Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

IFES brief on geological surveys in North Korea

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

On 25th September, North Korean leader and chairman of the State Affairs Commission, Kim Jong Un, issued instructions that survey equipment should be modernized and its production domesticated using the most up-to-date science and technology, in order to decisively improve geological survey work.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the North Korean government’s official newswire agency, reported on 26th September that Kim gave these instructions in a letter he sent to the Nationwide Geological Survey Department Workers Conference held at the People’s Palace of Culture on the previous day. He also stated that “Geological surveys are the core front in constructing an economically strong nation.”

In the letter, Kim emphasized the need “to create a scientific developmental strategy for the Geological Survey Department in line with the demands of constructing an economically strong nation, and this should be executed in a step-by-step fashion. Also, under the state’s unified leadership, order and discipline must be established with respect to the development of underground resources.” He went on to say, “the role and responsibility of resource protection institutions must be raised, while the state’s energy must be put into the physical-scientific protection activities of Geological Survey departments. . . . I look forward to related officials and workers bringing about a decisive improvement in geological survey work, and contribute actively to the construction of an economically strong socialist state.”

At the same time, while on a visit to the Taedong River Syringe Factory, Kim Jong Un instructed that the factory be transformed into a modernized facility.

On 23rd September, KCNA reported on Kim Jong Un’s recent on-the-spot guidance saying: “Located in the suburbs of Pyongyang, the Taedong River Syringe Factory is a large base for the production of medical equipment, having the capacity to produce a variety of syringes.”

Reminiscing, Kim also said that the factory, built in December 2000, “rose during the Arduous March, the Kanghaeng-gun Period, under direct instigation of and energetic leadership of the General [Kim Jong Il]. This was a period the enemy viciously sought to isolate us, and natural disasters meant that everyone was forced to tighten their belts.”

While at the factory, Kim Jong Un instructed that: “not only should the factory normalize a high level of production, but also completely guarantee a high level of product quality, and undertake an energetic struggle to diversify the types of syringe produced. . . . If syringe production is to be systematically raised, and different kinds of syringe and syringe needle for a range of uses are to be produced properly, there is a need to modernize the factory in line with the demands of the knowledge economy era.”

Moreover, Kim emphasized the importance of constructing a combined production system, as well as automation, and sterilization, saying: “it is the intention of the party that the Taedong Syringe Factory will become a model and standard for our country’s medical equipment production facilities by modernizing.”

In 2007, when South Korean medical aid was offered to the North in relation to North-South medical projects, the North Korean side expressed the hope that needed supplies would be given as aid, saying: “syringes, needles and cotton balls are most needed.” They even proposed that the South Korean government aid in the construction of a syringe factory, saying “a syringe is only used once.” It is a noteworthy change that North Korea has now begun producing syringes for itself.

Article source:
‘Geological Surveys’ Are Core Front in Constructing Economically Strong Nation
IFES NK Briefs, Institute for Far Eastern Studies


Book review recommendation: Philip Park’s Rebuilding North Korea’s Economy

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

It is unfortunate that books published in South Korea are often difficult for reader’s in the United States and Europe to get a hold of without waiting out the very long waiting times for online purchases or library orders. Readers of this blog may well be familiar with Kyungnam University professor Philip H. Park’s work on the institutional side of the North Korean economy. One of professor Park’s books on the North Korean economy was recently translated into English and published under the name of Rebuilding North Korea’s Economy. Sadly I have not yet personally been able to read the book for reasons stated at the beginning of this post, but a review in Daily NK summarizes some of the core arguments:

“Rebuilding North Korea’s Economy” is a detailed history of the evolution of North Korea’s economic institutions. It is a newly published English translation of the original Korean work. The author is a professor of political science and diplomacy at Kyungnam University. The book details how a series of crises stimulated a procession of changes in North Korea’s economic strategy. Each new strategy reacted to and attempted to amend the problems created by its predecessor. However, each policy also sowed the seeds for future crisis by creating new inefficiencies.

The Argument
Phillip Park’s central contribution is to correct a common misconception about marketization and the decentralization of North Korea’s economy. Park argues that North Korea did not begin its process of marketization with the July 1st Measures in 2002 – as is commonly believed. Instead, he presents evidence that North Korea actually started spinning the gears of this process much earlier, most significantly with the adoption of the Ryonhapkiopso System (Complex Industrial System) in 1986. In theory, this economic approach allowed limited market mechanisms and practical planning to replace more ideological economic initiatives. The system’s implementation was largely a response to stagnated growth and the impending collapse of one of North Korea’s key sponsor states, the Soviet Union. Aside from inefficiency, North Korea’s principal economic problem has always been striking a balance between sectors while also pursuing self-sufficiency. The Complex Industrial System aimed to address that problem.
The author uses North Korean economic journals as his primary sources. He admits that separating the useful information from the propaganda was a laborious task. So, while the information does need to be taken with a grain of salt, we can still learn a lot about the state of North Korea’s economy by observing how academic discussions and policy recommendations have evolved over time. The book does a good job contrasting policy dialogues with the results of subsequent implementations (or lack thereof). The book’s sources help dispel the myth that North Korea’s political economy is purely monolithic. Indeed, through the book, we witness key players – academics and officials alike – arguing over milestone policies.
One note of caution: Park dives headfirst into the North Korean understanding of economics. Yes, this means a heavy dose of Marxist concepts and five-syllable jargon. But those with a rudimentary understanding of socialist politics know that seemingly obscure theoretical points are sometimes used to justify sweeping changes. In particular, changes to North Korea’s economic institutions are often motivated by theoretical assumptions about how to best transition to a fully communist state. This is actually one of the book’s major charms. After we digest the dense vocabulary, we are presented with a reasonable framework for understanding the decision making of one of the world’s most opaque and incomprehensible dynasties. That in itself is a laudable achievement.
Let’s address a few downsides. Considering that the original Korean work was published a few years ago, it would have been nice to get an expanded forward with some new observations on Kim Jong Un’s performance as an economic manager. Also, abbreviations and technical jargon are used thoroughly in the book. A glossary of terms would have been a handy reference.
Although Park’s main argument may seem technical at first glance, the repercussions of this work are vast. The most immediate and profound impact is that it forces us to reconsider the history, nature, and trajectory of North Korea’s economic transformation. Marketization is typically described as a bottom-up process of slowly expanding black market activity. But Park gives us a reason to think that the picture is slightly more nuanced. It gives us a view into the thinking of North Korean economic planners. Readers are prompted to think more deeply about how institutions shape incentives in North Korea, and how these institutions have changed over time.
Full article here:
Light and shadow: A review of ‘Rebuilding North Korea’s Economy’
Daily NK

Buy your own North Korean coal, through Alibaba

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Are you looking for the perfect birthday present or anniversary gift for your loved one? Look no further. It seems you can buy your own North Korean coal through the Chinese shopping website Alibaba.

One company, Dandong Zhícheng Metallic Material, states: “We are professional company of trading the North Korea Briquettes, choose us, trust us.” Buyers can choose to have their coal transported either through the Dalian or Dandong ports, and the company markets both coal briquettes and other types of coal products. The website contains information about the country and their products in both Chinese and Korean, but the text is blurry and appears in a small font, making it difficult to read. I am currently unable to find the original page where these descriptions appear, but below are a few screenshots:

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 22.05.17Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 22.05.31Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 22.05.52 Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 22.06.14Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 22.06.05





















Update 2016-07-03:

Voice of America (Korean version) cites this blog post here, and Yonhap in turn cites VoA here, without citing this blog.


Kim visits National Defense University

Sunday, June 12th, 2016


2016-6-13-1-01 2016-6-13-1-02

National Defense-uni-2016

Rodong Sinmun and KCNA report that Kim visited National Defense University. The story is not in English on their web sites yet, but the university is in Ryonsong District in Northern Pyongyang (39.169469°, 125.777240°). The Google Earth imagery of it is a little dated, but you can see where those two statues are going to be erected.


