Archive for the ‘Political economy’ Category

North Korean state takes over foreign currency stores

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Donju life might not always be what it is cracked up to be. Radio Free Asia reminds us that regardless of how well North Korea’s upper-middle class traders might be doing, the economic framework is still highly arbitrary:

North Korean hard currency shops providing foreign products for sale to the country’s wealthier citizens may soon see a full government takeover of its supply chains, leading to a drop in the quality and hike in the price of hard-to-obtain goods, North Korean sources say.

The stores, which require payment in Chinese yuan or U.S. dollars, have operated in recent years in Pyongyang and other large cities under the management of private businessmen who pay large portions of their profits to the central government.

Government-run trading firms are now poised to take over the purchase and pricing of products sold in the lucrative stores, though, a source in China’s Dandong city, just across the Yalu river from North Korea, told RFA’s Korean Service.

Until now, shop managers have gone to China themselves to bring back products—including clothing, cosmetics, and furniture—or sale in their stores, RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“If this system of supply changes, not only will store managers be prevented from going to China, but no use will be made of their marketing and management skills,” the source said.

Once the new system is implemented, stores will have to submit a list of needed products to their city’s local trading firm, which will then make the purchases from China itself, the source said.

“There are doubts that [the government] will be able to supply needed products on time, though, and the change in quality and price of the items may lead to conflicts between store managers and the trading organizations handling product supply,” he said.

Profit grab seen

Separately, a source in the capital Pyongyang said no official statement announcing the change has yet been made.

“But there is a high possibility the new system will be established after the [ruling Korean Workers’ Party] convention in May,” he said.

If put in place, the move may be aimed partly at further reducing the profits earned by store managers, who already pay most of what they earn to the government of the reclusive, U.N.-sanctioned state, the source in Pyongyang said.

“North Korea’s foreign currency situation is urgent now,” the source said.

“From now on, the managers of foreign-currency shops will receive only a small salary, as they did in the past,” he said.

“Sales will drop, though, and the management will experience difficulties,” he said.

Full article here:
North Korean ‘Foreign Currency’ Stores Face State Takeover
Jonhoo Kim
Radio Free Asia
04-19-2016

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North Korea’s natural resource risks: Kim Jong-il’s own take

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

As North Korea debates and experiments in economic strategies, it’s always interesting to go back and look at older debates of a similar nature. While reading vol. 14 of Kim Jong-il’s Collected Works (Sonjib) I stumbled upon an interesting speech attributed to Kim from 1995.* Whether it was foresight or just common logic of political economy, Kim actually warned of the risks of North Korea becoming a mere natural resource exporter to other countries, without reaping the full benefits of trade. Recall that one of the charges against Jang Song-taek was selling out the country’s natural resources for his own benefit. The issue itself, of course, is much older.

In the speech, given to an audience of Central Committee functionaries, Kim attacks cadres that have a faulty understanding of foreign trade under socialism, and think only about how their own “units” (단위) can make foreign currency profits (p. 8). He also emphasizes the need to calculate all the costs involved with foreign trade, including production costs at home, to calculate actual profit.

The most interesting part, in my opinion, however, is where Kim gets to the natural resource question. Kim states that natural resources shouldn’t just be sold to other countries, but processed (가공) domestically to the greatest extent possible (p. 10). He says that “now, capitalists are buying natural resources at a cheap price from our country, processing them and selling them to a higher price.”

Kim complains that it’s a grave crime that capitalists are pocketing their own wallets by selling off North Korea’s own resources by processing them, and that North Korea could become mere suppliers to monopoly capitalism if it doesn’t start processing their natural resources itself. He also states that those who just sell off natural resources without processing are just like slaves to foreign countries.

Kim also warns people about thinking that foreign currency can be earned “for free.” “The imperialists and capitalists never give anything to anyone for free,” Kim states, and says that if capitalists say they have anything to give, it is because they have their own desires” (p. 11).

This speech is a reminder that North Korea has grappled with how to handle its natural resources for a long time, and it suggests that controversies abounded in the 1990s as well.

*These works are sometimes edited after the fact, sometimes several times over, but this edition is from 2000, published by the Worker’s Party Publisher (N’odongd’ang chulpan’sa). All translations are my own, and if anyone has any corrections to offer, please get in touch.

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Kim Jong-un’s mother’s grave (Ko Yong-hui)

Friday, April 8th, 2016

I reported this in Radio Free Asia last week….

It has never been announced in the North Korean media, but Kim Jong-un has “quietly” built a grave for his mother, Ko Yong-hui, on Mt. Taesong.

Ko-grave-2016-4-8

Pictured above (Google Earth): The grave of Kim Jong-un’s mother, Ko Yong-hui.

The site where the grave was built was cleared of a few small buildings by May 2012 (Kim Jong-il died in December 2011).  Construction appears to have been completed by October 2012.

