Archive for the ‘Juche’ Category

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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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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2012 Joint Editorial

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Some thought it was possible that Kim Jong-un might deliver a new year’s address (as Kim Il-sung always did), but instead the leadership has chosen to follow the practice of the Kim Jong-il era by issuing a “joint editorial” by Rodong Sinmun, Joson Inmingun, and Chongnyon Jonwi.

Since I am writing this post well after the joint editorial has already been published, numerous commentators have already weighed in: Choson Exchange, Daily NK, Washington Post, CNN, Business Week, Hankyoreh, IFES, Xinhua.

Below is the full text of the Joint New Year Editorial c/o North East Asia Matters. My hat off to anyone who actually reads the whole thing:

(more…)

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Aidan Foster-Carter on what’s wrong with the DPRK economy

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

Aidan Foster-Carter writes a compendium of problems facing the DPRK economy in 38 North.

Paraphrasing the ailments he cites: Socialism, militarism, royal economy, cult costs, potempkinism, leadership whims, rigidities, coordination problems, unwise leadership priorities.

Read the full story (which is full of fantastic anecdotes) below:
Whim Jong Il: North Korea’s Economic Irrationalities
38 North
Aidan Foster-Carter
2011-11-26

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ROK makes arrest in Hwang plot

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Only days after the South Korean government determined that Hwang Jang-yop died of natural causes they have announced the arrest of a North Korean defector who was planning to act against him. According to the Associated Press (via Washington Post):

Authorities in South Korea arrested a suspected North Korean agent for allegedly plotting to assassinate a high-profile defector who died of heart failure earlier this month, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

The alleged agent, Ri Dong Sam, was formally detained Tuesday on suspicion of plotting to kill Hwang Jang-yop, a former senior member of the North’s ruling Worker’ Party, the prosecutor said. Police said however that there was no connection between Hwang’s recent death and the charges against the agent.

The North Korean agent came to South Korea in August by posing as a North Korean defector and was caught during an interrogation process, the prosecutor said.

South Korean intelligence officials typically question defectors for several weeks before they are sent to a resettlement center.

He has admitted some of the charges, the prosecutor said. He declined to give any further details and spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media on the continuing case.

The detention came after Hwang was found dead at his Seoul home on Oct. 10. Police said Wednesday that Hwang died from heart failure on Oct. 9, citing final autopsy results. Hwang’s body was buried at a national cemetery south of Seoul.

The 87-year-old Hwang, chief architect of North Korea’s guiding “juche” philosophy of self-reliance, was one of the country’s most powerful officials when he fled in 1997. He had tutored North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong Il, on the ideology.

Hwang lived in Seoul under tight police security. He has written books and delivered speeches condemning Kim’s government as authoritarian.

North Korea had reportedly vowed revenge against Hwang, calling him “human scum” and a betrayer. Earlier this year, two North Korean army majors were each sentenced to 10 years in prison in Seoul in a separate plot to assassinate Hwang. North Korea has denied the plot.

Read the full story here:
SKorea accuses NKorean of plot to kill defector
Associated Press (via Washington Post)
Kwang Tae-kim
10/20/2010

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Rank on Myers and Demick

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

Michael Rank reviews two great books on the DPRK which were recently published.  The first is The Cleanest Race, How North Koreans See Themselves by B. R. Myers in the Asia Times:

North Korea, one of the poorest countries in Asia, is also the best defended with an army of over one million to protect a population of just 23 million. But it does not only depend on its army to fend off the outside world: it also relies on an extraordinary degree of secrecy to baffle its adversaries and throw them off-guard.

Most Western Pyongyang-watchers are forced to rely on the absurdly obfuscatory Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and on reports of varying reliability in the English-language South Korean media to discern what is going on, which means that unless they know Korean, which they almost certainly don’t, they have almost no first-hand information of what the North Korean government is really up to.

B R Myers is a rare exception among Western North Korea experts: he has a first-rate grasp of Korean and has heroically spent countless hours reading North Korean newspapers, novels and political tracts in the North Korea Resource Center in the Reunification Ministry in Seoul. This has led him to come to some striking conclusions about the nature of the North Korean regime in a highly original book that anyone interested in what is going on above the 38th parallel simply has to read.