Here is the story in Rodong Sinmun:

Kim Jong Un Visits National Defence University

Kim Jong Un, chairman 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, provided field guidance to the National Defence University.

He paid tribute to the statues of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il at the university.

Watching the statues of smiling Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, he said with deep emotion that the university is associated with the exploits they performed by tirelessly working heart and soul for developing the Juche-oriented national defence industry in the whole period of their revolutionary careers.

He said that the statues of the great leaders were erected at the university on the occasion of the 49th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s visit to it, adding that this was a great event of weighty significance in adding eternal shine to the immortal revolutionary exploits of the great leaders recorded in the history of education in the Juche-oriented national defence science and constituted an immense pride and happiness of all teaching staff and students of the university and personnel in the field of the national defence industry.

He went round the room for the education in the revolutionary history and room dedicated to the history of the university.

Kim Il Sung proclaimed the founding of the National Defence College, the predecessor of the National Defence University, in October, 1964 and visited it several times and took meticulous care of it including the establishment of departments, students’ uniform, cap-badge and collar badge and clearly indicated the road to be followed by it.

Kim Jong Il took a measure to newly build the university in an excellent place and led it with loving care so that it could fulfill its mission and duty as a center for training national defence scientific and technical personnel.

Watching historic data, Kim Jong Un said that the university has developed into the highest seat of training Juche-oriented national defence scientific and technical personnel having hundreds of persons with academic degrees and titles, several colleges, faculties, a doctorial institute, etc.

Looking at photos on the board introducing heroes one by one, he said that there are many acquaintances at the university, a clear proof that it has covered a proud path following the party. The university has produced a lot of personnel who have protected our party, he added.

He went round various places of the university including an exhibition hall of education science, e-library, weaponry hall, etc. to learn in detail about the teaching and education and scientific research.

He set forth the tasks to be fulfilled by the university.

Noting that the National Defence University is one of the universities for which he has the deepest affection and to which he attaches importance, he said he would frequently receive reports on the problems arising in the teaching and education at the university and personally settle them. He promised to turn the university into the most prestigious one in the country, an iconic university training hardcore personnel and talents who would shoulder upon themselves the national defence science and the world first class one.

He had a photo session with the officials and teachers of the university.

He was accompanied by Ri Man Gon, vice-chairman of the C.C., the WPK, Yu Jin and Jo Yong Won, vice department directors of the C.C., the WPK.

Here is coverage of the story in Yonhap:

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has reaffirmed his intent to stick to nuclear weapons when making his first military-related public activity since the party congress in May, the North’s state media showed Monday.

Kim conducted the so-called field guidance at National Defense University, which the communist country says contributes to its defense industry, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). It did not specify the date of his visit.

Kim was quoted as saying by the KCNA that the mission of the university is to nurture talented people in a bid to further consolidate the country’s status as a nuclear power state in the East.

It marked the first inspection into the defense sector since the country concluded the congress by the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) on May 9.

Since the party event, the North’s young leader has focused on economy-related public activities including visits to a tree nursery and saltern, as he has stressed the need to boost its fragile economy on the principle of self-reliance.

At the party congress, Kim called his country a “responsible” nuclear state, saying that he will “permanently” defend the pursuit of his signature policy of developing nuclear weapons and boosting the country’s moribund economy.

The KCNA said that the National Defense College, the predecessor of the university, was set up in October 1964 during the regime of the country’s founder Kim Il-sung.


Rice planting campaign underway in North Korea

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Earlier this month, the North Korean government launched a rice-planting campaign, mobilizing citizens for agricultural work. Rodong Sinmun has written about this campaign a few times during May. On the 13th, Rodong dedicated almost a full page to rice plantation, calling for a “breakthrough”. The article contains some language on agricultural organization: for example, it cites an agricultural organization [기술전습회] that urges farmers to be creative in their farming methods and adapt to their separate conditions.

While this might sound like an argument for less central state control, provincial independence has been a hallmark of the Juche system for decades. Kim Jong-il said similar things during the famine years. The issue, of course, is that as long as inputs, land use, production targets and other variables remain centrally planned, local creativity can only go so far.

The article does, however, contain some interesting claims. For example, one senior official (Ri Kyong-rok) is quoted as saying that water conditions are twice as good as last year. Moreover, the article also claims that fertilizer is more abundantly available than last year. Perhaps this is all true (a big perhaps), but if so, it would go against the past year’s trend of worsening conditions for agricultural overall.

On May 16th, Rodong again carried a long piece on the rice planting campaign, calling for every citizen’s participation and hard work, based on scientific methods.

Mass campaigns such as this one can obviously not be fully understand only through North Korean publications. Yesterday, Daily NK carried a piece about how campaigns such as this one play out on the ground, with market trade becoming more restricted as the government strives to ensure that everyone dutifully participates in rice planting:

The mobilization, which commenced on May 15, will remain in effect until June 15, a source from South Pyongan Province told Daily NK. Of most concern to residents is the fact that for the duration of the mass mobilization, official general markets will operate only three hours daily– from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.–and business-related travel be strictly limited.

This news was corroborated by sources in North and South Hwanghae Provinces, North Pyongan Province, and North and South Hamgyong Provinces.

In addition, alcohol sales in restaurants will be banned for the ordinance’s duration; service establishments including barbers, hair salons, and public bathhouses are permitted to operate, but only after 5 p.m.

All central agencies, state-run factories, social organizations, universities, and high schools are busy gearing up for the mass mobilization. To ensure their compliance, streets are plastered with “farm assistance-battle” posters, and vehicles outfitted with loudspeakers move through neighborhoods from early morning hours, blaring propaganda songs to keep up the pressure; local officials wielding megaphones follow suit on foot, calling on everyone from “homemakers, the elderly, and middle school students to commute to farms nearby and work,” the source said.

“The streets are lined with Ministry of People’s Security personnel [MPS], carrying out orders to step up surveillance and crackdowns to maximize support [for the mobilization]. In parallel, prosecutors and other agents from the judicial system patrol state-run companies and residential areas to check up on the mobilization numbers. If firms fall short of the quotas, company managers face punitive measures, which can include, among other things, imprisonment for up to ten days.”

The heightened control and fear tactics, he added, are to hedge against possible public outrage from a populace forced to participate in successive mobilizations, which hamper market business and thereby severely undermine their livelihood.

Full article:
Rice-planting mobilization order handed down
Choi Song Min
Daily NK


Daily NK also discussed the campaign with So Jae Pyong, secretary general for the Association of North Korean Defectors:

We saw an article emphasizing grain production on page five of the 13th issue of the Rodong Sinmun entitled, “This Year’s Uphill Battle for Grain” and then again on the front page on the 16th issue, “Band Together for the Rice-Planting Battle.” It would appear that North Korea is still dealing with their chronic grain underproduction. What seems to be the problem?

The main problem is that even the farmers themselves are suffering from hunger and are therefore turning their attention away from their official farm duties and working private secret farms on the side. This is because they till the earth tirelessly all year long on their official farms only to have their produce taken away for the military and State rations. They are only met with poverty and starvation based on this system so it’s easy to see their lack of drive to work hard for more production. Based on this, they have no other choice but to have an almost forced production system on the collective farms. The government needs to implement some kind of policy to improve the quality of the lives of these farmers but that just simply isn’t the case. Farmers have zero interest in the production of their crops because of this system. They’re really only focused on their separate, private crops. I think the only way to alleviate the hunger and poverty that citizens are suffering from is to completely do away with this type of quota system.

