DPRK SPA, made a report on amendment and supplement to some contents of the Socialist Constitution of the DPRK and on adopting the law on the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun.

Then followed speeches on the first and second agenda items.

Deputy Kim Ki Nam, secretary of the WPK Central Committee, spoke on behalf of the WPK, Deputy Choe Ryong Hae, director of the General Political Bureau of the KPA, on behalf of the KPA and Deputy Jon Yong Nam, chairman of the C.C., the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League, on behalf of the youth.

The speakers fully supported and approved of deliberation and adoption of the draft amendment and supplement to the Socialist Constitution of the DPRK and the law on the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun at the current SPA session reflecting the unanimous feelings of all party members, service personnel and youth across the country.

The ordinances of the SPA of the DPRK “On Amending and Supplementing Some Contents of the Socialist Constitution of the DPRK” and “On Adopting the DPRK Law on the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun” were adopted at the session with the approval of all deputies.

The session discussed the third, fourth and fifth agenda items.

The ordinances of the SPA of the DPRK “On Consolidating the Position of Nuclear Weapons State for Self-Defence” and “On Adopting the DPRK Law on Developing Space” and the decision of the SPA of the DPRK “On Setting Up the DPRK State Space Development Bureau” were adopted at the session with the approval of all deputies.

Deputy Choe Yong Rim, premier of the Cabinet, made a report on the sixth agenda item.

Deputy Choe Kwang Jin, minister of Finance, made a report on the seventh agenda item.

Then followed speeches on the sixth and seventh agenda items. Written speeches were presented at the session.

The speakers noted that the Cabinet work and the fulfillment of the state budget for last year were correctly reviewed and summed up, clear tasks of the Cabinet were set forth to meet the requirements of the general offensive to open an epochal phase in building an economic power at the final stage of the all-out action against the U.S. and the state budget was correctly shaped. They expressed full support and approval of them.

They expressed their determination to reenergize the overall economy of the country, step up the grand advance for improving the standard of people’s living to make loud shouts of hurrah for the Workers’ Party and socialism heard this year marking the 65th anniversary of the DPRK and the 60th anniversary of the victory in the Fatherland Liberation War, true to the historic New Year Address of Kim Jong Un and the decision of the March, 2013 plenary meeting of the WPK Central Committee.

The decision of the SPA of the DPRK “On Approval of the Report on the Work of the DPRK Cabinet and the Review of the Fulfillment of the State Budget for Juche 101 (2012)” and the ordinance of the SPA of the DPRK “On the DPRK’s State Budget for Juche 102 (2013)” were adopted at the session with the approval of all deputies.

The session discussed the organizational matter.

At the session Deputy Choe Yong Rim was recalled from the post of premier of the DPRK Cabinet and Deputy Pak Pong Ju was elected premier of the DPRK Cabinet at the proposal of the WPK Central Committee.

Choe Yong Rim was elected honorary vice-president of the Presidium of the DPRK SPA.

Deputies Kim Jong Gak and Ri Myong Su were recalled from the posts of member of the DPRK National Defence Commission (NDC) due to the transfer to other jobs.

Deputies Kim Kyok Sik and Choe Pu Il were elected members of the DPRK NDC to fill vacancies at the proposal of the WPK Central Committee and the WPK Central Military Commission.

Deputy Thae Hyong Chol was recalled from the post of secretary general of the Presidium of the DPRK SPA and Deputy Hong Son Ok was elected secretary general of the Presidium of the DPRK SPA.

Some members of the Cabinet were relieved of their posts and appointed at the session.

Deputy Pak Pong Ju, premier of the DPRK Cabinet, took an oath at the SPA.

Michael Madden does a great job summarizing the personnel changes made at the party and SPA in this 38 North piece.

The elevation of Pak Pong-ju received much attention in the west: Daily NK, Washington Post, Yonhap, Reuters,

KCNA also issued several reports that stemmed from the SPA meeting:

Report on Adopting Draft Amendment and Supplement to Socialist Constitution and Law on Kumsusan Palace of Sun

Pyongyang, April 1 (KCNA) — Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, made a report on adopting the draft amendment and supplement to the Socialist Constitution of the DPRK and the law on the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun.

According to the report, the draft amendment and supplement to the Socialist Constitution and the law on the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun to be submitted to the session for discussion will legalize the plan and intention of the Workers’ Party of Korea to fix by law the shining achievements made in accomplishing the cause of perpetuating the memory of the leaders and complete it on a new higher stage.

To be supplemented to the preface of the Socialist Constitution is the sentence which says that the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun where President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il lie in state is a grand edifice for the immortality of the leaders, a symbol of the dignity of the whole Korean nation and its eternal sacred temple.

