Archive for the ‘Songun’ Category

Sunday speculation: The end of ‘Songun’?

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

The Daily NK reports that preparations for Kim Jong il’s successor government are ushering in an end to Songun:

North Korea has embarked on a rehabilitation of the Chosun (North Korea) Workers’ Party’s authority, meaning a return to party-centered politics from military-oriented politics, various inside sources suggest. The move could be related Kim Jong Il’s choice of successor.

In late February, a number of sources told the Daily NK through telephone interviews that instructions came down from the Party to each province on February 1st to “pay more respect to the local party apparatus than to the armed forces.”

Various sources said, “The rumours say that the instructions are intended for everyone (resident of Hoeryong)”, “Foreign currency-earning workers were given a mass lecture on this subject in mid-February (resident of Chongjin)”, and “People welcomed the command, hoping for less harassment from the army (resident of Hyesan)”.

Wat is happening in the government?

Last October, Kim Jong Il reappointed his brother-in-law and closest advisor, Jang Sung Taek, to the Director of the Administration Department, which has the responsibility for the National Security Agency, the People’s Safety Agency, and the Prosecutors’ Office. More recently, the Guidance Department undertook a large-scale inspection of the United Front Department, which signals an attempt to strengthen the Party.

The Guidance Department of the Party is the department tasked with leading and inspecting the Party apparatus. It also resides at the core of the North Korean power structure and is under Kim Jong Il’s direct control, so its involvement demonstrates the gravity of this investigation.

Sohn Kwang Ju, the chief editor of Daily NK and an expert on Kim Jong Il, suggested that, “Kim Jong Il, thinking that North Korea has already achieved military strength through the possession of nuclear weapons, is now starting to reconstruct the Party-centered order and revive the Party’s authority.”

Will it work?

Hwang Jang Yop, President of the Committee for the Democratization of North Korea and the former North Korean Foreign Secretary, gave a similar analysis. According to him, “Kim Jong Il, sooner or later, will strengthen the Party’s authority, especially that of the Guidance Department because the Vice-Director position of the Guidance Department should eventually be taken by one of Kim’s sons.”

Nevertheless, many experts expect difficulty for Kim Jong Il in his effort to strengthen the authority of the Party.

Han Ki Hong, the president of the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights, said that “Kim Jong Il has been running his country under the abnormal system of the Military-First policy for over a decade. Throughout that time, the Party’s authority totally collapsed and the armed forces’ power and authority has increased beyond control, and this is irrevocable.”

The full article can be read here:
Possible Shift from the Army to the Party in 10 years
Daily NK
Choi Choel Hee & Lee Sung Jin
3/5/2008

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DPRK holds first extended cabinet meeting of the year

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 08-3-3-1
3/3/2008

In the latest issue (February 3rd) of the DPRK Cabinet bulletin, “Democratic Chosun”, it was reported that the first extended cabinet meeting of the year opened in the beginning of February, with Premier Kim Young-il presiding. The bulletin stated that the issue of accomplishing this year’s economic plans was discussed.

At the meeting, Vice Premier Kwak Bum-ki stressed that accomplishing this year’s economic goals was “essential for opening the doors to a breakthrough for building an economically strong nation,” and that it was the “fundamental task laid out before the Cabinet.” He went on to reveal the tasks and directives needed to revitalize all realms of socialist construction, which he stated was necessary to create a powerful and prosperous nation by 2012, the centennial anniversary of the birth of the late Kim Il Sung.

In particular, he called for the production of the “lifeline of socialist construction”, and specifically, electricity, coal, metal, and railways, which he referred to as the “four lines for the advance of the people’s economy.”

Accordingly, the goal of carrying out overwhelming repairs to power generation facilities, and at the same time constructing new power plants in order to increase electrical production capabilities by several hundred thousand kilowatts, was proposed.

The meeting also stressed the need for concentrating efforts on geological exploration and exploitation industries in order to reasonably development and use natural resources, for a change in production of goods necessary for daily life, and for a resolution to the people’s ‘eating problem’ alluded to in the recent New Year’s Joint Editorial.