Full article:
Hearts and minds remain at the ‘jangmadang’ despite propaganda push
Unification Media Group
Daily NK


(UPDATE 2016-02-24): 

Daily NK reports some discontent with rice planting campaign, with complaints about how it interferes with Kim Jong-un’s own policies of raising science and technology in education:

“The students in our province have been sent to agricultural regions such as Koksan County and Yonsan County. During the ‘70-Day Battle,’ the students were forced to plant seeds and pull up weeds. Now, as the students head off to the farms again, they are sardonically spouting off lines about how they are farmers rather than students,” a source in North Hwanghae Province reported to Daily NK on May 20.

“The students have remarked that being pressed into forced labor during the ‘70-Day Battle,’ and now for the ‘Rice-Planting Battle’ is just as laborious and difficult as risking your life on an actual battlefield. They justifiably point out, ‘If these kind of ‘battles’ continue to arise, when are we supposed to study?’“

Since rising to power, Kim Jong Un has frequently underscored the importance of education, describing universities as the “platform for launching the future of the nation, one of the main pillars of society, and the training ground for leaders.” He has also continued to point out that it is important to focus on experiential learning and on-the-job-training in order to elevate the quality of the nation’s education and produce illustrious students with technical knowledge.

However, the record shows a different tale. Students have spent a considerable amount of time being mobilized to work on idolization construction sites and farms. This has severely crippled their educational experience. Consequently, students have become upset that their instruction hours have not been protected and that they are being exploited for their labor.

Added a separate source in South Hwanghae Province, “University students have spent more time working on the farm than they have spent studying for their classes or learning about science/technology. Under such circumstances, students naturally complain that it is difficult to imagine how these universities will be able to fulfill Kim Jong Un’s order to create illustrious students with technological capabilities.”

Full article:
Complaints mounting among university students sent to farms for labor
Daily NK
Kim Chae Hwan


North Korean economic production and the 70-Day Campaign

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

UPDATE 1 (2016-5-18): By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

A couple of weeks ago, KCNA carried another evaluation of production during the 70-Day Campaign. In the context of claims that the newly launched five-year plan (2016-2020) is the first one in decades, it is worth noting that economic planning as such has never fully ceased to be part and parcel of the official North Korean economy. As communist economies do, North Korea still measures economic success much in terms of mere output. The 70-Day Campaign is one example:

The Korean Central News Agency Thursday released a report on the successful conclusion of the 70-day campaign with a great victory to be specially recorded in the history of the Korean nation under the guidance of Marshal Kim Jong Un.

According to the report, the capabilities for self-defence including the capacity of nuclear attack of Juche Korea have been remarkably bolstered and the campaign plan has been over-fulfilled 44 percent in terms of industrial output value, and industrial production has grown 1.6 times as against the same period last year.

Signal successes have been achieved in the development of Korean-style smaller nuclear warhead, simulated test of atmospheric re-entry of a ballistic missile, test of high-power solid-fuel rocket engine and stage separation, test of high-power engine of inter-continental ballistic missile.

Workers in the four vanguard fields have performed labor feats in the van of day-and-night campaign.

Those in the field of power industry honored their 70-day campaign quotas at 110 percent.

I am not one to draw major conclusions from the order of mentions of areas in reports such as this one, but if the order says anything about priorities, it is worth noting that energy shows up first among other areas than missiles and nukes. Recall that energy has been emphasized by media tied to the North Korean regime.

The Ministry of Coal Industry carried out its coal production plan more than 10 days ahead of schedule and results of capital tunneling and preparatory tunneling have jumped several times as against those in the past.

Those in the steel field and miners hit the goals of production of Juche iron, rolled steel and iron ore.

The field of railway transport carried out the plan for the transport of major freight at 124 percent.

What economic value more transportation carries is unclear…

More than 70 farm machines of over 20 types have been invented and manufactured, typically potato harvester, self-propelled sprayer, combined plowing machine, combined soil governing machine, small multi-purpose farm machine and combined rice thresher.

Those in the fishery field built multi-purpose fishing boats of “Hwanggumhae” series by their own efforts and with indigenous technology in a brief span of time and put them into operation.

The plan for the production of machine tools has been over-fulfilled more than 60 percent and index-specific campaign plans have also been carried out in the machine-building industrial field.

Workers in the Namhung Youth Chemical Complex and Hungnam Fertilizer Complex produced 1.2 times as much fertilizers as before and the February 8 Vinalon Complex significantly increased the production of vinalon and various kinds of other basic chemical goods.

The nationwide cement production plan has been carried out at 141 percent and a boost has also been recorded in the production of varieties of building materials including glass.

Workers of forestry stations and mine pillars production stations honored timber production plan set by the Ministry of Forestry at 137 percent.

Agricultural workers across the country have made full preparations for farming by their devoted efforts.

But note that no numbers are given for farming output, or any agricultural output other than fishing and seaweed.

Officials and workers in the fishery field have over-fulfilled their plan for fishing and seaweed culture more than 10 percent when the results of the Ministry of Fisheries are taken as a whole.

The gross industrial output value in the field of light industry has been over-fulfilled 54 percent and the index-specific performance has shown a marked jump over the period before the campaign.

A number of consumption goods producers have hit their goals for the first half of the year or the yearly ones. Some of them even set a record by fulfilling two-year production quotas.

Those in the field of land and environment protection and workers and other people across the country including youths and students planted hundreds of millions of trees in mountains covering more than 100 000 hectares.

The Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station No. 3 and the Wonsan Army-People Power Station have been successfully completed.

In just one month after breaking the ground for the construction of Ryomyong Street, its builders finished ground excavation for dozens of blocks of apartment houses and are now pushing forward the ground concrete tamping in its final stage.

Baby homes, orphanages, orphans’ primary and secondary schools sprang up across the country and the Mindulle Notebook Factory was built.

New structures have been built one after another. They include Dyke No. 2 of Nunggumdo Tideland, Outdoor Sapling Cultivation Ground of the Central Nursery of the Ministry of Land and Environment Protection and Pyongyang Athletic Apparatus Factory.

Scientists and educators across the country registered three times as many research achievements as against the same period last year to be conducive to the economic development of the country and the betterment of the people’s living standard.

Unprecedented achievements have also been made in the fields of literature, arts, education, public health and sports.

The 70-day campaign of loyalty clearly showed the world how the great Kim Jong Un‘s Korea is advancing toward the eminence of the century.

The full article was published by KCNA on May 6th.

ORIGINAL POST (2016-4-30):

“Industrial establishments over-fulfill production targets as the 70-day campaign comes to an end” (Pyongyang Times: 2016-4-30)

The Hwanghae Iron and Steel Complex, one of the model units in the current 70-day campaign of loyalty, hit its steel and pig iron production targets 101 percent respectively as of April 20.

Smelters of the UHP electric arc furnace have so far reset the peak production record of molten iron per charge several times. They gave full play to the spirit of collectivism of helping and leading one another forward, while introducing advanced working methods to shorten the time of heating and increase the output of molten iron per charge.

The workers of the continuous ingot steel workshop carried out their daily production plan at 102 percent on average, 110 percent at maximum.

Those of the Sunchon Cement Complex drastically raised cement production on the first day of the campaign to renew the daily peak production record for the first time in 20 years. Without resting on their laurels, they worked hard and finally achieved their campaign goals.

The Ministry of Coal Industry carried out its highly-set campaign target ahead of schedule as of April 20 with the coal production plan 101 percent and major, preliminary and boring tunnelling 101.5, 105.5 and 106. 6 percent respectively.

Coal-mining machine factories across the country manufactured and repaired thousands of coal wagons and made over 1 800 wheels more than planned under the uplifted self-development-first banner. A great deal of achievements were also made in the production of coal-mining equipment and their parts.