The law on the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun specifies that its noble mission is to preserve and glorify forever the palace, which is the supreme temple of Juche, as the eternal temple of the sun of the entire Korean nation.

The law stipulates that Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il will be held in high esteem forever as in their lifetime at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun and that it is the obligation of all the Koreans to regard the Palace as a symbol of dignity and a great pride of the nation.

It also specifies the state duty to spruce up the Palace in a sublime and perfect way with the state, all-people and nationwide efforts and devotedly safeguard the Palace in every way so that no one can violate.

Also stipulated in the law are matters for carrying out the work of eternally preserving the Palace as the most important state work with consistency, organizing the committee for the eternal preservation of the Palace and preserving for photos, train coaches, cars, boat and other relics and orders which represent the noble lives of the great Generalissimos.

Orders were also set so that Korean people, overseas Koreans and foreigners can pay respects to the great Generalissimos at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun.

Also mentioned in the law are the matters of establishment of special sanctuary of the Palace for its protection and management as well as the management of buildings in the premise of the palace, park, arboretum, outdoor lighting and lighting facilities and orders concerning the operation of the plaza and the park of the Palace.

It was specified in the law that electricity, facilities, materials and other supplies needed for the Palace shall be planned separately and be provided without fail on a top priority basis. The law also set the duty to be fulfilled by relevant institutions to strictly supervise and control on a regular basis the work for safeguarding, eternally preserving and providing the conditions for the management and operation of the Palace.

The reporter said that the law on the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun is the unique code for the immortality of the leaders, adding that it is the biggest honor for the army and people of the DPRK to have the legal weapon for the immortality of the leaders.

The adoption of the law will serve as a historic occasion for defending and further glorifying the idea on perpetuating the memory of the leaders clarified by the dear respected Kim Jong Un, he stressed.

The reporter said that the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK submits the draft amendment and supplement to the Socialist Constitution and the draft law on the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun to the SPA session for discussion according to Article 95 of the Socialist Constitution.

And…

DPRK’s Law on Kumsusan Palace of Sun Adopted

Pyongyang, April 1 (KCNA) — The DPRK’s Law on the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun was adopted.

The ordinance of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly on it was promulgated Monday.

The Kumsusan Palace of the Sun where President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il lie in state is the
eternal temple of the sun of the whole Korean nation.

The ordinance says that the SPA decides to adopt this law to eternally preserve and glorify forever the
Kumsusan Palace of the Sun as a grand edifice for the immortality of the leaders symbolic of Kim Il Sung’s and Kim Jong Il’s Korea.

And…

Law on Consolidating Position of Nuclear Weapons State Adopted

Pyongyang, April 1 (KCNA) — A law on consolidating the position of nuclear weapons state for self-defence was adopted in the DPRK.

An ordinance of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK in this regard was promulgated on Monday.

The ordinance said as follows:

The DPRK is a full-fledged nuclear weapons state capable of beating back any aggressor troops at one strike, firmly defending the socialist system and providing a sure guarantee for the happy life of the people.

Having an independent and just nuclear force, the DPRK put an end to the distress-torn history in which it was subject to outside forces’ aggression and interference and could emerge a socialist power of Juche which no one dares provoke.

The Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK decides to consolidate the position of the nuclear weapons state as follows:

1. The nuclear weapons of the DPRK are just means for defence as it was compelled to have access to them to cope with the ever-escalating hostile policy of the U.S. and nuclear threat.

2. They serve the purpose of deterring and repelling the aggression and attack of the enemy against the DPRK and dealing deadly retaliatory blows at the strongholds of aggression until the world is denuclearized.

3. The DPRK shall take practical steps to bolster up the nuclear deterrence and nuclear retaliatory strike power both in quality and quantity to cope with the gravity of the escalating danger of the hostile forces’ aggression and attack.

4. The nuclear weapons of the DPRK can be used only by a final order of the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army to repel invasion or attack from a hostile nuclear weapons state and make retaliatory strikes.

5. The DPRK shall neither use nukes against the non-nuclear states nor threaten them with those weapons unless they join a hostile nuclear weapons state in its invasion and attack on the DPRK.

6. The DPRK shall strictly observe the rules on safekeeping and management of nukes and ensuring the stability of nuclear tests.

7. The DPRK shall establish a mechanism and order for their safekeeping and management so that nukes and their technology, weapon-grade nuclear substance may not leak out illegally.

8. The DPRK shall cooperate in the international efforts for nuclear non-proliferation and safe management of nuclear substance on the principle of mutual respect and equality, depending on the improvement of relations with hostile nuclear weapons states.