The bulletin also reported that there was discussion on creating a new five-year plan for the development of science and technology, going as far as to say, ”the role of science and technology in the building of an economically powerful nation is decidedly large, and in order to answer the very real calls for development, [the issue of] strengthening international economic projects” was brought up.

Premier Kim Young-il, Vice-Premier Kwak Bum-ki, Chairman Kim Kwang-rin, of the Committee on National Planning, Park Nam-jil, of the Power Supply Industry Bureau, and Kim Yong-sam, from the Railways Bureau, were among cabinet ministers present.

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NK Military Has Little Influence on Major Policy Decisions

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

Daily NK
Yang Jung A
1/27/2008

An expert on North Korea has recently disputed a widely circulated claim that North Korea’s hard line diplomacy is due to influence from the North Korean military.

Park Young Tack, an active duty officer at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA) said, “The North Korean military usually influences the policy decisions that are related to military roles and functions only.” Park wrote this in his recent article published on January 15 in the 2007 winter edition of the Korean Journal of Defense Analysis entitled ‘The Increasing Standing of the North Korean Military and the Military’s Influence on Decision Making’.

Park said, “Unless Kim Jong Il asks the military for opinions, the military cannot take part in matters other than its own.”

It is widely believed at home and abroad that the North Korean military exerts huge influence on the country’s major policy decisions and therefore is responsible for driving the country to take a hard line.

U.S, envoy Christopher Hill said prior to his visit to Pyongyang last year that he would like to meet high-ranking military officials and persuade them to give up the country’s nuclear programs.

Park said, “It is mistaken to believe that the standing of the military is superior to that of the Party as was the case in the past, and that the military plays a key role in decision making regarding the country’s fate.”

“Many believe that the North Korean military is trying to get in the way of the inter-Korean dialogues. However, that is exactly how the Party wants the world to assess the current situation in North Korea. It is my judgment that the Party has been manipulating the situation so that the military appears to take on the role of the hard-liners,” Park said. Park stressed that the General Political Bureau of the People’s Army by itself cannot voice opposition to the nation’s current policy toward South Korea.

Park said that Secretary for Military Munitions Jun Byung Ho, United Front Department Director Kim Yang Gon, and First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Suk Ju have established and are operating a direct reporting system to Kim Jong Il. Secretary Jun is currently responsible for conducting the country’s nuclear tests, Director Kim for operations of the policy through the direct reporting system [to Kim Jong Il], and Minister Kang for foreign announcements.

“It seems that Kim Jong Il allows the military to exert influence on decision making to some extent as a reward for the military’s pledge to help build and defend the absolute dictatorship of Kim Jong Il,” Park said.

“The military circles take part in making policy decisions by offering specialized suggestions and by advocating the Kim Jong Il regime which adopted the ‘Military-First’ policy among the ruling elite, the leaders from the middle class and the lower class,” Park said. However, Park added that the military has limited influence over matters other than its own.

Park said that Kim Jong Il is also strengthening the military-friendly system to watch and hold in check the military, which can pose the biggest threat to his regime.

“When making decisions, Kim Jong Il calls the ruling elite individually for consultations and has them report to him directly,” Park said, adding, “In any case, Kim Jong Il is at the center of the decision making process and stands at the top of the decision making ladder.”

“Kim Jong Il is a policy developer who issues policy proposals more frequently than anyone in the country. Any policy proposed by Kim is considered a supreme order and becomes a law,” Park said. “If an individual at the lower levels of the state wants to make a policy proposal, he usually first contacts an authority in the relevant field who then tries to read Kim Jong Il’s mind on the policy to be proposed. Only after he receives convincing words from the authorities, the low-level cadre is able to submit his proposal. That way, he can escape censure that would result from making an unsuccessful policy proposal.”

Park said that those working at the lower level of the state authorities cooperate with each other even if they work in different departments. If there are any policy shortcomings, they try to solve them together and share the responsibilities. They also create a task force between departments for policy implementation.

Park said, “This kind of political operation has come into existence for the following reasons: First of all, Kim Jong Il prefers to have an inner-circle, minimize the number of personnel, and simplify office procedures. Second, people at the working level have to worry about censure waiting for them when their policy implementation efforts end in failure.”