Although the grave is on Mt. Taesong, it does not appear to be a revolutionary site. It is not featured on a nearby map of revolutionary sites on Mt. Taesong, and North Koreans are not being brought to it by the bus load (very little traffic in fact). Kim jong-un may have visited the grave unofficially, but never as a public ritual. The only foreigner I have spoken to who has visited the site saw only one guard on duty. So maybe someday years from now it is intended to be a revolutionary site, but not for now.

Back in 2010, Michael Madden posted this picture of Ms. Ko’s birthplace in Osaka, Japan. I was able to locate it on Google Earth at these coordinates:  34.663147°, 135.531080°

Ko-birthplace

Ko’s father (Kim Jong-un’s maternal grandfather) was buried on Jeju-do in South Korea, but the family had his grave moved to an undisclosed location to prevent it from attracting crowds. It is highly unlikely that Kim Jong-un will ever visit this grave.

UPDATE: A reader sent in this very helpful information:

Ko’s father is not buried on Jeju-Do! This grave is a so-called “가묘”, an “empty or fake grave”. The reason for erecting a “가묘” was to be able to perform the (in Korean culture) important ancestor rites, since they are actually without any remains of the deceased since their whereabouts are mostly unknown. Especially after the Korean War, many “가묘” were erected in Korea, because many family members just disappeared …

Here is more information about the “fake” tomb of Kim Jong Un’s grandfather in Jeju-Do: http://m.blog.daum.net/_blog/_m/articleView.do?blogid=0Li0k&articleno=7763730

Under the photo it is written “가묘” (for the empty/fake tomb)

On the tombstone you may read the following sentence:  “사정에따라 허총을 만들다” (because of circumstances an empty/fake tomb was made)

Here they use 허총, this word has the same meaning as 가묘.

Further the following is written on the tombstone:

“His name was 고경택 (Ko Kyong-thaek)

He was born in 1913, in 1929  he moved to Japan and he died in 1999.

The last two lines mention the name of his father (Ko Yong-ok) and his six sons: Ko Yong Hun, Bong Hun, In Hun, Kwang Hun, Chol Hun and Sang Hun.

His daughters (among them obviously Ko Yong Hui) are not mentioned.

Those 가묘/허총 (fake tombs) can also be seen in North Korea!

The Korean wiki-page about the Patriotic Martyrers Cemetery in Pyongyang includes the following information:

“대한민국에서 사망한 김삼룡, 김달삼, 최일천, 조봉암, 김종태, 최영도, 최백근, 이현상 등은 가묘 형태로 묘소가 마련되어 있다.”

 Roughly: (all the mentioned martyrs) died in South Korea, that is why a 가묘 had to be set up …
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Chinese local governments formally notified of sanctions against North Korea

Monday, March 21st, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

I’m not sure if this is anything out of the ordinary or if this is the formal routine every time sanctions have been passed. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting development. If sanctions against North Korea are ever to hit the economy where it hurts, Chinese local governments are perhaps the most important implementers since much (or most) of North Korea’s external trade occurs with them. Korea Herald:

China has notified its local governments on how to implement new U.N. sanctions on North Korea, including specific measures on imports from North Korea, a diplomatic source with knowledge of the matter said Monday.

Kim Hong-kyun, South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy, held talks with his Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei, last Friday as the two nations vowed to fully implement the new U.N. sanctions against North Korea’s fourth nuclear test and rocket launch.

During the talks, Wu told Kim that China has been “in the process of implementing the new U.N. resolution on North Korea,” said the source, who attended the Friday meeting.

“The Chinese side also believes that strong sanctions are needed to show its sincerity on denuclearization,” the source said.

Earlier this month, the U.N. Security Council levied tougher sanctions against North Korea’s fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and the Feb. 7 launch of a long-range rocket, both of which violated previous U.N. resolutions.

The new U.N. sanctions require countries to limit or ban imports of North Korean coal, iron ore and other mineral resources if the proceeds are used for the North’s nuclear and missile programs.

One of the potential loopholes is a provision that allows North Korea to continue exports of coal and iron ore if such transactions are for “livelihood purposes.”

Full article here:
China notifies local gov’ts of new U.N. sanctions on N. Korea
Yonhap News/Korea Herald
2016-03-21

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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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Economic reforms to come at North Korea’s Party Congress, Daily NK says

Monday, January 11th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Daily NK today carries a piece reporting on economic reforms to potentially come at the Korean Worker’s Party Congress coming up this year:

In terms of the possibility of declaring new economic reforms, the source explained he would announce reform measures that stay within the overall framework of socialism. Taking an extra step forward from the new economic management system’s ‘June 28 Measures,’ which pertained to agricultural policies, the pending package of reforms will include provisions authorizing individuals to directly manage factories. In practice, this would enable the state to collect more taxes from the donju [newly affluent middle class] by providing them with more freedom to make money.