9. The DPRK shall strive hard to defuse the danger of a nuclear war and finally build a world without nukes and fully support the international efforts for nuclear disarmament against nuclear arms race.

10. The related institutions shall take thorough practical steps for implementing this ordinance.

And…

DPRK Law on Developing Space Adopted

Pyongyang, April 1 (KCNA) — The Law on Developing Space was adopted in the DPRK.

The ordinance of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly on it was promulgated Monday.

And…

DPRK SPA Decides to Set Up State Space Development Bureau

Pyongyang, April 1 (KCNA) — The DPRK decided to set up the State Space Development Bureau.

The decision of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) of the DPRK promulgated on Monday said:

The DPRK is a full-fledged satellite manufacturer and launcher.

It is an invariable stand of the DPRK to develop the country into a world-class space power by exercising its legitimate right to space development for peaceful purposes.

To step up economic construction and improve the people’s standard of living by radically developing the space science and technology of the country and guide and manage all the space activities of the DPRK in a uniform way, the SPA decides as follows:

1. The DPRK State Space Development Bureau shall be set up.

2. The bureau is a state central institution which guides and manages the supervision and control over the working out of a space development program and its implementation and space development work in a uniform way.

3. The Cabinet of the DPRK and other institutions concerned shall take practical measures to implement this decision.

And…

Work of Cabinet for Last Year and Tasks for This Year

Pyongyang, April 1 (KCNA) — At the 7th Session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly held on Monday, Deputy and Premier Choe Yong Rim made a report on the last year’s work of the DPRK Cabinet and this year’s tasks.

According to the report, last year electricity and coal production and the volume of railway freight transport increased amid the endeavors to shore up the four pilot fields of the national economy. Increase was also made in the production of a variety of industrial goods, the report said, and went on:

The Kumsusan Palace of the Sun was remodeled to be the supreme temple of Juche, the National Gifts Exhibition House, Pyongyang Folklore Park, Changjon Street, Rungna People’s Pleasure Park and other big edifices in the era of Songun have been built.

Big industrial projects such as the Huichon Power Station, Tanchon Port, Taedonggang Building Materials Factory were completed and technological updating and modernization of major factories and enterprises in the field of metal, machine, chemical and light industries have been pushed forward, consolidating the material and technological foundation of the national economy.

Satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2 was successfully manufactured and launched and the third underground nuclear test by the use of smaller and lighter A-bomb of great explosive power was successfully conducted.

The bases for the production of cutting-edge technical goods were built and projects for the development of science and technology have been successfully carried out and the modernization of the information and communications field have been stepped up.

A law on the enforcement of the universal 12-year compulsory education was promulgated. This paved a wide avenue for consolidating the socialist education system and raising the quality of education.

In the field of health care, a telemedicine service has been successfully introduced. The DPRK’s players glorified the honor of the country at major international sports events including the 30th Olympic Games and other signal achievements were made in the field of cultural construction.

The reporter said that this year’s tasks are to realize at an early date the lifetime desire of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il, who devoted their whole lives to putting the country’s economy on the level of a prosperous and powerful country and to making the people live with no more to desire in the world.

According to the report, this year the Cabinet will organize the economic work with a main emphasis on solving issues arising in the people’s living by shoring up the pilot fields, the basic industrial field, consolidating the springboard for building an economic power and concentrating all efforts on agriculture and light industry while regarding coal industry and metal industry as key fields.

It is necessary to increase the production of coal.

Technological updating and modernization of iron works and steel works will be stepped up while improving the bases for the production of Juche iron which have already been built in the field of metal industry. Strict measures for supplying raw materials and fuel should be taken to increase the production of rolled steel more than 3.5 times as compared with last year and thus meet the need for steel.

The field of railway transport will ease strain on transport by consolidating the material and technical foundation of railways.

The grain production plan for this year should be carried out without condition.

The whole country should make efforts for the reclamation of Sepho Tideland and the construction of stock-breeding bases and thus complete the creation of grassland within this year.

The production should be put at a high rate at major chemical factories and the percentage of locally available raw materials should be significantly increased. The production at mines, factories and enterprises in Tanchon area should be increased and exports be boosted to ensure in a responsible manner funds for improving the people’s living standard.

Big efforts should be directed to the construction of dwelling houses. Wonsan area should turn into a world-level resort and tourist destination and living environment and conditions be improved in provinces, cities and counties.

The state investment in the field of science and technology should be increased and the flame of industrial revolution in the new century be raised so as to bring about a decisive turn in building an economic power by dint of science and technology.

Ultra-modern technological goods of high competitiveness should be massively researched and developed. Scientific and technological issues arising in the technological updating and modernization of the national economy should be satisfactorily solved.