“Kim Jong Il’s administration style shows that he relies on an informal channel of communication with the ruling elite.” Park said, “He keeps a tight reign on all power groups within the country including the military, and no power group dares to challenge Kim’s authority. Even if united, these groups can hardly exercise any significant influence over decision making.”

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The Common Perception of North Korean Society among Youths

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

Daily NK
Sohn Kwang Joo
12/6/2007

It was in Yanji where I met the 25-year-old defector, Kim Soo Mee. She was born and raised in the mountains that separated her village from larger towns in Hamkyung Province.

Because of her mother’s ferver for educating her children, Kim Soo Mee was able to attend the First Senior Middle School, a specialized school for gifted students, following her timely graduation from primary school.

When she was 12 years old, the national famine greatly affected her town. People scattered about the streets looking for food, and dead bodies could be seen everywhere. Many students stopped going to school and instead spent their days searching for food. However, Soo Mee’s mother urged her to continue with her studies. With her mother’s encouragement, Soo Mee gained acceptance into a prestigious university in North Korea.

She received good grades at the university and had high hopes of working in a well-established company in Pyongyang. However, due to her family background, she was forced to remain and work in the small rural town.

The living conditions in North Korea’s capitol are surprisingly different compared to the local cities.

Kim Soo Mee explained about the corruption surrounding university admissions in North Korea. “Only children who grow up in rich families can be admitted to the universities in Pyongyang, as huge sums of money are needed to bribe institution administrators. For example, if a student wants to attend Kim Il Sung University, often times a family will pay upwards of 1,000 dollars just to afford the child a chance of getting accepted. Pyongyang Medical College and Kim Hyong Jik College of Education usually require approximately 500 dollars in bribes.”

I was curious to ask, “Can a student bribe their way into a school even if he or she does not have good grades?”

She explained that such students are instructed to leave certain indicating marks on their test paper at the college entrance examination as a way for evaluators to discern whether the student offered a bribe or not. The evaluators rank the students by the amount in bribes their families have paid, and then rank them according to their family background.

Her college life was unbearable because she had no financial power or a strong family background to support her.

385 days out of her college years were spent practicing for the 40 seconds of the military parade it would take to pass by Kim Jong Il’s podium. The average student spends almost two and a half years preparing for national events such as military parades and agricultural support activities that take place in the Spring and Fall. These hardships led Soo Mee and many of her fellow students to dream of going abroad.

The most popular jobs after graduation include diplomatic posts and working in foreign currency-making companies. She went on to explain that it is now undesirable to work as a discharged soldier or a member of the Party.

As for the common perception of Kim Jong Il among North Korean youths, she maintained that “through propaganda, the people are made to believe that the General (Kim Jong Il) ‘s meals consist of only a few rice balls and salted radish. However, I was shocked to find out that preparation of the General’s meals costs 1,000 dollars.” This information was told to her by a researcher from Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il’s Longevity Institute.

Most of the intellectual students have an unfavorable opinion about Kim Jong Il, but the general public does not see the truth behind his lies.

“In the movie, ‘Geumjin River’ (2004), there is a line that states, ‘We are poor because the heavens took away our Supreme Leader (Kim Il Sung) in wrath because the people did not respectfully take care of him.’ The authorities are currently insisting that our country is now poor because of imperialistic pressures and economic sanctions imposed on us by America.”

I asked, “What do the Pyongyang citizens think about the future of North Korea?”

“Most think that we should open and reform our state, but they can never mention the words ‘open’ and ‘reform’ in public,” she replied. “The authorities often proclaim that we can attain wealth by properly following the Military-First Policy and by establishing a strong economic society. But the problem is they do not tell us how to do so. The only people not doing business in the jangmadang are cadres of the Party, generals of the Army and National Security or Safety Agents; they maintain favorable living conditions by collecting bribes from the citizens.”

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DPRK Economic Policy One Year after Nuclear Test

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 07-10-18-1
10/18/2007

One year after the DPRK nuclear test, North Korea is still focusing all of their policy efforts on restoring their economy. North Korean leaders are convinced that an economic revival is crucial for the survival and stability of their regime.