Aspects of these changes are already underway in select locales. “In some regions, municipal People’s Committee business offices have been granting donju increased license to earn money,” he said. “Provided that people can offer up the initial 6,000 RMB fee and build their own factories with basic infrastructure such as sanitation facilities they are relatively uninhibited in their business operations.”

Hints at reforms like these were largely absent from Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s Address, I argued in an earlier post.

Read the full article:
Major organizational changes to be announced at Party Congress
Choi Song Min
Daily NK
2016-01-11

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The economy in Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s address: what’s there and what isn’t

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

The supposed hydrogen bomb test has come to dominate the news on North Korea over the past few days, for obvious reasons. Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s Address has naturally ended up in the shadow of the nuclear test, but it is worth going back for a closer look. Overall, it is a speech that appears to contain few major announcements or indications. Perhaps more surprising than what themes are there, are the themes that are absent.

Stephan Haggard pretty much sums up how economic matters are treated in the speech, as they often are in North Korean rhetoric on economics: “As usual, the economic components of the speech rely more on exhortation than any clear policy message, confusing results with the means of achieving them.”

That is, in much of the speech, Kim simply talks about what will be achieved but leaves out how to get thereTake the following paragraph, for example (my emphasis added):

The Cabinet and other state and economic organs should decisively improve their economic planning and guidance. Leading economic officials should fully equip themselves with Party policy, work out plans of the economic work in an innovative way and give a strong push to it on the principle of developing all the sectors at an exponential speed by relying on the inexhaustible creative strength of the working people and by dint of modern science and technology. They should accurately identify the main link in the whole chain of economic development and concentrate efforts on it while revitalizing the overall economy, especially when the conditions are not favourable and many difficulties arise. They should be proactive in organizing and launching the work of establishing on a full scale our style of economic management method which embodies the Juche idea, thus giving full play to its advantages and vitality.

And:

All the sectors of the national economy should set ambitious goals and maintain regular production by tapping every possible internal reserve and potentiality.

Those who are more savvy at reading between the lines and interpreting rhetorical symbolisms can perhaps draw out meaningful signals from quotes such as these. But at face-value, they seem to give little indication of policy changes. Or of any policy at all, for that matter.

What are the areas that Kim hold up as economic priorities, then? Stephan Haggard points out heavy industry as one such theme. It is also the one mentioned first in the speech. Infrastructure and power supply also features fairly prominently (and is mentioned early on), with specific references to several power station construction projects. Kim also mentions IT and the “knowledge-driven economy” (emphasis added):

Our working class, scientists and technicians, true to the instructions of the great leaders, made a big stride in making the metallurgical industry Juche-based, built model, standard factories of the era of the knowledge-driven economy in various parts of the country and put production lines on a modern and IT footing, thus opening a new road of advance for developing the overall economy and improving the people’s standard of living.

Presumably, this is what North Korean media mean when they talk about the H-bomb test as an economic boost: that such capabilities show North Korea’s strength as a knowledge-based economy.

Domestic production capabilities are highlighted all the way through. This theme isn’t new. Kim Jong-un has often emphasized the importance of goods diversity and local production. This lies well in line with the basic economic tenets of the Juche doctrine. Here is one example of how domestic production capacity is highlighted in the speech (emphasis added):

The flames of the campaign to implement the Party’s ideas and defend its policies have unfolded a proud reality of our indigenous plane flying in the sky and our indigenous subway train running under the ground, and rich fish and fruit harvests were gathered, their socialist flavour bringing pleasure to the people.

One theme that features relatively prominently is construction. In one paragraph, Kim even states that “Construction is a yardstick and visual evidence for the strength of a country and the quality of its civilization”, and continues to urge the country to build more:

The construction sector should launch a general offensive to implement the Party’s construction policy and grand plan. By doing so, it should build important production facilities, educational and cultural institutions and dwelling houses on the highest possible level and at the fastest possible speed, so that they serve as standards and models of the times. In this way it can make sure that the great heyday of construction continues without letup.

Perhaps this is an indication that the building boom in Pyongyang of the past few years will continue. Priorities such as this one primarily benefit those political classes that live in Pyongyang. With few exceptions, as far as I’m aware, most other cities have seen little of the construction boom that the capital city has experienced.

There is also a reference to the coal mining industry. On the one hand, it may be interesting because North Korea’s main export destination for coal is China, and these trade flows have been volatile over the years, and there have been signs that North Korea isn’t getting a good deal in this trade. But on the other hand, this may be reading too much into one small reference in the speech (emphasis added):

In order to achieve breakthroughs for a turning point in building an economic giant the electric-power, coal-mining and metallurgical industries and the rail transport sector should advance dynamically in the vanguard of the general offensive.

