“150 Day Battle” production campaign stories


Photo by Eric Lafforgue

North Korean claims record production gains through ‘150-day battle’
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

NK Brief No. 09-10-12-1

It has been boasted that North Korea’s ‘150-day Battle’ to boost the economy (April 20-September 16) resulted in record-breaking jumps in DPRK production numbers, and it has been suggested that that by 2012, some enterprises will “attain production numbers higher than the best numbers recorded at the end of the 1980s.” This claim was made by Ji Young-il, the director of the Chosun University Social Science Research Institute, which is run by the pro-Pyongyang “General Federation of Korean Residents in Japan.”

In “Professor Ji Young-il’s Monthly Economic Review: The 150-day Battle and Prospects for Building an Economically Powerful Nation,” an article in the federation’s newspaper, Choson Sinbo, the author wrote, “There are more than a few enterprises that have set production goals for 2012 at more than three times the current level of production.” He also claimed that some enterprises in the mining, energy and railroad transportation sectors had set goals of as much as 6 times today’s production numbers.

Professor Ji went on to write, “Basically, it is an extraordinary goal ensuring growth of 1.3-1.5 times (a growth rate of 130-150%) per year.” He also explained that surpassing production rates as high as those seen in the late 1980s is one of the fundamental markers on the road toward “opening the door to a Strong and Prosperous Nation.”

Citing North Korea’s “Choson Central Yearbook,” he gave production numbers in various sectors of the DPRK economy at the end of the 1980s: electricity, 55.5 billion kWh (1989); coal, 85 million tons (1989); steel, 7.4 million tons (1987); cement, 13.5 million tons (1989); chemical fertilizer, 5.6 million tons (1989); textiles, 870 million meters (1989); grain, 10 million tons (1987).

Director Ji claimed that during the recent ‘battle’, production in the metals industries was up several times that of the same period in previous years, while energy producers generated several hundred million kWh of electricity, coal production was up 150%, and cement and other construction materials were up 140%. He pointed out that in 14 years of the Chollima movement, beginning in 1957, during which socialist industrialization took place in the North, the yearly average production growth was 19.1%, and he stated that the annual growth of 9 to 10% in industrial production over the past several years was a noteworthy record.

Moving to the agricultural sector, Director Ji also noted that while overseas experts have critiqued this year’s harvest, there has been a definite breakthrough in grain production with land cultivation hitting previously unseen levels over the past several years.

Previous 150-day battle stories below:

UPDATE 6: (h/t to a reader) The BBC has transcribed two recent North Korean radio broadcasts.  Read them here: Sept 25, Sept 27.

According to the Daily NK:

Having finished the 150-Day Battle on the 16th, the North Korean authorities have finally announced the details of an oft-rumored new campaign, the “100-Day Battle,” which starts today, the 22nd.

The Central Committee of the Chosun Workers’ Party declared in a notice, “The 150-Day Battle will go down in our people’s revolutionary history and its splendid results will remain with us for a long time. Now, the Party is calling the people to the 100-Day Battle.”

An inside source said in a telephone interview with the Daily NK yesterday, “Ahead of the harvest this year, North Korea is starting the 100-Day Battle on the 22nd. In the past, we commuted between the collective farm and our homes, but this time the authorities are saying that we should stay on the farm.”

The 100-Day Battle will be completed on December 30th.

The Workers’ Party emphasized, “The 100-Day Battle is an aggressive war to prepare footholds by which to accomplish a great victory next year, the 65th year of the founding of the Party, and to enter the strong and prosperous state in 2012.”

But Daily NK’s source confirmed the truth, “During the 150-Day Battle, many construction projects were suspended due to a lack of construction materials. Since the 150-Day Battle failed, they are trying to repeat it. There is no other reason.”

Regarding farm support activities, the source said, “People say that the growing season did not go well this year, so food prices in the jangmadang are rising. The authorities have instructed sellers not to fix rice prices at more than 2,000 won per kilo.” He pointed out, therefore, “In this situation, it’s going to be hard to see remarkable fruits coming from farm support activities.”

Read the full story here:
No Going Home during 100-Day Battle Harvest
Daily NK
Lee Sang Yong

According to Yonhap, the 150 day battle has been extended:

North Korea has extended a campaign urging citizens to work harder for 100 more days, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan said Friday, in what appeared to suggest the results of the drive fell short of expectations.

The so-called 150-day Battle, which compels North Koreans to work harder and put in longer hours, began on April 20 as part of the country’s efforts to resolve food shortages and rebuild its frail infrastructure. The intensive drive was initially scheduled to end on Sept. 17.

But the Choson Sinbo, a Tokyo-based paper that reflects North Korea’s official position, said North Koreans will continue to work hard under a renewed “100-day Battle,” stretching the labor drive into the end of December.

In the 150-day drive, “many units have been achieving fruitful results. Without slowing down a bit, (the North Korean people will) keep up their vigor during the 100-day Battle,” the paper said.

North Korea seeks to build a “great, prosperous and powerful nation” by 2012, the birth centennial of the country’s late founder Kim Il-sung and the year when current leader Kim Jong-il turns 70.