The Chongchongang Thermal Power Station increased power generation to exceed its campaign plan by 2.2 percent as of April 25. The workers of the station repaired equipment and increased the number of boilers in operation to ensure uninterrupted power generation.

The February 8 Vinalon Complex gave priority to the supply of raw materials and fuel, staggered production and organized management of equipment and technology scrupulously to boost production, thereby surpassing the vinalon production goal by 50 percent.
Workers of the Wonsan Salt Works increased production 2.2 times over the same period of last year by fully storing seawater in reservoirs while introducing an advanced seawater freezing method which suits the conditions on the east coast throughout the winter.

Thousands of hectares of farmland have been rezoned in Kaesong and Jangphung County, with over 19 300 patches and paddies and more than 1 260-kilometre-long ridges between paddy and dry fields removed and hundreds of hectares of land brought under cultivation. This paved the way for comprehensive mechanization of farming on all fields and consequent increased cereals production.

Officials and workers of the Sinuiju Textile Mill have produced three times more cotton yarn and fabrics than before the campaign. Amidst the dynamic collective emulation drive between workteams, shifts and workshops, many workers and workteams have carried out the first half year and annual production plans as well as campaign plans and the number is growing.

More than 200 factories and enterprises in Pyongyang have hit their 70-day campaign goals and first half year plans ahead of schedule.

“Nation’s Industrial Production Rises 1.2 Times” (Pyongyang Times: 2016-3-16)

Industrial output grows rapidly thanks to the heightened revolutionary enthusiasm and creative spirit of selfreliance and self development of service personnel and people, who have risen up in the day and night march true to the call of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea for launching a 70day campaign of loyalty for the Seventh Party Congress, according to a report of the Korean Central News Agency on March 12.

The nation’s industrial production increased 1.2 times in the first ten days of March over the same period of last year.

The Pukchang and Pyongyang thermal power complexes and other thermal and hydropower stations across the country pressed on with power generation as scheduled, far exceeding the tenday targets set by the Party.

Coal mines in the western areas including Tokchon and Sunchon cut thousands of tons of coal more every day.

The Ministry of Coal Industry overfulfilled the tenday production plan by 13 per cent and the results of major and preliminary tunnelling far surpassed the plan, securing hundreds of reserve coalcutting faces.

The workers of the Hwanghae Iron and Steel Complex doubled the Juche iron output over the same period of last year, and all metallurgical bases conducted a dynamic drive to increase iron and steel production.

Amidst the heated emulation and experiencesharing in iron ore mines in Musan, Unnyul, Thaethan and other areas, the Jaeryong Mine increased daily production over 1.5 times on average, thus taking the lead in the supply of concentrated iron ores to metallurgical factories.

The Ministry of Railways, all the railway bureaus and their branches commanded railway transport scrupulously and gave top priority to concentrated transport without accident to overfulfil the plan for main freight.

The increased production in the vanguard economic sectors injected a new lease of life into the overall major industrial sectors such as machinebuilding, chemical, building materials and mining industries and forestry.

The Taean Heavy Machine Complex completed the production of generating equipment till March 9 in a matter of two months and sent them to the construction site of Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station No. 3 on March 10.

The workers of the large machinebuilding bases in Ragwon and Ryongsong and the Sungni Motor Complex speeded up the processing of products and increased the production of spare parts including various kinds of gears and speed reducers, a great contribution to a 1.5 times rise in the production of thermal power generating equipment of the Ministry of Machine Building Industry.

The workers of the Hungnam Fertilizer Complex hit the Juche fertilizer production target for the first ten days of March.

Cement production is also growing in the Sangwon Cement Complex whose workers and technicians have turned out to break the production record again this year after last year.

Many forestry and prop production stations carried out their first quarterly and yearly timber production quotas.

Farming preparations were brisk on the agricultural front, resulting in a 1.7 and 2.8 times growth in the securing of hukposan and microbial fertilizers and an over 1.3 times increase in the acreage of field carpeted with humus soil.

Officials and fishermen carried out the plans of the Ministry of Fisheries for ten days 121 per cent.

Daily amount of catch increased rapidly and fishing results saw a leap in the fishery stations on the east and west coasts.

Hundreds of workers hit their targets for the first quarter and half of the year in the field of textile industry. Kumkhop, Pomhyanggi and Maebongsan and other popular brands saw a sharp rise in sales.

Many major construction projects progressed apace including those for Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station No. 3, reconstruction of Kim Il Sung Stadium, secondstage reconstruction of the Central Zoo, capacity builup of the Central Tree Nursery of the Ministry of Land and Environment Protection, the central class education hall and Wonsan Army People Power Station.

Many young people volunteered to work in labour consuming fields and hundreds of workers carried out their yearly plans.

“KCNA Reports about Signal Successes in Various Fields in Early March” (KCNA: 2016-3-13)

The Korean Central News Agency Saturday said in a report that the industrial production in the first ten days of March when the 70-day campaign of loyalty is under way grew 1.2 times as compared with the corresponding period of last year.

According to the report, production in the vanguard and basic industrial fields of the national economy including electric power, coal, metal and railway transport sharply rose.

Thermal power plants and hydro-power stations across the country have over-fulfilled their daily quotas.

The production plan of the Ministry of Coal Industry for ten days in March was over-fulfilled 13 percent.

The workers of the Chollima Steel Complex boosted the production of rolled steel 32 percent.

A dynamic drive for increased iron and steel production is under way in metallurgical bases across the country including the Hwanghae Iron and Steel Complex.

The Jaeryong Mine increased daily quotas over 1.5 times on an average, thus taking the lead among the iron ore mines in Musan, Unryul, Thaethan and other areas.

The Ministry of Railways, all the railway bureaus and sub-bureaus over-fulfilled main freight haulage plan.

The increased production in the vanguard sectors of the national economy injected vitality into major industrial fields such as machine-building, chemical, building material and mining industries and forestry.

The custom-built equipment for different fields of the national economy were turned out and the production of nonferrous metal ore, chemical fertilizers, cement, sheet glass, timber, etc. radically increased.

The Taean Heavy Machine Complex completed the production of generating equipment in a matter of two months and sent them to the construction site of the Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station No. 3 on Mar. 10.

The Ministry of Machine Industry increased the production of thermal power generating equipment 1.5 times.

Mines under the Phosphate Fertilizer Industry Management Bureau honored its plan at 150 percent.

The workers of the Hungnam Fertilizer Complex hit the goal for the production of Juche fertilizers.

The workers and technicians of the Sangwon Cement Complex are working hard to surpass the peak production year again this year.

The Sunchon Cement Complex, the Chonnaeri Cement Factory and the Sunghori Cement Factory boosted the production over 10 percent.

Many forestry stations and pit prop production stations also honored their first quarterly and yearly timber production quotas.

The production of homemade fertilizers and their transport, tractor overhauling and maintenance and other farming preparations are nearing completion thanks to the devoted drive of agricultural workers across the country.

The fishery officials and workers over-fulfilled their production plan of the Ministry of Fisheries for ten days 21 percent.

The field of light industry over-fulfilled the production plans for textiles, knitwear and shoes.

In the field of textile industry hundreds of workers honored the half yearly and first quarterly quotas and famous products and goods favored by the people are on the increase.

Many major construction projects are making rapid progress.

A lot of young people volunteer to work in the hard and labor-consuming fields.

Across the country hundreds of workers honored their yearly plans, at least 3,600 people carried out the first half yearly plans and more than 15,400 people hit the first quarterly goal.

A lot of members of the women’s union are giving helping hands to builders in power stations, workers of coal and ore mines. War veterans, honorary party members and pensioners have turned out in the 70-day campaign in South Phyongan Province and other parts of the country to fully demonstrate the noble traits of our society advancing with the might of single-minded unity.