Later, coal mining appears only in reference to the domestic power supply (emphasis added):

All sectors and all units should wage a vigorous campaign to economize on electricity and make effective use of it. The sector of coal-mining industry should raise the fierce flames of an upsurge in production to ensure enough supply of coal for the thermal power stations and several sectors of the national economy.

There are two themes that are surprisingly absent. One is agriculture. Agricultural policy is barely present, and when it is, management methods aren’t mentioned. For example:

The agricultural sector should actively adopt superior strains and scientific farming methods, speed up the comprehensive mechanization of the rural economy and take strict measures for each farming process, so as to carry out the cereals production plan without fail.

This is a little surprising, because regime sources have claimed that agricultural production has been boosted during the year, and management reforms with greater incentives for farmers have been touted as the reason. (A close look at the numbers indicates that agricultural production has declined slightly during 2015, moving it towards the average of the 2000s.) If agricultural reforms have indeed been a central tenet of Kim Jong-un’s economic policies, one could at least have expected a reference to these reforms in the speech.

The second theme that is strangely absent is forestry policy. It is only mentioned in one sentence:

The whole Party, the entire army and all the people should buckle down to the campaign to restore the forests of the country.

During the past year, Kim Jong-un has highlighted forestry policy as a key area. He has talked openly and frankly about the role of tree felling in causing floods and subsequent food shortages, and promoted reforestation, albeit not in a way that is likely to work very well. North Korean media has singled out tree nurseries for not doing their job properly. In sum, forestry has been relatively high on the agenda, but the topic still barely made it into the speech.

All in all, from an economic policy standpoint, this year’s New Year’s Address did not contain any major bombshells. The fact that economic issues appear right after the section on the upcoming party congress may be a hint that such issues will be high on the agenda, but then again, it might not mean much at all. Moreover, it is unclear how much can really read into the New Year’s Address for hints about regime policies and priorities. After all, the speech contained virtually no allusions to the H-bomb test that was to come only days later.

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Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s Address

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Here is the English-language version of Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s Address, from KCNA:

Pyongyang, January 1 (KCNA) — 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, made his address on the New Year, Juche 105 (2016).

The full text of the address reads:

Dear comrades,

Filled with the dignity and self-respect of being victors, who have set up a shining milestone in the history of the glorious Workers’ Party of Korea and our country, we are greeting the New Year 2016.

In reflection of the fervent loyalty of all the people and service personnel, I extend the noblest respect and New Year greetings to the great Comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, the symbol of socialist Korea and the sun of Juche.

My New Year greetings also go to all the service personnel and people, who are working devotedly for the prosperity of their socialist country with a firm determination to follow the road of Juche to the end together with the Party, and I wish that all the families will be filled with harmonious feelings and the happy laughter of our dear children resound more loudly.

Seeing in the New Year, I extend greetings to our compatriots in the south and abroad who are struggling to achieve national reunification, the cherished desire of the nation, and to the progressive peoples and our friends in the world who aspire after independence, justice and peace.

The year 2015 was a year of gigantic struggle, which is adorned with meaningful events and eye-opening successes, a year of victory and glory, in which socialist Korea fully demonstrated its prestige and might.

Last year we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea as a proud and significant revolutionary event of the great Paektusan nation.

Having turned out as one in hearty response to the Party’s call, the service personnel and people waged a heroic struggle in the revolutionary spirit of Paektu and through bold army-people cooperation, thus bringing about proud labour results dedicated to the motherly Party.

The Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station, Chongchongang Power Station in Tiers, Sci-Tech Complex, Mirae Scientists Street, Jangchon Vegetable Cooperative Farm and many other structures of lasting significance and beautiful socialist villages that embody the Party’s ideas and policies sprang up, showing the mettle of the country which is advancing by leaps and bounds reducing ten years to one.

Our working class, scientists and technicians, true to the instructions of the great leaders, made a big stride in making the metallurgical industry Juche-based, built model, standard factories of the era of the knowledge-driven economy in various parts of the country and put production lines on a modern and IT footing, thus opening a new road of advance for developing the overall economy and improving the people’s standard of living. The flames of the campaign to implement the Party’s ideas and defend its policies have unfolded a proud reality of our indigenous plane flying in the sky and our indigenous subway train running under the ground, and rich fish and fruit harvests were gathered, their socialist flavour bringing pleasure to the people. Our sportspeople including the trustworthy women’s soccer players exalted the honour of their motherland and further encouraged the militant spirit of our service personnel and people by winning gold medals in international competitions.

Through the large-scale events held to celebrate the Party’s 70th anniversary drawing the attention of the world, we demonstrated far and wide the might of the single-hearted unity of all the service personnel and people around the Party and the bright future of Juche Korea.

The moving scenes unfolded on the October celebration square shook the world with power greater than that of explosion of an atomic bomb or that of the launching of an earth satellite, and clearly showed that nothing can check the dynamic advance of our Party, service personnel and people that are fighting with the single-hearted unity and arms as their ever-victorious weapons.