The state investment will be increased in education and the preparations for enforcing the universal 12-year compulsory education system be rounded off within this year and fresh progress be made in education, public health, literature, arts, sports and all other fields of cultural construction.

All the fields and units of the national economy should build under a long-term plan export bases for producing second-stage and third-stage processed goods and finished goods of high competitiveness at international markets by relying on locally available resources and indigenous technology. Latest scientific and technological achievements should be positively introduced to increase the varieties of exports and remarkably raise their quality.

Trade should be made diversified and multilateral while conducting a variety of trade activities. The joint venture and collaboration should be actively promoted and the work for setting up economic development zones be pushed forward.

And…

Review of Fulfillment of State Budget for Last Year and State Budget for This Year

Pyongyang, April 1 (KCNA) — Deputy Choe Kwang Jin, minister of Finance, made a report on the review of the fulfillment of state budget for last year and the state budget for this year at the 7th Session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly held on Monday.

According to the report, the state budgetary revenue last year was over-fulfilled by 1.3 percent, an increase of 10.1 percent over the previous year.

The plan for local budgetary revenue was carried out at 113.8 percent.

The state budgetary expenditure was implemented at 99.6 percent, an increase of 9.7 percent over that in the previous year.

44.8 percent of the total state budgetary expenditure for the economic development and improvement of people’s living standard was used for funding the building of edifices to be presented to the 100th birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung, the consolidation of the material and technological foundation of Juche-based, modern and self-supporting economy and the work for face-lifting the country.

38.9 percent of total expenditure was spent for enforcing popular policies and measures for social culture under socialism such as the universal free compulsory education system, free healthcare, social insurance and social security, recuperation and relaxation systems as well as those for development of literature and art and building of a sports power.

Some of the total state budgetary expenditure went to national defence.

According to the report, this year’s state budgetary revenue and expenditure have been shaped in such a way as keeping the overall economy afloat and bringing about a decisive turn in stabilizing and improving the standard of people’s living.

The state budgetary revenue is expected to increase 4.1 percent over that last year.

Out of this, the transaction tax, main source of budgetary revenue, is expected to grow 3.5 percent, the revenue from the profits of state enterprises 6 percent, revenue from the profits of cooperative enterprises 5.3 percent, the revenue from the depreciation 2.8 percent and revenue from real estate rent 3.4 percent.

In the total state budgetary revenue, national budgetary revenue will account for 83 percent and local budgetary revenue 17 percent.

Provinces, cities and counties are envisaged to ensure expenditure with local import and put a huge amount of fund into national budget.

The state budgetary expenditure is expected to grow 5.9 percent over last year.

It was decided to increase expenditure in the field of coal, electricity, metal and railway transport 7.2 percent, the field of agriculture and light industry 5.1 percent, basic investment in capital construction and big overhaul 5.8 percent, the field of science and technology 6.7 percent, the field of education 6.8 percent, the field of public health 5.4 percent, the field of social insurance and security 3.7 percent, the field of sports 6.1 percent and the field of culture 2.2 percent.

Some of the total state budgetary expenditure will go for national defence.

A large amount of educational aid fund and stipends will be sent for the education of Korean children in Japan to promote the development of the democratic national education of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan.

The reporter called for working hard to glorify this significant year marking the 65th anniversary of the DPRK and the 60th anniversary of the victory in the Fatherland Liberation War as a year of gigantic creation and innovations, in hearty response to the historic New Year Address by Kim Jong Un and the decision made at the March, 2013 plenary meeting of the WPK Central Committee.

Here is what Yonhap had to say about the DPRK’s defense budget:

North Korea is expected to spend 16 percent of its budget on national defense in 2013, up 0.2 percentage point from the year before, the country’s state media said Tuesday.

According to the Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, Finance Minister Choe Kwang-jin reported to a meeting of the Supreme People’s Assembly in Pyongyang on Monday that the money is needed to effectively cope with “indiscriminate” provocations by the United States and its followers.

The paper, however, did not disclose the exact size of the defense budget, although South Korea’s unification ministry speculated that last year’s military budget totaled US$910 million.

The proportion of the spending plan compared to the overall budget, is the highest tallied since 1998, according to South Korean analysts.

From 1998 through 2002, the North is estimated to have spent 14.4 percent to 14.5 percent of its annual budget on defense, with numbers going up and being fixed at 15.8 percent in the 2007-2012 period, they said.

Additional information:
1. Here and here is KCTV footage of the SPA meeting.

2. Here is a link to all the info for the 6th session of the SPA. It contains links to sessions 1-5 as well.

3. On 5.31 news of economic adjustment measures announced during the meetings was published.

4. The Choson Ilbo and Yonhap report on the new cabinet members.

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