The DPRK stated in this year’s New Year Joint Editorial, a publication that presents the regime’s policy direction for the year, that “the founding of a strong national economy is a crucial requirement for the revolution and advancement of our society, and is a historic undertaking toward becoming a fully prosperous and powerful nation.” The emphasis on “focusing all the state’s efforts on solving the economic issue,” was indicative of their sense of imminence regarding economic revival.

The Joint Editorial presenting the DPRK’s national goal of “founding a strong national economy” came out three months after the October nuclear test, which took place just over one year ago. Since its publication, the North Korean media has been stressing that the DPRK already realized powerful military strength and strong political ideology, and must now strive to establish a strong national economy. The military might of the nation was epitomized by the success of the nuclear test.

A copy of the North Korean quarterly publication “Politics & Law Review” obtained on September 14th emphasized the need to establish a strong national economy, stating that “without a strong national economy, it is impossible to strengthen the forces of political ideology and military power,” and, “the only way to block the infiltration of economic imperialism is by strengthening economic power.” It also added that “if we are weaker than South Korea, we will naturally look to them and depend on them.”

North Korean press claims that Kim Jong Il’s decision to carry out a nuclear test was the reason the 6-party talks have been working since January’s meeting between the United States and the DPRK in Berlin, thus easing tensions on the Korean peninsula by ameliorating the U.S.-DPRK relationship and advancing inter-Korean relations. The fact that 18 out of 55 public appearances (a significantly higher proportion than that of last year) made by Kim Jong Il this year were visits to economic bureaus also reflects North Korea’s economic ‘all-in.’ North Korea’s pro-active movement toward ameliorating relations with the United States, and its determination to expand inter-Korean economic cooperation, all stem from its urgency to develop their economy in order to stabilize their regime.

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Paul French Discusses North Korea

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

Frontline Club (h/t Kitten Wars)
1/17/2007

frontline2.JPGPaul French, Director of Access Asia–a market research and business intelligence company specialising in China and North Asia’s economics and markets, spoke to the Economist’s Simon Long about what he has witnessed and learned about North Korea.

He focuses mainly on his perceptions of the US/DPRK relationship, but he also talks about the difficulties of bringing investment capital into the DPRK.

Click on “Frontline club” at the top of the picture above to see the video.

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N. Korea urges concerted efforts for economic reconstruction

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

Yonhap
8/15/2007

North Korea, celebrating the 62nd anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule on Wednesday, called on its people to make concerted efforts to build a strong socialist economy.

The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s Workers’ Party, said in an editorial that there is no more urgent task than reconstructing the national economy and improving the people’s livelihood.

“On the economic front, the principles of socialism and utilitarianism should be thoroughly observed … All potentials and resources should be fully mobilized to boost production and construction,” said the paper.

“Food problem has to be addressed, while the light industry sector has to be revolutionized in order to mass-produce high-quality consumer products. Economic reconstruction and improvement of public livelihood are the most urgent tasks facing the nation.”

But the editorial still allotted much of its space to eulogizing the accomplishments of the North’s late founding leader Kim Il-sung and his Songun (military first) policy.

“The president’s plan for building a rich and powerful country is being carried out in all fields thanks to the Songun leadership of Kim Jong-il. The country in which the great Songun politics is being successfully applied will make ceaseless creations and leaping progresses and the president’s behest will come true in the socialist country,” said the paper, referring to the elder Kim as the president.

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N. Korean leader makes reshuffle of top military officials

Monday, May 21st, 2007

Yonhap
5/21/2007

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il recently made a reshuffle of his top military officials that may solidify his already firm grip on the country’s military, intelligence officials said Monday.

Ri Myong-su, former operations director of the North’s Korean People’s Army (KPA), has been named a resident member of the National Defense Commission (NDC), the highest decision-making body under the communist nation’s constitution that was revised in 1997 to reflect its military first, or “songun,” policy, an official said while speaking anonymously.

Ri was replaced by Kim Myong-guk, who had served in the post from 1994-1997, while Jong Thae-gun, an Army lieutenant general, has been named the propaganda director of the KPA’s General Political Bureau, according to the sources.

The reshuffle first appeared to be a routine rearrangement of personnel, but the sources said it may have been aimed at expanding the role and power of the already powerful NDC.