Last year our service personnel and people warded off the danger of war facing their country and nation and safeguarded the dignity of the Republic and world peace with honour.

That we neutralized the hair-trigger situation teetering on the brink of armed conflict owing to the grave political and military provocations by the hostile forces and defended the dignity and security of our motherland from possible calamities is a brilliant victory born of the Herculean might of the great army-people unity and of the powerful Paektusan revolutionary army.

What makes us look back upon last year with greater delight is that our young vanguard who are reliably carrying forward the lineage of the Juche revolution and faith demonstrated the might of the youth power without parallel in the world by means of their loyalty to the Party and heroic struggle.

Educated and trained in the embrace of the great leaders and the Party, our young people rushed ahead along the course of the Korean revolution set by the Party, creating the charging spirit and culture of young people of the Songun era and performing laudable deeds that touched people’s heartstrings. The millions of young people, fully equipped with the revolutionary ideology of the great leaders and firmly rallied behind the Party, have grown strong in ideas and faith, to become successors to the cause of the Juche revolution. This is the greatest dignity, pride and success for us.

All the victories and successes achieved last year are a fruition born of the heroic struggle of our people, who turned out in the general offensive for their country’s prosperity with the spirit and mettle of Paektu, and a crystallization of the invaluable blood and sweat the service personnel and people dedicated to the country and the revolution.

Spending last year seething with creation and filled with miraculous achievements together with the service personnel and people, who were burning their hearts with patriotism and loyalty, our Party witnessed with a warm feeling their beautiful spiritual world and strenuous struggle and gained greater strength and courage from their trust-filled look and sincere opinions.

As there are the Party’s sagacious leadership, the invincible army and the great people that absolutely support the Party and defend it unto death, we have no difficulties to be afraid of and can accomplish any great cause without fail-this is the proud conclusion of last year’s struggle.

I extend warm thanks to all the members of the Workers’ Party of Korea, service personnel and people who glorified last year with heroic struggle and feats in devoted support of the cause of the Party cherishing ardent loyalty to it and faith in sure victory.

Comrades,

This year is a significant year when the Seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea is to be held.

The congress will proudly review the successes our Party has achieved in the revolution and construction under the wise guidance of the great leaders, and unfold an ambitious blueprint for hastening final victory for our revolution.

We should celebrate the Seventh Party Congress as a glorious meeting of victors as it will constitute a historic landmark in carrying out the cause of the Juche revolution.

“Let us usher in a golden age in building a thriving nation in this year when the Seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea is to be held!”-this is the militant slogan our Party and people should uphold as they advance.

All Party members, service personnel and other people should turn out as one with ardent loyalty to the Party and extraordinary patriotic zeal, and demonstrate the spirit and mettle of Korea that is rushing forward towards final victory racing against time.

We should concentrate all our efforts on building an economic giant to bring about a fresh turn in developing the country’s economy and improving the people’s standard of living.

In order to achieve breakthroughs for a turning point in building an economic giant the electric-power, coal-mining and metallurgical industries and the rail transport sector should advance dynamically in the vanguard of the general offensive.

The problem of electricity should be resolved as an undertaking involving the whole Party and the whole state. The existing power stations should be kept in a good state of maintenance, bolstered up and run at full capacity to ensure maximum output of electric power. The construction of the Tanchon Power Station and other projects for boosting the country’s power-generating capacity should be promoted along with the efforts to ease the strain on electricity supply by making proactive use of natural energy. All sectors and all units should wage a vigorous campaign to economize on electricity and make effective use of it. The sector of coal-mining industry should raise the fierce flames of an upsurge in production to ensure enough supply of coal for the thermal power stations and several sectors of the national economy.

The state should take thoroughgoing measures to make certain that the sector of metallurgical industry receives adequate material supplies and the metallurgical factories, such as the Kim Chaek and Hwanghae iron and steel complexes, expand the successes achieved in making their production Juche-based and modern. By doing so it can increase the output of iron and steel. The rail transport sector should establish rigid discipline and increase effectiveness in organizing and controlling transport services to ensure regular operation of trains, and step up the modernization of railways.

Our Party maintains the improvement of the people’s living conditions as the most important of the numerous state affairs.

The crop farming, animal husbandry and fishing sectors should make innovations to effect a radical change in improving the people’s standard of living. The agricultural sector should actively adopt superior strains and scientific farming methods, speed up the comprehensive mechanization of the rural economy and take strict measures for each farming process, so as to carry out the cereals production plan without fail. The animal husbandry and fishing sectors, which are waging an all-out struggle in response to the Party’s call, should ramp up production as soon as possible and see to it that the fish farms, vegetable greenhouses and mushroom production bases built across the country pay off. Thus they can contribute to enriching the people’s diet.

The light industry sector should put its factories and enterprises on a highly modern footing, provide them with plenty of raw and other materials to keep their production going full steam and increase the number of world-famous products and commodities with a competitive edge.

