DPRK Economic Revival Campaign Redefined

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 07-11-6-1

Following the economic turmoil of the early 1990’s, the North Korean Workers’ Party adopted the slogan of ‘salvation through our own efforts’ for its economic revival campaign. Recently, signs of change in that campaign have been apparent.

On October 30, the Rodong Sinmun, the DPRK socialist party’s newspaper, printed an editorial headlined, “Let’s hold the ‘salvation through our own efforts’ banner even higher and go forward,” in which it explained, “Our strengthening of the [campaign] in no way means building the economy while ignoring the relationship with the international economy.”

In the past, the economic campaign encouraged the mobilization of outdated technology and methods in areas that were seen as lacking, but without fail, to do so independently. Now, the campaign has shifted toward being based on ‘modern science and technology’ and ‘utility’.

The article emphasized, ‘turning our back to science and technology and not relying on science is tantamount to not revolutionizing,” and “if you make world-wide vanguard technology your own and actively use it, that is ‘salvation through our own efforts.”

The newspaper highlighted childrearing, excavation, and mobilization as the three most important areas in which science and technology would play a role as the foundation the newly defined economic revival campaign. The latest twist came when the article purported that utility would be the new foundation for the campaign. “The future [campaign] for the 21st century is a [campaign] based on utility,” and, “economic projects in which the people can see no virtue, and which can give no benefits to the nation are absolutely meaningless.”

In particular, “It is easy to rely on capitalist elements in the economic sector,” and, “if we do not have the will to overcome obstacles and move forward, strange, non-socialist factors will enter [our society] and shake the physical foundation of socialism.”

The article portrays the idea that even if, through inter-Korean economic exchange and transactions with the international community, capitalist elements of the outside world enter the North, ultimately they would not get in the way of bracing up the socialist system, and the current regime could be maintained by adopting a utilitarian economic revival campaign.

It would be difficult to interpret this Rodong Sinmun editorial as a green light for opening up North Korea. However, it does appear to indicate a decision to redefine the campaign to reach ‘salvation through our own efforts’ due to the recognition that the North cannot survive in isolation, and that outside assistance is necessary in order to revive the economy.


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