He makes a surprising but convincing case for claiming that the Kims, father and son, play the role of mother figures in North Korean ideology, forever clutching children and even soldiers to their ample bosoms, while the North Korean people are portrayed as a uniquely innocent child-race fondly indulged by the “Parent Leader”.

Myers sets out his main conclusions in a gripping preface in which he condemns North Korea-watchers of all persuasions and backgrounds for having

… tended toward interpretations of the country in which ideology plays next to no role. Conservatives generally explain the dictatorship’s behavior in terms of a cynical struggle to maintain power and privilege, while liberals prefer to regard the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] as a “rational actor”, a country behaving much as any tiny country would in the face of a hostile superpower. Such interest as either camp can bring to bear on so-called soft issues exhausts itself in futile attempts to make sense of Juche Thought, a sham doctrine with no bearing on Pyongyang’s policy-making.
Myers asks why “there is more talk of ideological matters in any issue of Arab Studies Journal than in a dozen issues of North Korean Review? The obvious if undiplomatic answer is that most Pyongyang watchers do not understand Korean well enough to read the relevant official texts.”

While he is highly dismissive of the North Korean ideology of juche (self-reliance), which he dismisses as a smokescreen to baffle foreigners – highly successfully, one might add – Myers insists that the personality cult in which the regime envelopes itself should be taken seriously. “The only institution in the country that did not miss a beat during the famine of the mid-1990s was the propaganda apparatus,” he notes.

Myers is scathing about those who regard the regime as essentially Stalinist or Confucian, and summarizes its worldview as follows: “The Korean people are too pure blooded, and therefore too virtuous, to survive in this evil world without a great parental leader.” This would place Pyongyang on the extreme right of the political spectrum rather than the far left, and Myers notes that “the similarity to the worldview of fascist Japan is striking”.

Mount Fuji was transmogrified into Mount Paektu while the cult of Kim Il-sung bears striking similarities to the Japanese emperor cult. “Like Kim,” Myers writes, “Hirohito appeared as the hermaphroditic parent of a child race whose virtues he embodied; was associated with white clothing, white horses, the snow-capped peak of the race’s sacred mountain, and other symbols of racial purity …” He explains this as partly the result of collaboration among the Korean elite during the Japanese occupation, and quotes a South Korean historian as saying these collaborators regarded themselves as “pro-Japanese [Korean] nationalists”.

Despite the deep influence of Japanese ideology on North Korean thinking, the Japanese are depicted as enemies with whom there can be no reconciliation, and much the same goes for Americans. The author notes that North Korean dictionaries and schoolbooks portray Americans in sub-human terms, as having “muzzles”, “snouts” and “paws”, and while the Korean War of the early 1950s occupies a central place in anti-American propaganda, there is little stress on the US Air Force’s extensive bombing campaign as this “is hard to reconcile with the myth of a protective Leader” and the regime focuses instead on village massacres and other more isolated outrages.

Myers argues that fanatical anti-Americanism is what helps to keep the regime in power, and that far from seeking a positive relationship with the US, “It negotiates with Washington not to defuse tension but to manage it, to keep it from tipping into all-out war or an equally perilous all-out peace”.

Myers must be the only non-Korean on Earth who has taken a serious look at North Korean fiction (he wrote a previous book on the subject), and this affords him some fascinating insights. He highlights the sharp contrast with Soviet Stalinist fiction, in which the Communist Party posed as an educating father, while

… the DPRK’s propaganda is notably averse to scenes of intellectual discipline. Because Koreans are born pure and selfless, they can and should heed their instincts. Often they are shown breaking out of intellectual constraints in a mad spree of violence against the foreign or land-owning enemy. Cadres are expected to nurture, not teach, and bookworms are negative characters. In short: where Stalinism put the intellect over the instincts, North Korean culture does the opposite.
This sharply written, beautifully designed book is richly illustrated with North Korean propaganda posters and photographs. I did not agree with everything the author says – I think he underestimates the influence of Confucianism in North Korea and also underplays the cruelty of the Japanese occupation of Korea – but this is a remarkably perceptive study that everyone with an interest in North Korea, and in the practice and theory of authoritarian regimes generally, should read.