Construction is a yardstick and visual evidence for the strength of a country and the quality of its civilization; it constitutes a worthwhile, important undertaking for embodying our Party’s people-oriented policies. The construction sector should launch a general offensive to implement the Party’s construction policy and grand plan. By doing so, it should build important production facilities, educational and cultural institutions and dwelling houses on the highest possible level and at the fastest possible speed, so that they serve as standards and models of the times. In this way it can make sure that the great heyday of construction continues without letup.

All the sectors of the national economy should set ambitious goals and maintain regular production by tapping every possible internal reserve and potentiality. They should also take it as an important policy-oriented requirement to improve product quality, ensure domestic production of equipment and rely on locally available raw and other materials, and make strenuous efforts to this end.

The whole Party, the entire army and all the people should buckle down to the campaign to restore the forests of the country.

The urban and rural areas, workplaces and villages should be kept spick and span, and positive measures should be taken to conserve the resources of the country and prevent air, river and sea pollution.

Our Party is steadfast in its determination and will to solidify the foundations of a thriving country by dint of science and technology and, with them as the engine, achieve national prosperity. The scientific research sector should give priority to resolving the scientific and technological problems that arise in consolidating the might of the Juche-based industry, the socialist independent economy, and improving the people’s standard of living, and strive to push back the frontiers of science and technology. Factories, enterprises and cooperative farms should build science and technology diffusion rooms in a splendid fashion and put their operation on a regular basis, so as to ensure that all the working people learn modern science and technology. It is also necessary to establish a social climate of resolving the problems arising in reality on the strength of science and technology.

The Cabinet and other state and economic organs should decisively improve their economic planning and guidance. Leading economic officials should fully equip themselves with Party policy, work out plans of the economic work in an innovative way and give a strong push to it on the principle of developing all the sectors at an exponential speed by relying on the inexhaustible creative strength of the working people and by dint of modern science and technology. They should accurately identify the main link in the whole chain of economic development and concentrate efforts on it while revitalizing the overall economy, especially when the conditions are not favourable and many difficulties arise. They should be proactive in organizing and launching the work of establishing on a full scale our style of economic management method which embodies the Juche idea, thus giving full play to its advantages and vitality.

The political and military might of our Republic should be strengthened in every way.

It is necessary to cement the politico-ideological position of socialism rock-solid.

We should regard ideology as the driving force of the revolution and focus on the five-point education so as to train all the service personnel and people to be strong in ideas, to etch in their hearts the revolutionary spirit of Paektu, the spirit of the blizzards of Paektu, and encourage them to give free rein to their indomitable mental strength in the struggle to carry out the instructions of the great leaders and safeguard the Party’s policies. Political work and frontline-style information and motivational work should be vigorously conducted to ensure that the whole country seethes with an atmosphere of heightened political enthusiasm in the lead-up to the Seventh Party Congress.

Single-hearted unity is the great foundation and ever-victorious weapon for the Juche revolution. All the officials, Party members and other working people should connect their burning hearts with the garden of the offices of the Party Central Committee and share the Party’s ideas, breathe the same breath as it and keep pace with it in order to travel one road forever following the Party. Party organizations and state organs should give absolute priority to the demands and interests of the people by thoroughly applying the politics of prioritizing, respecting and loving them, and take responsible care of their political integrity and material and cultural life to the end. Party organizations should take hold of public sentiments, rally the broad sections of the masses closely around the Party, and launch an intensive struggle among officials against all practices of abuse of power, bureaucratism and corruption that gnaw at and undermine our single-hearted unity.

The country’s defence capability should be built up.

In this year, which marks the 20th anniversary of the movement of winning the title of O Jung Hup-led 7th Regiment initiated by General Kim Jong Il, the People’s Army should further develop itself into a revolutionary army of the Party in which the Party’s unified command system is thoroughly established, into a steadfast army of the Party that keeps the revolutionary faith to the death, and effect a turnaround in implementing the Party’s four-point line of building up the army to be formidable. By keeping it as the seed to conduct training in a real-war atmosphere and put it on a scientific and modern footing, the army should raise the fierce flames of training so that all the service personnel are prepared to be elite soldiers of modern warfare and stout fighters who are equipped with the military strategies and tactics of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, the heroic fighting spirit and flawless abilities to fight an actual war. It should become a standard-bearer and shock force of the times to make breakthroughs as intended by the Party on the major fronts where a thriving country is being built, and look for more tasks that are for the good of the people.

Officers and men of the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces should smash in embryo the manoeuvrings of the class enemy and hostile elements to harm the leadership of the revolution, our socialist system and our people’s lives and property, and members of the Worker-Peasant Red Guards and the Young Red Guards should intensify combat and political training and fully prepare themselves to defend their villages.