“The NDC seems to have become, at least externally, the North’s highest decision-making body as a number of top military officials have recently been appointed to (new) permanent posts of the defense commission,” a source said.

“We believe the NDC may become an actual organization in the near future with hundreds of resident staff like the other top decision-making bodies” such as the Workers’ Party, the official added.

Headed by the North’s reclusive leader, the defense commission has been the most powerful organization in the country where the military comes before everything.

But it has mostly been regarded as a faction of a group, namely the KPA, as most of its members concurrently served in other posts of the army, according to the sources.

Kim Yong-chun, the former Chief of General Staff of the KPA, was named the first deputy chairman of the NDC in April.

The sources said it is too early to determine why the commission’s permanent staff has been increased, but they said it may be linked to Pyongyang’s ruling system after Kim Jong-il.

The 65-year-old Kim has yet to name his successor, raising questions worldwide whether the reclusive leader is considering a collective ruling system after his death.

Kim was named as successor to his father, the founder of North Korea Kim Il-sung, at the age of 32 in 1974.

He has three sons from two marriages, but his oldest son, Jong-nam, 35, has apparently fallen out of favor following a 2001 incident in which the junior Kim was thrown out of Japan after trying to enter the country with a forged passport.

His two other sons, Jong-chul and Jong-un, both in their early 20s, have not held any official posts.

N. Korea enhances Kim’s defense commission
Korea Herald

Jin Dae-woong
5/21/2007

North Korea is beefing up the National Defense Commission, a top military decision-making body directly controlled by Kim Jong-il, Seoul intelligence sources said.

Pyongyang recently conducted a major reshuffle of its top military leadership, including the repositioning of Kim’s closest confidants to the committee, they said on condition of anonymity.

Chaired by Kim, the committee is an organization independent of the Cabinet and the ruling Korean Workers’ Party. It is next only to the communist country’s president, a post permanently held by the late founder and Kim’s father Kim Il-sung since his death in 1994.

The sources said that Gen. Ri Myong-su, former operation director of the Korean People’s Army, has been appointed as a standing member of the NDC. Gen. Kim Myong-kuk has been named to replace Ri as the top operations commander.

The reshuffle followed the appointment of Vice-Marshal Kim Yong-chun, former chief of the general staff of the Korean People’s Army, as vice chairman of the NDC during last month’s general session of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the nation’s parliament.

The personnel reconfiguration, which also affected key posts in the North Korean armed forces, is seen as part of Pyongyang’s move to further enhance the NDC, a powerful state body, under North Korea’s military-first policy.

The generals have been regarded as the most influential figures in the military as they frequently accompany Kim during his field unit inspections.

The commission has the power to direct all activities of the armed forces and national defense projects, establish and disband central defense institutions, appoint and dismiss senior military officers, confer military titles and grant titles for top commanders. It also can declare a state of war and issue mobilization orders in an emergency.

The National Defense Commission, presently chaired by Kim Jong-il, consists of the first deputy chairman, two deputy chairmen and six commission members. All members are selected for a five-year term.

The reshuffles are the latest known change to the commission. Gen. Hyon Chol-hae, former vice director of the KPA General Political Bureau, moved to the post of NDC vice director in 2003.

Experts noted that the figures are taking full-time posts in the NDC and relinquishing their posts in the People’s Army.

Other current members concurrently hold posts at both organizations, sources said.

Vice Marshal Jo Myong-rok, the first vice-chairman of the NDC, also assumes the position of director of the KPA General Political Bureau. Vice Marshal Kim Il-chol concurrently serves as a member of the NDC and minister of the People’s Armed Forces.

“As high-ranking military officers have moved to the NDC as full-time members, the NDC may be preparing to take follow up measures to expand its role and function in the future,” the sources said.

The NDC has been known as a consultative body of top military leaders without extensive subordinate organizations comparable to the ruling party and the Cabinet.

The intelligence sources said the NDC may have more manpower and organization under its wing.

“The NDC began equipping itself with organizational apparatuses with the 2003 transfer of Hyon Chol-hae from the KPA position to the post of NDC,” another source said.

In addition, the NDC has continued recruiting personnel such as Kim Yang-gon, councilor of the NDC, from other government departments, to strengthen the NDC’s policy functions, sources said.