The Cleanest Race, How North Koreans See Themselves – And Why It Matters by B R Myers. Melville House, Brooklyn, NY, 2009. ISBN-10: 1933633913. (Buy on Amazon here)

Michael also reviewed Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy in the Guardian:

If Stalin’s Russia was, in Churchill’s words, “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”, North Korea is an impenetrable black hole. The government’s main mouthpiece, the Korean Central News Agency, has a firm policy of reporting almost no news. True, tourists can visit the showcase capital, Pyongyang, for a few days and enjoy some pleasant chat with their affable but carefully selected minders, but they will gain few insights into what makes the country tick and they will have no opportunity to speak to anyone who could be remotely regarded as an ordinary North Korean. As the British ambassador put it with devastating frankness last year, “We get no information from the government whatsoever”, and there are few sources of information in Pyongyang to turn to who are not government officials.

So to find out what North Koreans think about their government and society, one has no choice but to talk to defectors who have managed to escape to South Korea. Los Angeles Times journalist Barbara Demick interviewed about 100 defectors, but in this highly readable book she focuses on half a dozen, all from the north-eastern city of Chongjin , which is closed to foreigners. She decided to concentrate on Chongjin because it is likely to be more representative than Pyongyang, where, for all its drabness and endless power shortages, nobody is starving. The overwhelming impression one gains from the book is of a country mired in poverty and repression, but also of resilience and a will to survive.

North Korean children are taught to sing that “We have nothing to envy in the world”, and until recently people seem to have believed this as they had so little access to information about life outside their own country. But the famine of the 1990s, in which more than a million people might have died, inevitably resulted in a deep questioning and cynicism. “Your general [the demigod Kim Jong-il] has turned you all into idiots,” Oak-hee tells her mother after being released from jail for crossing the border into China.

Oak-hee had watched South Korean television, which made it clear that what they were told back home about exploitation and poverty in the capitalist south was all lies. By now, many officials no longer believe in the government propaganda either, and a prison director tells the women held for escaping to China, “Well, if you go to China again, next time don’t get caught.”

But despite such comments, the book does not argue that the regime is about to collapse, as many defectors and western commentators in the 1990s expected that it would.

One of the most poignant stories in the book is that of two young lovers who dare not tell each other that they are thinking of defecting. Mi-ran is from near the bottom of the North Korean social heap, while Jun-sang comes from a comparatively privileged family, with relatives in Japan. Eventually they meet up again in South Korea, but their relationship is over. Mi-ran is happily married to a southerner but is haunted by the fate of her sisters, who are either in a labour camp or dead, while Jun-sang, who attended an elite Pyongyang university, is facing an uncertain future and worries that he will never see his parents again.

Demick says defectors find it hard to settle in South Korea and are overwhelmed by the myriad choices facing them there, which “can be utterly paralysing for people who’ve had decisions made for them by the state their entire lives”. Surprisingly perhaps, “Many if not most, want to return to North Korea,” Demick claims, and are wracked by guilt over leaving family members there.

But defectors are, by definition, not typical: they are likely to be more disaffected, more resourceful and richer than the average citizen, so this book is hardly the definitive account of everyday life in North Korea. Yet the stories it recounts are moving and disturbing, and it surely tells us far more about real North Korean lives than a fleeting tourist visit to the Stalinist-kitsch theme park that is Pyongyang.

Order Nothing to Envy on Amazon here.

Read the full articles here:
Lifting the cloak on North Korean secrecy
Asia Times
Michael Rank
4/10/2010

Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick
The Guardian
Michael Rank
4/3/2010

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Juche and North Korea’s Global Aspirations

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

NKIDP Working paper #1
Charles K. Armstrong

(Download the PDF here)

In his latest publication, Armstrong details the DPRK’s short-lived and ultimately unsuccessful efforts to establish a global presence in the 1970s. These efforts included attempts at economic engagement with advanced capitalist countries and a diplomatic offensive in the Third World.