“Rapid Economic Growth Witnessed in DPRK” (KCNA: 2016-4-8)

The DPRK has made a rapid progress in major construction or reconstruction projects and industrial production in recent 40 days after the start of the 70-day campaign.

In particular, Pyongyang, its capital city, showed an increase of twice in the tempo of construction or reconstruction projects and 1.6 times in industrial production.

The Aeguk Vegetable Processing Factory and the Mangyongdae Children’s Camp were rebuilt on a modern basis and the second-stage renovation of the Central Zoo is progressing apace at the final stage.

Besides, 80 percent of total work has been carried out in scores of construction and reconstruction projects, including the Ryuwon Shoes Factory, Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory and the Pyongyang Cornstarch Factory.

Electricity and coal outputs went up at thermal-power and hydro-power stations and coal mines.

The Pyongyang Steel Works and the Pyongyang Cast Iron Pipe Factory fulfilled their production plans 120 percent on an average, 150 percent to the maximum.

An increasing number of units in light industry and foodstuff industry have finished their yearly and half-yearly production quotas.

Such successes are reported from railway, agricultural and other industrial sectors.


North Korea’s 7th Party Congress and the economy

Saturday, May 14th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

The 7th Party Congress is over, and it turned out to be an affair focused on personal appointments and formalities rather than concrete policy. This post is an attempt to gather some of the news about the congress, some international but mostly domestic coverage and Kim Jong-un’s speeches, particularly that pertaining to economic matters.

Day 1  (5/6/2016) and before 

The congress opened on Friday May 6th. This is how Rodong Sinmun covered the opening:

The Seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) opened here with splendor Friday.

Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the WPK, was present there.

The congress was attended by delegates with the right to vote and speak elected at the provincial party conferences and officials of party, armed forces and power organs, economic organs, working people’s organizations and those in the fields of science, education, public health, literature and arts and media nominated at the provincial party conferences as observers.

Also present there were congratulatory groups of Koreans in Japan and the General Association of Koreans in China for celebrating the Seventh Congress of the WPK.

Kim Jong Un made an opening address.

He in his address, reflecting the infinite loyalty and ardent reverence of the delegates, Party members, service personnel of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) and all other people across the country, extended the noblest tribute and greatest glory to the great Comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.


The congress sent congratulatory messages to the service personnel of the Korean People’s Army and the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces who performed distinguished feats in defending the party congress and to the working people and officials of the institutions, industrial establishments and cooperative farms who performed brilliant labor feats in the 70-day campaign of loyalty.

The congress approved the following agenda items:

1.Review of the work of the C.C., the WPK.

2.Review of the work of the Central Audit Commission of the WPK.

3.On revising the Rules of the WPK.

4.On electing Kim Jong Un to the top post of the WPK.

5.Election to the central leadership organ of the WPK.

The congress started the discussion on the first agenda item.

Kim Jong Un began the report on the work of the C.C., the WPK.

The presentation of the report will go on at the second day-sitting.

In his opening address to the congress, carried by KCNA, Kim Jong-un highlighted both national prosperity and hardship:

Today we are holding the historic Seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea amid the grand struggle in which the whole Party, the entire army and all the people, filled with iron nerves and confidence to achieve the final victory of the Juche revolution as soon as possible, are making an all-out, general onward march courageously, thwarting all manner of threats and desperate challenges by the imperialists.


The Seventh Congress of the WPK has been convened at a historic time when the phase of leap forward in implementing the cause of the Juche revolution is being opened up.

The last decades since the Sixth Congress of the WPK were characterized by grim struggle and glorious victory on the part of our Party and people.

During the period under review the situation of our revolution was very grave and complex.

In the unprecedentedly hard times when the world socialist system collapsed and the allied imperialist forces concentrated their anti-socialist offensive on our Republic, our Party and people were compelled to fight against them single-handed.

The imperialists strained the situation constantly for decades to keep our people from living at peace even for a moment and blocked all the pathways to economic development and existence through all manner of blockade, pressure and sanctions.

In the face of harsh and manifold difficulties and ordeals and the hardships and sufferings worse than those during a war, our Party and people were united more firmly around the Central Committee of the WPK, holding the President and the General in high esteem as the centre of unity and leadership, and made strenuous efforts to defend and advance the socialist cause, following only the revolutionary line of Juche put forward by the great leaders as they braved the storm of history without the slightest hesitation or vacillation.


This year when the Seventh Congress of the WPK is held, our service personnel and people achieved great successes in the first hydrogen bomb test and the launch of earth observation satellite Kwangmyongsong 4 which served as landmarks in the nation’s history spanning 5 000 years, thus raising the dignity and might of Juche Korea to the highest level possible; in high spirits, they conducted a dynamic 70-day campaign of loyalty to perform great feats and make unprecedented labour successes in all fields of socialist construction.

All the service personnel and people throughout the country displayed the spirit of carrying out the policies of the WPK to the death in response to its militant call for launching the 70-day campaign, thereby making the greatest successes and leap forward in all sectors of the national economy and achieving the brilliant result of exceeding the targets of the campaign set by the WPK.


Kim also spoke about economic achievements, and said that North Korea’s economic plans had been fulfilled ahead of schedule (my emphasis):

During the campaign, the electric-power, coal-mining and metallurgical industries and rail transport sector strove hard for increased output and transport to bring about a surge in production, and many units in different sectors of the national economy including the machine-building, chemical, building-materials and light industries and agriculture raised a strong wind to ensure modernization and domestic production of our style and bring about an upswing in production, thus making the distinguished achievement of carrying out the first half-year and yearly national economic plans ahead of schedule.

Our heroic working class of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, scientists and technicians waged an unyielding struggle on the principle of giving priority to self-development to develop and manufacture new machines and equipment based on local efforts and technology, thereby presenting them as gifts to the Congress of the motherly Party. Others across the country wonderfully completed lots of major construction projects, which will be highly conducive to developing the economy and improving the people’s living standards, in a short span of time before the Congress to send reports of loyalty to the Central Committee of the WPK.

But reporters from abroad were in Pyongyang a few days before the congress opened and delivered some interesting dispatches. The Washington Post’s Anna Fifield, for example, visited Jangchon Cooperative Farm near Pyongyang on May 4th. Note that no one at the farm seems to have spoken to reporters about Kim Jong-un’s experimental agriculture reforms — if they have been implemented on a large scale, this would seem a good opportunity to express gratitude and pride in them.

The farm, which Kim visited in June, was deemed to be a shining example of progress, given that it is apparently used as a model for other agricultural cooperatives across the country. So reporters were taken down roads bustling with people to the conspicuously deserted complex.


Apparently, a total of 3,000 people live in this cooperative. But apart from a few people working in greenhouses and a handful more repairing roofs or painting lampposts, almost no one was around. Inside a science building, lab equipment sat like museum pieces.


What about these garden plots in front of the houses? They were household gardens, the minders said. Never mind that one house had a garden of only cabbages, another of only cucumbers, the next entirely squash.

Agriculture has been one of the areas where there has been significant change in recent years. Kim Jong Un’s regime has changed the quota system to allow farmers to keep between 30 and 60 percent of their crops, either to eat or to sell for profit in the markets. Economic analysts have been watching these changes­ keenly, part of a broader, if tentative, move toward marketization.

Full article:
A model farm – with few farmers – in North Korea 
Washington Post
Anna Fifield

On the first day, the congress also sent a congratulatory message to “working people and officials” who participated in the 70-day campaign, carried by KCNA:

The 70-day campaign was a great one for consolidating the single-minded unity of the party, army and people of the DPRK as firm as a rock, bringing about a great innovation and leap forward in building a thriving nation, foiling the vicious moves of the hostile forces to put pressure on the DPRK and stifle it and fully demonstrating the dignity and might of the great Paektusan nation, the message said, and went on:

The Central Committee of the WPK together with its Central Military Commission made public joint slogans in order to glorify this year in which its Seventh Congress is to be held as a year of great heyday in building a thriving nation, ardently appealed to all party members to stage the 70-day campaign in the letter to them and clearly indicated the orientation and ways for winning victory in the on-going general advance.