The munitions industry sector should develop defence science and technology, put the defence industry on a highly Juche-oriented, modern and scientific footing, and give full play to the revolutionary spirit of Kunja-ri, so as to develop and produce a greater number of various means of military strike of our own style that are capable of overwhelming the enemy.

We should ensure that our people enjoy the highest quality of civilization on the highest level.

By raising the flames of radical improvement in education in the new century, we should renovate the conditions and environment for education and improve its quality decisively, thereby bringing up talented personnel who are knowledgeable, morally sound and physically strong. We should improve medical treatment and preventive work as required by the socialist public health system in order to protect the people’s life and promote their health.

We should make sports mass-based and part of daily concern to ensure that the whole country is astir with enthusiasm for sports, and radically develop the specialized sporting techniques to create new miracles of heroic Korea in international games. The sector of art and literature should brace itself to produce a larger number of contemporary masterpieces which make all the service personnel and people burn their hearts with enthusiasm for the revolution and for struggle.

We should launch a strong drive to establish discipline with regard to moral ethics so as to ensure that a sound and civilized way of life prevails throughout the country.

All the officials and working people should turn out as one in the struggle to usher in a golden age in building a thriving nation in this year when the Seventh Party Congress is to be held.

It is the tradition of struggle and temperament of our people to turn out with a single mind and will and continuously work miracles like moving mountains and filling up seas if it is the Party’s call.

The heroic working class of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, as befits the core unit of the Juche revolution and the eldest son of the country, should support the Party’s ideas and cause in the vanguard and advance holding up the torch of a new great revolutionary upsurge in building an economic giant. Agricultural workers, with the sense of responsibility that they are in the trench on the first line of the forward echelon of the campaign to defend socialism, should strive to bring about a turn in agricultural production. Intellectuals should promote the building of a thriving country by means of brilliant scientific and technological successes as required by the era of the knowledge-based economy, and become pacesetters and standard-bearers in opening the efflorescence of civilization of the age of the Workers’ Party.

Our Party pins a great hope on the role of young people in today’s general advance. Young people, cherishing the trust of the Party that has given prominence to them as masters of the youth power, should train themselves further to be dependable pillars of the country and become artists of miracles and heroes on all the sites where a thriving nation is being built.

Officials should immerse themselves in the reality to inspire the masses and conduct every undertaking in a revolutionary and scientific way. They should also become true servants of the people and competent leading personnel of the revolution who make selfless, devoted efforts for the good of the people with the ennobling view of life that they have nothing more to wish for even though their bodies may be scattered like the grains of sand on the road for the good of the people.

In all fields of social life we should sustain the original features and great appearances of our society which is advancing on the strength of helping and leading one another forward and through a concerted effort. Our target is a Juche-oriented socialist power, and the might of socialism is none other than the might of collectivism. All sectors and all units should attach primary importance to the interests of the state, the Party and the revolution, introduce the successes and experiences gained by the leading units and make leaps and bounds in the flames of collectivist competition.

The principle of giving priority to self-development should be maintained in building a thriving socialist country. Worship of big countries and dependence on foreign forces is the road to national ruin; self-development alone is the road to sustaining the dignity of our country and our nation and to paving a broad avenue for the revolution and construction. With affection, trust, dignity and pride in everything of our own, we should achieve the great cause of building a thriving nation and realize the people’s beautiful dreams and ideals without fail by our own efforts, technology and resources.

National reunification is the most pressing and vital task facing the nation.

Last year, greeting the 70th anniversary of national liberation, we appealed to all the compatriots to pool their efforts to open up a broad avenue to independent reunification, and strived for its realization. However, the anti-reunification forces that are not desirous of national reunification and improved inter-Korean relations ran amuck to realize their schemes for a war and even created a touch-and-go situation short of crossfire, causing grave apprehension at home and abroad. The south Korean authorities publicly sought to realize their goal of “regime change” in our country and unilateral “unification of systems” against the trend of inter-Korean dialogue and detente, and fanned distrust and confrontation between the north and the south.

This year we should hold up the slogan “Let us frustrate the challenges by the anti-reunification forces within and without and usher in a new era of independent reunification!” and press on with the national reunification movement more vigorously.

We should reject foreign intervention and resolve the issues of inter-Korean relations and national reunification independently in keeping with the aspirations and demands of the nation.

It is none other than the outside forces that divided our nation, and it is also none other than the United States and its followers that obstruct the reunification of our country. Notwithstanding this, the south Korean authorities are clinging to a smear campaign against the fellow countrymen in collusion with the outside forces while touring foreign countries to ask for the solution of the internal issue of our nation, the issue of its reunification. This is a betrayal of the country and nation that leaves the destiny of the nation at the mercy of the outside forces and sells out its interests.

The issues of inter-Korean relations and national reunification should, to all intents and purposes, be resolved by the efforts of our nation in conformity with its independent will and demands, true to the principle of By Our Nation Itself. No one will or can bring our nation reunification.