According to Armstrong, the ultimate failure of North Korea’s pursuit of what later came to be termed “globalization,” can be attributed to the contradiction between the stated policy of juche, or self-reliance, and the “necessary requirements for engagement in the international system, particularly the global economy.”

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North Korea between collapse and reform

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Asian Survey Vol. 39, No. 2 (Mar. – Apr., 1999), pp. 287-309
Kongdan Oh and Ralph Hassig

Download PDF here or download from Jstor.org here

The refusal of North Korea’s letters to institute serious economic reforms has frustrated those who study the country and those who seek to alleviate the suffering of the North Korean people.  Two French medical aid organizations have withdrawn from the country complaining that the Pyongyang government interfered with their work.  This is but one sign of a growing donor fatigue.  The muddling through plan that the Kim regime has adopted involves soliciting foreign aid, bargaining with its military and nuclear products, making minimal unofficial changes in the domestic economy, and waiting for the international environment to become more favorable—perhaps even expecting a resurgance of international communism.  Equally important, Kim and his ruling cohorts are willing to sacrifice the economic health of their nation for the security of their regime, just as other dictators, both communist and non-communist have done.  The painful difference in North Korea’s case is that it is half of a divided nation, posing an immediate humanitarian dilemma for the millions of Koreans in the Southern half of the penninsula whose families are suffering in the north.  For this reason more than any other, the future of North Korea cannot be ignored.  

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Idolization Ever Increasing

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Daily NK
Park Hyun Min
12/5/2008

The North Korean authorities have been expanding the construction of facilities that laud and idolize Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il throughout North Korea, in order to unite the people in spite of the severe economic crisis.

Up until the end of the 1990s, North Korea had been focusing on creating “revolutionary memorial halls” or ‘historic sites,’ or erecting statues in order to idolize the Kim family.

The main structure of idolatry, above all, is the Kim Il Sung statue. Among all the statues, the one in front of the Museum of Korean Revolution on the top of Mansudae hill in Pyongyang, erected in April 1972 to celebrate Kim Il Sung’s 60th birthday, is best-known. It is 23 meters (75.5 feet) high, including a 3 meter pedestal. The statue was once covered with gold, but it was removed.

Similar, less grandiose statues are located in all 70 major cities of North Korea. In total, there are 140,000 structures designed to idolize the Kim regime.

Especially after the death of Kim Il Sung, and the succession of Kim Jong Il three years later, in 1997, many mosaic murals were created throughout North Korea with the father and the son as the theme, and many of the revolutionary monuments were erected.

Mosaic murals mainly feature Kim Il Sung, the father with Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Il’s mother, Kim Jung Sook, made with glass or tiles of natural rocks baked at 1,200.

According to reports from the North Korean state-run media since 2000, one mural was made in 2000, four in 2002, then the number increased to 19 in 2003, 49 in 2004, and a sharp increase to 70 in 2005. Then in 2006, 55 murals were made while 67 were made last year. 88 murals have been made this year alone.

Furthermore, the size of the mosaic murals is growing. On average, the length and height of a mural is 5–10 meters. However, bigger murals with dimensions of 30 meters by 20 meters have been under construction.

The most well-known murals are located on Tongil (Unification) Street in Raknang district and on Kwangbok Street in Mankyungdae district in Pyongyang. The one on Kwangbok Street was made to celebrate Kim Sung Il’s 95th birthday in April, 2008, and goes by the name of “My great country, my nation, live forever.” The height and length of the murals are respectively 42 meters and 25 meters.

The other mural that was completed on Tongil Street the day before that was 33.7 meters long and 22 meters high.

Chosun Sinbo reported with great fanfare, “These murals are the biggest mosaic murals in the nation.”

Revolutionary monuments or historic memorials at places where Kim Il Sung or Kim Jong Il are known to have been, are being made constantly.

North Korea put up 31 revolutionary memorial slabs last year in places such as Pyongyang Music School or Pyongyang Shoe Factory, and 37 so far this year, in places like Suncheon First Middle School and Kangkye Pig Factory. Last year, revolutionary monuments were erected in five places, including the public building of the People’s Safety Agency in North Hamkyung Province and so far four monuments have been erected in places like Pyongyang 3.26 cable factory.