Unprecedented achievements have been made in the above-said campaign thanks to the heroic struggle of the working people and officials who turned out to greet the Seventh Congress of the WPK out of their boundless loyalty and warm patriotism toward the party.

The Seventh Congress of the WPK extended warm congratulations to the working people and officials of the institutions, industrial establishments and co-op farms who creditably fulfilled the tasks before them during the campaign by sharing the thought, will and pace with the party and fully displaying matchless heroism and self-sacrificing spirit.

Day 2 (5/7/2016) 

On the second day of the congress, Kim gave a report on the work of the KWP Central Committee:

The demise of Kim Il Sung was the biggest grief and loss to our party and people and the biggest trial for our revolution.

After the greatest loss to the nation, the imperialists and their followers have reached the height in their political and military pressure, moves for provoking a war and economic blockade. To cap it all, the country was hit by severe natural disasters, bringing untold hardships and trial to the economic construction and people’s living.

When the world was concerned about the fate of the DPRK and when the imperialist reactionaries were foolishly trumpeting about “change in line” and “collapse of social system”, leader Kim Jong Il solemnly declared his iron will to invariably defend and carry to completion the revolutionary cause of Juche started by the President no matter how arduous the road of the revolution might be, and wisely led the revolution and construction only as intended by the President and the way he did.

By carrying forward the cause of the President under the wise guidance of Kim Jong Il, the WPK has firmly maintained the Songun revolutionary line, the path of winning the steady victory of the Korean revolution, and enforced the Songun politics in an all-round way.


As required by the prevailing situation and the developing revolution, the WPK advanced the strategic line of simultaneously pushing forward the economic construction and the building of nuclear force and worked hard for its implementation.

The WPK organized and waged an all-people general onward movement for building a thriving people’s paradise as planned and desired by the great leaders and thus ushered in the new era of the prosperity of the country.

The entire party and all the people have achieved the single-minded unity of the whole society in which they are united closely around the leader in thinking and purpose and sense of moral obligation. This is the great success and feat achieved by our party during the period under review.

Our party and people dynamically waged the drive to implement the strategic line of socialist economic construction to lay firm material and technical foundations of self-supporting national economy and provide a springboard from which to build an economic giant.

In delivering this report, Kim mentioned (for the first time during the congress) the new 5-year plan (2016-2020) (emphasis added):

In order to successfully build a socialist power under the banner of modeling the whole society on Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism, it is necessary to strengthen the people’s government and enhance its function and role and, at the same time, thoroughly carry out the general line of our party to dynamically conduct the three revolutions–ideological, technical and cultural.

It is imperative to carry through the five-year strategy for the state economic development from 2016 to 2020.

Kim had a busy second day, and also delivered a review of the KWP’s work (also carried by KCNA):

As required by the prevailing situation and the developing revolution, the WPK advanced the strategic line of simultaneously pushing forward the economic construction and the building of nuclear force and worked hard for its implementation.


A big stride has been made in the economic and cultural construction.

Raw materials, fuel and power bases of the self-supporting economy have been reinforced and Juche-based production processes introduced into core fields and the structure of industrial sectors further improved.

Is Kim perhaps alluding to changes in agricultural management in the following section? (my emphasis):

 A successful innovation was witnessed in the development of communications service and production processes, technical equipment and operation means have been further modernized in various fields including transport and building-materials industry.

A high-pitched campaign for bringing about a radical turn in seed selection, potato farming, double cropping and scientific farming was waged in the field of agriculture to provide a guarantee for increasing grain production.

Modern stock-breeding bases, fish farms, vegetable greenhouses, mushroom farms and vast thriving orchards were built across the country.

In fisheries a campaign for carrying out the Party’s idea of creating a new history of sea of gold has been waged to make a breakthrough in the development of the fishing industry.

Technical updating and the work for ensuring the local supply of raw and other materials has been positively conducted in factories and enterprises in the field of light industry to ensure increased production and supply of quality consumer goods for people.

Many monumental edifices representing the era of the Workers’ Party to which the Juche-oriented architectural idea was applied were built to lay a solid foundation for socialist economic construction and improvement of the people’s living standards.

Able scientists and technicians grew in number while the material and technical foundation for the scientific researches was consolidated despite economic hardship, bringing about radical development of the science and technology.

Fresh progress was made in the education as required by the IT era with the enforcement of the universal 12-year compulsory education and the establishment of the remote education system.

In another speech, Kim “set forth tasks for completing [the] socialist cause.” KCNA published the speech the same day it was given, and Kim does mention some goals connected to economic matters. This is, to my knowledge, the first statement where Kim actually elaborates somewhat on the five-year plan (my emphasis added):

We should attach importance to talents and attain the goal of turning all people into scientific and technological talents.

It is necessary to lay a firm material and technological foundation of the state and bring about a turn in improving the people’s living standard.

It is necessary to work out a phased strategy for the development of the national economy in a scientific and realistic way and carry out it without fail.

As an immediate task we should thoroughly carry out the five-year strategy for the state economic development from 2016 to 2020.

Note that Kim mentions “external economic relations” before any other matters when discussing the priorities of the five-year plan:

It is necessary to expand and develop external economic relations.

One could speculate whether the following pronouncement alludes to the enterprise management changes under Kim Jong-un — the true meaning of the statement seems to hinge on how one interprets “responsible”:

We should conduct the state unified guidance and strategic management of the economic work in a responsible manner.

The two statements above are the only ones that directly concern economic policy. They are fairly vague, but Kim’s expansions of special economic zones and management reforms come to mind.

Other parts of the speech are not necessarily interesting because of their connection to the economy. This is presumably a reference to the problem of people illegally watching foreign movies and tv-series (my emphasis):

We should usher in an overall efflorescence in the socialist literature and arts.

It is necessary to shatter the imperialist ideological and cultural poisoning and strictly preserve our socialist culture and lifestyle.

We should establish strong moral discipline throughout the society.

It is necessary to further increase the might of the politico-ideological power and military power.

We should more firmly cement the harmonious whole of the party and the popular masses.

We should detect and shatter all moves of the enemies to destabilize our socialism in good time and firmly defend our ideology and social system, class position and single-minded unity.

During the second day, Kim continued his review of the KWP’s work in another speech, and was no stranger to recognizing North Korea’s problems. In affirming North Korea’s “independence,” Kim struck a familiar chord and repeated a suspicion against foreign “aid” that both his grandfather and father often spoke of (my emphasis):

He noted that in the period under review, a radical change was made in the world political structure and correlation of forces and the international circumstances of the Korean revolution remained very complicated.


For global independence, it is important for each country and nation to maintain their sovereignty, holding aloft the banner of independence against imperialism.

The core of the struggle against imperialism is to frustrate the moves of the U.S. and its followers for aggression and war and defend the global peace and security.

Underscoring the need to conduct a vigorous struggle to get the aggressive military blocs, the root of military confrontation and war, dissolved and the military bases for aggression removed from other countries and thus build a new peaceful world, he continued:

All countries and nations aspiring after independence should never harbor any expectation and illusion about the imperialists’ cunning double-dealing tactics and hypocritical “aid”, but preserve the Juche character and national identity.

The progressive mankind of the world should vigorously struggle for international justice, irrespective of differences in political view, religious belief and economic and cultural development.