“It is in line with North Korea’s long-term move to concentrate the country’s decision-making power on Kim Jong-il and his close subordinates,” said Nam Sung-wook, North Korean studies professor at Korea University. “It is mainly aimed at preventing possible regime dissolution amid rising international pressures over its nuclear weapons program. Kim is also seen directly intervening in a resolution of the nuclear issue.”

Kim Yong-hyun, a professor at Dongguk Univsersity, also agreed that the enhancement of the NDC will lead to the centralization of power in North Korea, reducing the role of the Korea Workers’ Party.

“Through the organizational reform, the North’s regime seeks to further streamline decision-making procedures to more effectively tackle an array of issues,” Kim said.

The North Korean studies expert said it is an answer of North Korean leadership to continuing economic hardship. The leadership has given over a comparatively extensive amount of power to the Cabinet for dealing with economic stagnation.

Kim also said it could be interpreted as preparation for the post-Kim Jong-il system.

“After his death, a collective leadership led by core subordinates of Kim Jong-il is expected to emerge, so, the move could be one related to future changes,” he said.

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North Korean Prime Minister Park Bong Joo’s Dismissal

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

Daily NK
Yang Jung A
5/16/2007

pak.jpg“Kim Jong Il will not forgive even a scent of capitalism.”

The news concerning North Korea’s Park Bong Joo, the former prime minister who was dismissed last April after having received severe criticism from party members for insisting on implementation of an incentive-based system to encourage economic growth, has been generating interest.

It is known that Park Bong Joo was dismissed for an economic policy failure and using $8,000,000 of fertilizer money to purchase oil.

According to the Japanese media, Park, at last January’s “Cabinet Meeting,” suggested the implementation of an hourly, daily, and weekly plan to domestic companies as a way to inspire labor power. However, he was criticized by a Party leader who participated in the meeting at the time. The criticism was that Park was scheming to introduce capitalism.

Former Prime Minister Park also suggested in 2005 that it would be good to hold on exports of coal to China due to the influence it will have on civilian’s energy situation.

However, after the nuclear experiment, the National Defense Committee unfolded an emphasis on the acquisition of foreign currency for strengthening military power as being indispensable to the nation and strongly demanded the reopening of exports. This effectively reversed cabinet’s decision to terminate coal exports.

Concerning these matters, it is the evaluation of former International Secretary of the Party Hwang Jang Yop that “Park Bong Joo is the kind of person who speaks out about such things (to speak for reform).”

Former secretary Hwang said however, “(In North Korea), the Party secretary’s right to speak is much more powerful than the Prime Minister and even if Kim Jong Il could accept the contract work system (a piece rate system), if one advocates to reform like China, such speech to imitate capitalism or foreign country absolutely cannot be forgiven because Kim Jong Il himself can lose his position.”

”Basic economic reforms are impossible because of the need to preserve the basis of the military-first policy.”

Former Secretary Hwang explained, “Dr. Lee Seung Gi’s (abducted scientist who created a synthetic fiber, named as “Vinallon”) grandson, Park Chul went around saying China increased its production through agricultural reforms, but Dr. Lee’s pupil, Kim Hwan who was a secretary of the Party, supported Park Chul’s speech and was severely treated, falling to the position of assistant minister. From this we can see, speech to open and reform like China or even a scent of democratic opening and reform will not be forgiven.”

Kim Jong Il is known to have promised to lend his strength to the cabinet for normalization of North Korea’s destroyed economy after he elevated then Minister of Chemical Industry Park Bong Joo to the position of Prime Minister. (Park had previously been an economic bureaucrat).

When former Prime Minister Park reported to Kim Jong Il in 2003 that the Party and administration were infringing on the national economy, Kim Jong Il took the ministry’s side saying, “If I gave authority to the ministry, you have to be able to use it.”

However, as can be seen from more recent developments, the shake up involving Park Bong Joo shows how the cabinet is powerless in the face of the military and Party. Furthermore, this example reflects well how the system ultimately chooses the side of the anti-reform minded military in tension between it and reform-centered practical powers.

If the basis of the military-first policy remains unchanged, even if a brilliant economic bureaucrat assumes the duties of Prime Minister, the resuscitation of North Korea’s economic is fundamentally difficult, experts say.