The whole nation should struggle resolutely against the sycophantic and treacherous manoeuvres of the anti-reunification forces to cooperate with the outside forces. The south Korean authorities should discontinue such a humiliating act as going on a tour of foreign countries touting for cooperation in resolving the internal issues of the nation.

It is fundamental to realizing the country’s reunification to prevent the danger of war and safeguard peace and security in the Korean peninsula.

Today the peninsula has become the hottest spot in the world and a hotbed of nuclear war owing to the U.S. aggressive strategy for the domination of Asia and its reckless moves for a war against the DPRK. The U.S. and south Korean war maniacs are conducting large-scale military exercises aimed at a nuclear war against the DPRK one after another every year; this is precipitating a critical situation in the Korean peninsula and throwing serious obstacles in the way of improving inter-Korean relations. Last year’s August emergency showed that even a trifling, incidental conflict between the north and the south may spark a war and escalate into an all-out war.

The U.S. and south Korean authorities must discontinue their extremely dangerous aggressive war exercises and suspend acts of military provocation that aggravates tension in the Korean peninsula.

It is our consistent stand to strive with patience for peace in the peninsula and security in the region. However, if aggressors dare to provoke us, though to a slight degree, we will never tolerate it but respond resolutely with a merciless sacred war of justice, a great war for national reunification.

We should value such agreements common to the nation as the three principles for national reunification and declarations between the north and the south, and in conformity with them, open up an avenue to improved bilateral relations.

These principles and declarations constitute the great reunification programme common to the nation, and all fellow countrymen wish that they are implemented as soon as possible and a radical phase opened up in reunifying the country.

If they are sincere about improving inter-Korean relations and reunifying the country peacefully, the south Korean authorities must not seek pointless confrontation of systems, but make it clear that they intend to respect and implement with sincerity the three principles for national reunification, June 15 Joint Declaration and October 4 Declaration, which crystallize the general will of the nation and whose validity has been proved in practice. They should cherish the spirit of the agreement signed last year at the inter-Korean high-level emergency contact, and desist from any act that will lead to a breach of the agreement and mar the atmosphere of dialogue. In the future, too, we will make strenuous efforts to develop inter-Korean talks and improve bilateral relations. We will also have an open-minded discussion on the reunification issue, one of the national issues, with anyone who is truly desirous of national reconciliation and unity, peace and reunification.

All the Korean people in the north, in the south and abroad will smash all challenges and obstructive moves by the anti-reunification forces in and out of the country and build a dignified and prosperous reunified Korea on this land without fail under the banner of By Our Nation Itself.

The United States has persisted in ignoring our just demand for replacing the Armistice Agreement with a peace pact to remove the danger of war, ease tension and create a peaceful environment in the Korean peninsula. Instead, it has clung to its anachronistic policy hostile towards the DPRK, escalating the tension and egging its vassal forces on to stage a “human rights” racket against the country. However, no plots and schemes of the enemy could break the indomitable will of our service personnel and people to firmly defend and add brilliance to our style of people-centred socialism, the base of their happy life.

The challenges by the hostile forces remain uninterrupted and the situation is as tense as ever, but we will invariably advance along the road of independence, Songun and socialism under the unfurled red flag of the revolution, and make all responsible efforts to safeguard peace and security in the Korean peninsula and the rest of the world.

Our Party and the government of our Republic will further strengthen solidarity with the peoples of the world who are opposed to aggression and war, domination and subordination, and develop relations of friendship and cooperation with all the countries that respect our national sovereignty and are friendly to us.

The cause of Juche-oriented socialism is ever-victorious, and only victory and glory is in store for us who are advancing under the leadership of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Let us all strive for the final victory of the revolution full of confidence in victory and optimism.

Greeting the hope-filled New Year, I wish the people across the country good health and happiness. -0-        (2016.01.01)

The source of this text is:
Korean Central News Agency
01-01-2016
KCNA

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Hydrogen bomb test will give economic boost, North Korean state media says

Friday, January 8th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Today’s Rodong Sinmun carries an article hailing the (claimed) hydrogen bomb test as a step towards turning North Korea into an economic powerhouse, UPI reports:

Pyongyang’s state-controlled newspaper Rodong Sinmun published an article Friday that exalted North Korea’s military-first policy, stating, “The first successful hydrogen bomb test forcefully demonstrated the power of self-reliant [North Korea], [now] we must boldly struggle to build an economic powerhouse and to enhance the people’s livelihoods.”

North Korea stated the regime’s nuclear power has the capacity to strike “any strong enemy” and “seize absolute control.”

“A path has opened, where we can devote all our energies into building an economic powerhouse,” Pyongyang said in statement.

Read the full article:
North Korea hails hydrogen bomb test as path to economic power
Elizabeth Shim
UPI
2016-01-08

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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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