It is sometimes difficult to understand how the North Korean regime conceives of the logic behind Byungjin (parallel development of nuclear weapons and the economy), but the following passage gives a hint — with nuclear weapons, the country will be in a stronger position to negotiate its standing in all other areas as well:

Since it retained the status of a full-fledged independent power, a nuclear power, the DPRK will develop its external relations in conformity with the status.

Day 3 (5/8/2016)

On the third day, one of the main statements concerned the work of the auditing commission of the KWP. If one were to speculate, it may not be completely far-fetched to connect this emphasis on internal financial control with the anti-corruption drive launched earlier this year. This is what the designated rapporteur had to say about the work of the commission:

The reporter said the Party Central Auditing Commission confirmed that the party finance has properly performed its mission and duty and all financial activities have been conducted correctly on the principle of the party in the period under review on the basis of the audit data and reports of the review of the work of the auditing commissions submitted to the provincial party conferences.

He underlined the need to steadily improve the party’s financial management as required by the new era of the Juche revolution.

Kim Jong-un made a concluding review on the last day of the congress, also carried by KCNA (emphasis added):

It is necessary to continue to carry out the party’s strategic line of simultaneously pushing forward the economic construction and the building of nuclear force [byungjin].

This strategic line is the most revolutionary and scientific one reflecting the lawful requirements of building a thriving socialist nation and the specific conditions of our country.

Byungjin was also front and center in the decision adopted on the review of the Party by the congress (also carried by KCNA) (emphasis added):

We will consolidate the position of the political and military power and fly the flag of victory on the eminence of the scientific and technological power, an economic giant and a highly civilized nation.

We will take the general line of socialist construction and the principle of self-development as the constant strategic line, win a great victory in building a thriving socialist nation and successfully realize the historic cause of modeling the whole society on Kimilsungism and Kimjongilism.

We will make a new leap forward in the development of the country’s science and technology, open up an era prospering with science and bring about a revolutionary turn in socialist construction in a short span of time.

We will work out the phased strategy for the national economic development in a scientific and realistic manner and carry it out without fail and carry through the five-year strategy for the state economic development from 2016 to 2020 for the present.

We will accelerate the building of a highly civilized socialist country and thus bring up all the people to be able men for the socialist construction with profound knowledge and cultural attainments, and provide them with conditions and environment for leading a wealthy and a highly civilized life to their heart’s content.

International media was not allowed in to witness the congress proceedings for most of the event, but that probably made for more interesting dispatches anyway. Reuters noted the increasing prevalence of electric bikes in Pyongyang:

While pedal-powered bikes still predominate on Pyongyang’s wide avenues, the electric bike trend began in the last year, locals and foreign residents of the North Korean capital said.

On Saturday, a Reuters journalist covering the congress saw six of the bikes in the space of 10 minutes.

“You can carry luggage,” said Kim Chol Jin, a computer science student at Kim Chaek University of Technology, who was riding his electric bike along Mirae Scientists Street.

“My wife bought me this to help shorten my commute,” he told Reuters journalists, who were accompanied by a government guide.

The proliferation of electric bicycles follows another recent local consumer trend: a surge in residential usage of LED light bulbs and solar panels, to get around the country’s chronic electricity shortage.

A bike made by a Chinese company called Anqi was for sale this week in Pyongyang’s Kwangbok Department Store for 2.62 million won – around $330 at the unofficial exchange rate of 8,000 won to the dollar. While that is well beyond the reach of the average North Korean, an expanding gray market economy has given rise to a growing consumer class known as “donju”, or “masters of money”.

Full article:
Power to the people: electric bikes take off in North Korea
James Pearson

Day four (5/9/2016) 

The 7th Party Congress concluded with a statement calling for a “general offensive toward complete victory of socialism,” also carried by KCNA (emphasis added):

It stressed that the main idea of the decision made at the 7th Congress of the WPK is to arouse the entire party, the whole country, the entire army and all the people again to the struggle for winning the final victory in the building of a thriving socialist nation as soon as possible [a rather ambiguous timeline, to say the least…] and thus make them wage a general offensive in the period up to the 8th Congress.

The 7th WPK Congress called upon all the servicepersons, youths and other people to launch a Mallima speed campaign of rapid progress and innovation for the implementation of its decision in every sector and unit, the appeal said, adding:

The entire party, the whole country and all the servicepersons and civilians should dash toward the high eminence of a thriving nation at the speed of Mallima.

And if anyone ever thought that the core characteristics of North Korea’s political system were ambiguous:

Never tolerate but mercilessly squash any element contrary to the idea and intention of the respected Comrade Kim Jong Un and any slightest act of breaking our single-minded unity and backbiting at our Party’s policies.

Science and technology were prevalent themes in much of the rhetoric from the congress:

Let us build an economic and highly-civilized power by dint of science and technology and thus make the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, our beloved motherland, the envy of the whole world.

This whole paragraph is one sentence:

Let us put the nation’s industry and agriculture on a modern, scientific and IT basis our own way and at the earliest date with our technology, efforts and resources and thus raise the level of the national economy to that of the most developed countries under the banner of self-development-first principle for turning everything of the country into wealth of socialism hard to find in other parts of the world, making the latest science and technology our possessions and creating everything with our materials.

Byungjin again:

Let all the people implement more thoroughly and steadily the Party’s line of simultaneously developing the two fronts, each holding arms in one hand and a hammer or a sickle in the other.

The cooperative farm that Washington Post visited got a special shot-out:

Let us raise the level of every factory and farm to that of the January 18 General Machinery Plant and the Jangchon Vegetable Co-op Farm and build every structure into such spectacular edifice as the Sci-Tech Complex and Mirae Scientists Street.

Beyond the congress

How much did this all cost the North Korean state? A Korea University scholar has attempted a calculation, as reported by Yonhap, and lands at a figure of more than $200 million, placing policy choices such as not increasing imports to close the gap between food need and availability, for example:

North Korea probably spent more than US$200 million on the just-ended ruling party congress, which will further burden the already impoverished country, a local scholar who keeps track of developments in the reclusive country said Friday.

Korea University’s Nam Sung-wook made the claim in an analysis of the four daylong Seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) that ended Monday. He described the rare convention as a “political show.”


n the assessment, the academic argued the communist country spent at least the amount he estimated in the past six months for the “self coronation” of leader Kim Jong-un.

He said the move’s sole aim seems to be the consolidation of the hereditary power succession. The current leader inherited the country after the sudden death of his father in late 2011, while the late Kim Jong-il took over after his own father, the North’s founder Kim Il-sung, died in July 1994.

“Ultimately, the huge amount of money spent will result in a greater burden for North Koreans,” he said.


In another paper, professor Yang Moon-soo of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul said the Pyongyang regime will likely pursue a market-friendly economic policy for the time being.

Cho Bong-hyun, a researcher at the state-run Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK), on the other hand, said the five-year economic development plan issued by Kim Jong-un at the party congress will turn out to be a failure and will eventually come to haunt the regime down the road.

Full article:
N. Korea spends over $200 mln on Workers’ Party congress: scholar
Yonhap News

This blog looks forward to closely following the implementation of the five-year plan!

UPDATE 1: The National Committee on North Korea has posted all of Kim Jong-un’s speeches.

UPDATE 2: Bob Carlin writes about his thoughts on the congress in 38 North.

UPDATE 3: Ruediger Frank writes about the economic aspects of the congress here. Here is the speech (PDF) to which Dr. Frank refers.


New power plants operational before KWP congress

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

The Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station No. 3


Pictured above (Yonhap): The Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station No. 3


Pictured Above (Google Earth): The dam is too recent to appear on Google Earth imagery as of publication, but here are the locations of Paektusan Hero Youth Power Stations Nos 1-3

According to KCNA (2016-5-21):

Paektusan Hero Youth Power Stations in Full Operation

The Paektusan Hero Youth Power stations, built in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as a symbol of youth power, are now running at full capacity to supply electricity to the area of Mt. Paektu.