Jane Portal, the author of “Art under Control in North Korea” visited North Korea twice and assessed this idolatry as the world’s most intense, saying that Stalin and Mao Zedong’s idolatry cannot be compared with Kim Il Sung’s hunger for praise.

Additionally, North Korea is focusing on boosting people’s loyalty and revolutionary consciousness through collective visits to these historic sites, and by excavating or renovating them.

Chosun (North Korea) Central Broadcasting (the state-controlled radio station) last month hinted at the strengthened idolization process, saying that “Plans to revive historic sites in North Hamkyung province and the efforts of party members and laborers working on these projects are processing well.”

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Pyongyang changes official narrative on South

Monday, December 1st, 2008

In a recent Korea Times article, Andrei Lankov (citing Brian Myers) highlights how the DPRK has changed the narrative of its raison d’être in response to the growing realization among its people that South Korea is not the poor, exploited US colony the propaganda portrays it to be. 

Quoting from the article:

Until some time a decade ago, the North Korean populace was expected and required to believe in a very simple world picture.

The North, led by the glorious dynasty of omniscient and benevolent rulers, was the best society on the face of the Earth, much envied and glorified by the less fortunate peoples of other countries.

The rest of the world was inferior, though people in the socialist countries admittedly fared better than the helpless inhabitants of the capitalist hell.

But worst of all was South Korea, the colony of the U.S. imperialists who exploited it with unparalleled brutality.

However, around 2000 the North Korean watchers (well, actually a handful of them with the time and ability to read the official press systematically) began to notice a new image of the South emerge.

Brian Myers, the ever observant reader of North Korean press and fiction first noticed the signs of this quiet transformation when it was only beginning.

Soon it became clear that he was right. A new propaganda line was being born. Interestingly, this time the new line was introduced not through newspapers, but in a more subtle way, through works of fiction, which also have to be approved by the supreme ideological authorities.

The new South Korea which emerged in these writings wasn’t so poor. Actually, it was not poor at all. The characters in recent North Korean novels, which deal with the imaginary life of the South, enjoy a lifestyle far superior to that of the average North Korean. They drive cars, dine out easily and live in expensive houses.

As Myers pointed out, the North Korean authors have poor ideas of how expensive Seoul real estate has become, so they sometimes overestimate South Korean’s income levels. In one novel, a young South Korean journalist buys a house in a very expensive neighborhood after merely a few years of work.

Does this mean that the new image of the South is positive? Of course not! South Korean society might be rich, the propaganda operators say, but it is still inferior to the North.

The South Koreans had to pay a terrible price for their success: they were deprived of their precious national identity.

The cultural uniqueness and racial purity of the great Korean nation has become endangered. Mixed marriages are mentioned frequently and in a way that makes readers believe they are between the same lusty Americans and young Korean women.

However, the propaganda insists, the South Koreans themselves are not happy about this situation. They dream about liberation and purification, and their hopes are pinned on Pyongyang and, above all, the Dear Leader himself. In recent years, North Korean propaganda has insisted that Kim Jong -il is worshipped in the South. Similar statements were made earlier as well.

According to this new logic, the North is a torchbearer, a proud protector of nationhood and racial purity. South Korean prosperity is tainted and hence should not be envied.

The North must fight for the ultimate salvation of the South, and such salvation can be achieved only through unification under the North Korean auspices, so all South Koreans will be able to enjoy the loving care of the Dear Leader. Only American troops and a handful of national traitors prevent this dream from coming true.

Lankov (and Myers) speculate that the North Korean government changed the narrative in response to unauthorized information permeating the country.  In a related note, the overt propaganda in many North Korean films has also been reduced in recent decades.

Most importantly, Lankov reminds us that nationalism is not a viable long-term political strategy—even in North Korea.  North Korean Juche was supposed to liberate the Korean people and deliver on material progress, but it has not succeeded.  From top to bottom, many North Koreans already know this.

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