Also, it has been pointed out that Kim Jong Il has been indulging the Party and the Army by dumping the responsibility for economic failure on the public administrative staff.

On the other hand, some North Korea experts suggest the dismissal of former Minister Park could be a symbolic acknowledgement of fear over the enlargement of China’s influence on North Korea.

Former Minister Park visited China in March 2005 and held talks with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wan Jiabao and inspected Chinese industrial cities. In January 2006, he was part of Kim Jong Il’s China visit as well.

N. Korea’s premier sacked due to his capitalist move
Yonhap

5/13/2007

North Korea fired its prime minister last week holding him responsible for making a suggestion that the reclusive communist country introduce an incentive-based capitalistic wage system, a Japanese newspaper said Sunday.

North Korea replaced Premier Pak Pong-ju with Transport Minister Kim Yong-il in April in a sudden reshuffle. The North gave no reasons for the change.

Citing unidentified diplomatic sources, Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun newspaper reported that Pak came under attack from party officials in January after suggesting the introduction of an incentive-based wage system to spur labor productivity.

The row apparently discouraged Pak to stay in his job, the paper said.

Mainichi said Pak was already at odds with the military over the North’s coal export policy. Pak banned coal exports to China, citing the shortage of fuel for households, but the military wanted coal exports to resume in an apparent bid to earn hard currency to boost the country’s defense capability, it said.

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Kim Jong Il’s Economic Investigation Propagandistic at Most…Military Is Ultimately the Best

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

Daily NK
Han Young Jin
5/8/2007

Looking after the army back-to back rapidly changing to a “hard-line attitude towards the U.S.?” 

While observing the economic facilities for a while, Kim Jong Il, who has put on the gesture of emphasizing “economics,” has recently come forward to look after the army once again.

Last 5th and 6th, North Korea’s Workers Party-sponsored Rodung Shinmun reported that Kim Jong Il visited the 967th and the 977th army one after another.

According to this source, Kim Jong Il relayed, “The fate of our military-first revolution as our great revolutionary inheritance and our socialist enterprise depends on the military power.” At the 977th army, he revealed, “I am pleased that the soldiers have an awakened mind and are responsibly carrying out inspections work.”

This year, Kim Jong Il’s army inspections include seven visits, including the recent ones: 593rd army (January 15th), 398th joint army (January 16th), 105th army (March 19th), 350th army (March 19th), and the 75th anniversary parade of the establishment of the People’s Army.

Last year, when nuclear experiments were enforced, 66 army inspections and army-related events were achieved while raising a confrontational front to the United States. Immediately after the nuclear tests, it spared 16 events in the economic areas of Wonsan Farm and South Hankyung Province Industry Scene while putting forth a confident image under “improvement of civilian lives.”

North Korean advertising media have cast their spotlight as if to show their interest in economic issues while relaying the news of Kim Jong Il’s inspections of Chungjin in North Hamkyung last February, the 4th Taechun power plant, and Jakangdo industry scene.

Further, the North Korean media, through sound arguments via Rodung Shinmum, maintained, “The days when our people can live well are not too far off.” Accordingly, Kim Jong Il’s back-to-back industry inspection walks were portrayed as intentions to renew the impoverished civilian lives in contrast with the past that stressed army inspections.

Advertising “improvement of civilian lives” but people do not believe

However, the grandiose promise of “improving civilian lives” did not show much difference after the economy-related facility visits. Therefore, looking after the army by Kim Jong Il, who does not have a vision or will regarding opening and reforms, may be an inevitable course of action.

Even after entering the spring poverty season last March to April and the busy faming season in May, not having any possibility of resolving the problem of provisions is one of the reasons why civilians are having a difficult time purely accepting Kim Jong Il’s walks related to the public welfare and the national advertisements.

Kim Jong Il’s back-to-back army visits seem to be a gesture to arouse distrust in the wilted popular sentiment by rotating the policy towards the U.S. to a hard-line one. By turning the blame on the U.S. for the BDA asset problem, he seems to be stepping up the solidarity of the army and civilian mind around anti-American sentiment. 

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An affiliate of 38 North