Kim Hyong Dok, chairman of the Samjiyon County, Ryanggang Province, People’s Committee, told KCNA:

Now is the dry season, but the stations have generated much electricity for industrial establishments, public cultural establishments and residential quarters in the county.

They are greatly helpful to the county’s economic development and the improvement of its population’s livelihood.

Academician, Prof. and Dr. So Pyong Hwa of Hamhung University of Hydraulic Engineering, said:

Electricity from the stations is also supplied to its neighboring Pochon and Paekam counties and Hyesan City.

It is very gratifying to see the safe conditions of hydraulic structures and generators at the stations. And it is better to read the mentality of their employees resolved to contribute to the province’s economic development and the improvement of its inhabitants’ livelihood with increased electricity production.

According to KCNA (2016-3-31):

Dam Project of Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station No. 3 Completed

Members of the youth shock brigade of the DPRK finished the dam project of the Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station No. 3 on March 31.

Members of the shock brigade and other builders vied with each other to mount the dam to greet the historic moment of the completion of the dam project.
At 10 a.m. they made a report on the completion of the dam project to supreme leader Kim Jong Un, looking up to the sky above Pyongyang.

The project started on January 13.

The completion of the dam project in a matter of less than three months represents a heroic epic which could be created only by the heroes of the youth power who grew up under the care of the peerlessly great men of Mt Paektu and a miracle they worked as young people of heroic Korea by bringing about a great leap forward by doing 10 years’ work just in one year.

Kim Jong-un visited on April 23.

Yonhap reports that its hasty construction meant the dam was not properly constructed, and it is already leaking.

The Paektusan Hero Youth Power Stations 1 & 2 were formally known as the Paektusan Songun Youth Power Stations. The Paektusan Songun Power Station No. 2 was submitted to the UNFCCC program.

It is still too early to tell, but it appears that power from these three plants will be going to Samjiyon and maybe Hyesan.

Wonsan Army-People Power Station


Above (Google Earth): The wonsan Army-People Power Station Dam, canal, and two hydro power stations.


Above (Rodong Sinmun)

According to Rodong Sinmun (2016-5-2):

Large-scale Wonsan Army-People Power Station has been built in Kangwon Province.

The power station has provided a foundation for generating the electricity necessary for developing the economy and improving the living standard of the people and solving the issues of household water, industrial water and irrigation water in the province.

An inaugural ceremony of the power station took place on April 29.

Present at the ceremony were Pak Pong Ju, O Su Yong, officials concerned, builders and working people.

A message of thanks from the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) was delivered.

The message appreciated the builders of the power station and supporters for building another monumental edifice representing the era of the Workers’ Party by dint of self-development and self-reliance as a laudable present to the Seventh Congress of the WPK.

Pak Jong Nam, chief secretary of the Kangwon Provincial Committee of the WPK, in a speech called upon the officials, working people and builders of the province to create a fresh Mallima speed in their worksites in the same spirit as was displayed in the construction of the power station.

At the end of the ceremony the participants went round the power station.

This project was submitted to the UNFCCC for consideration.


Food prices in North Korea: vegetable prices up, rice prices stable

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Daily NK reports that vegetable prices have gone up in North Korea’s border regions, due to cold weather and forced mobilization efforts (the 70-day battle). But rice prices remain stable (my emphasis):

The price of vegetables including cabbage and radish has surged around the border regions in North Korea and to a lesser degree, further inland. The sudden spike is believed to be driven by sanctions jitters, unseasonably cold temperatures, and excessive mobilization for the upcoming Party Congress, but is being viewed by some as a temporary upswing, given the continual stability in rice prices and foreign exchange rates. 

“Back in February, cabbage was selling for around 2,500 KPW (per kilogram), but prices have suddenly jumped to 7,000 KPW. That’s more expensive than rice,” a Daily NK source in Ryanggang Province reported on April 25. “Now is usually the time when food supplies are short (because of the barley hump), but it looks like the hike was triggered by more people mixing in dried greens with their rice to conserve their rice supplies, in the belief that the food situation may worsen due to [implications stemming from] the sanctions.”


“In some areas of Taehongdan County, people are eating so-called ‘radish noodles,’ which are made by coating radish leaves with potato starch,” the source explained.

On a nerdy note, I wonder if the connection between potato starch and Taehongdan is merely accidental. Remember, Taehongdan is the birthplace of Kim Jong-il’s 1998 “Potato Revolution.”

Food prices also seem to be impacted by the blitz-mobilization campaign leading up to the 7th Party Congress (my emphasis):

Conditions in the central inland areas are not much different. Individuals who would normally grow their own vegetables have seen their schedules disrupted by ongoing “70-Day Battle” mobilizations. “Thanks to the continual mobilizations, said by many to be ‘turning their hearts into black lumps of coal’, ahead of the Party Congress, business at the markets has lost its vibrancy and the residents are miserable,” a source in Pyongyang told Daily NK.

Rice prices, meanwhile, remain notably stabile:

Despite these high prices, movements on the rice and foreign currency front have remained relatively stable, leading people to believe the spike in vegetables will be short lived.

“Vegetables are not export items and therefore their prices are determined by domestic supply and demand,” the Pyongyang-based source noted. “However strong the sanctions may be, rice prices have nonetheless remained the same and, under these conditions, not many will choose to eat expensive cabbages over rice,” the source added, suggesting that prices are likely to return to normal as the markets readjust for supply and demand.

Full article here:
Vegetable prices spikes, rice remains stabile 
Daily NK
Kang Mi Jin


FAO: North Korean food production falls for the first time since 2010

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

27 April 2016, Rome – North Korea’s total  food production – including cereals, soybeans and potatoes in cereal equivalent – is estimated to have fallen in 2015, the first drop since 2010, and is expected to worsen food security in the country, according to a FAO update issued today.

Last year, total food production in North Korea (officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) is estimated to have been about 5.4 million tonnes compared to 5.9 million tonnes in 2014, marking a 9 percent decrease, the update said.

In particular, production of paddy rice, the country’s main staple, dropped by 26 percent to 1.9 million tonnes, mainly due to poor rains and low availability of water for irrigation.

FAO’s estimate for the country’s cereal import requirements for the 2015/16 marketing year (November-October) amounts to 694,000 tonnes. With 300,000 tonnes expected to be covered by government imports, the uncovered deficit of 394,000 tonnes represents the highest gap since 2011/12, the report said.

The estimates are based on official production figures and analysis by FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) in collaboration with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

Food security set to deteriorate

Given the tight food supplies in 2015/16, the country’s food security situation is expected to deteriorate from the previous year when most households were already estimated to have poor or borderline food consumption levels.

Crop overview

Besides severely affecting the rice crop, the dry conditions during the 2015 main season, coupled with low irrigation water availability following recurrent dry spells since July 2014, also impacted negatively on the production of maize, the country’s second most important cereal crop. Despite an expansion in plantings, maize output is estimated to have decreased by 3 percent to 2.29 million tonnes in 2015.

The report noted that the output of more drought-resistant soybeans – the most important source of protein in North Korea -increased by 37 percent to 220,000  in 2015.

Similarly, the output of other cereals (sorghum, millet, buckwheat) is put at 156,000 tonnes, almost triple the level of 2014.

Production of 2016 early season potatoes and minor wheat and barley, to be harvested from June, is forecast at 363 000 tonnes, 21 percent higher than the sharply reduced 2015 level.

Fuel and fertilizer shortages

Today’s update noted that reduced supplies of fertilizer and fuel in 2015 also limited crop production in 2015.

North Korea’s food production falls for first time since 2010 as water scarcity hits agricultural sector
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

The full FAO report that the press statement refers to can be found here.