The economic goals of the initial campaign were likely not met, given the country’s dilapidated infrastructure and tightening U.N. sanctions imposed after its nuclear test in May, said Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea studies professor at Dongguk University in Seoul. The sanctions ban North Korean arms trade, a major source of income for the impoverished state, and limit cash flows into the country.

“I think they didn’t have any notable achievements,” Kim said. “North Korea’s economic situation is not well enough to produce results that are visible to its citizens.”

With the nationwide drive, the country also wants its citizens to remain united around leader Kim Jong-il while its diplomatic stalemate with the United States continues, he added.

Reuters brings us up to date with the DPRK’s 150-day production campaign:

Red posters around the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, exhort residents to greater efforts. Even tour guides are required to spend extra hours translating, after their guiding duties are over, to contribute to the campaign.

Communist ideology aside, the effects of the campaign are most seen in the industrial and mining sectors.

The most obvious outward sign of the campaign has been a flood of coal sales into China (SEE TABLE HERE). The popularity of Chinese consumer goods in North Korea means the country runs an increasingly severe deficit with its neighbour and largest trading partner.

Exports of steel and refined metal to China indicate that some of the additional coal is also being used domestically, to fuel smelters and steel mills.

North Korea claims that steel production doubled in May compared with April, using a manufacturing process that uses anthracite mined in North Korea rather than expensive imported coke, according to information compiled by the Unification Ministry. Use of anthracite rather than coking coal to make coke is possible, although less efficient.

Anthracite exports to China from North Korea have accelerated this year, reaching a high of 646,078 tonnes in June, the last month for which data is available. North Korea is now China’s second largest anthracite supplier, wtih sales up 111 percent in the first half of the year, at 2.36 million tonnes.

Perennial fuel shortages in North Korea mean that much of its own thermal power plants sit idle, forcing two-thirds of its industrial capacity to remain dark.

European member of Parliament Glyn Ford, who travelled to North Korea in August, said the campaign had extended to railways, with teams of workers on the rail line stretching south toward the border with South Korea.

Analysts said the 150-day campaign was actually a test run for an even bigger campaign to turn the turn the country into a “great and prosperous state” by 2012, which will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il-sung.

The goals for the broken economy are lofty. The North wants to revamp its railways, coal mines, steelworks and electrical supply, end hunger and strengthen its already large military.

“The 2012 project fits into these themes: glorification of the past, and if past history is any guide, the wasting of huge sums on useless monumental edifices,” Marcus Noland, an expert on the North’s economy with the U.S.-based Peterson Institute for International Economics, wrote in an email a few months ago.

North Korea’s centrally planned economy has shrunk significantly since the rise to power in 1994 of Kim Jong-il after his father Kim Il-sung died. His government quickly stepped away from early attempts at economic reform which might have threatened its grip on power.

“The problem for North Korea will be financing this initiative,” Noland said.

The Daily NK offers some more updates on the DPRK’s 150 day production battle. According to the artilces:

The North Korean authorities have announced that they will build 100,000 households in Pyongyang as part of the project to construct a strong and prosperous state by 2012, and Rodong Shinmun, the publication of the Chosun (North Korea) Workers’ Party, has encouraged the people to create a miracle in its editorial, “Create Something out of Nothing!”

Rodong Shinmun stressed the words of Kim Jong Il on Monday, saying, “Achieving a great victory on waste land with our bare hands is in the glorious tradition of our Party and revolution.”

It emphasized, “It will be literally a miracle of incredible progress beyond our imaginations. The speed of our country’s development is astounding, and the world is paying attention to it.”

It went on to try and inspire the people, “The day of victory is just around the corner. When cannons are fired to celebrate the victorious creation of the strong and prosperous state in 2012, we will be able to say that we are the brave veterans of the Battle.”

It concluded, “All factory workers and members of the Party should be united in order to raise a great revolutionary tide of victory in the 150-Day Battle.” (Daily NK)

Pyongyang Plans 100,000 New Homes
Daily NK
Lee Sang Yong

UPDATE 5: According to the Daily NK:

The end of the “150-Day Battle” is a mere month away, but problems continue and results are unimpressive.

A source from North Hamkyung Province reported on the 8th, “As time has gone by, productivity has fallen, so even cadres have grown discouraged. Even factories which the General (Kim Jong Il) has visited are not operating well these days.”

The source continued, “The Hoiryeing Shoe Factory, which was fitted with imported Chinese production facilities in 2007, has operated for just two full days so far; when the ceremony for the completion of the building was held, and when the General visited. It still shuts down regularly. The authorities expanded the factory for the purpose of taking commissions from China, but since electricity is not reliable in the factory, there have been no orders.”

He added, “The only factories operating now are the Hoiryeong Goksan Factory, which produces cigarettes to distribute to soldiers, and the Essential Food Factory, which produces soy sauce and soybean paste for the army and the Shock Brigade for the Propagation of Party Ideology. Other factories cannot work due to a lack of raw materials and resources, let alone electricity.”

These two factories and the Hoiryeong Chemical Factory were the targets of Kim Jong Il’s onsite inspection on February 24th this year.

Due to blockages in the supply chain, the authorities have mostly concentrated on citizen mobilization for construction projects instead of practical measures to improve factory production, so production of the necessities of life and consumer products have not notably improved. Even the results of construction work, the other main task of the 150-Day Battle, are uncertain.

According to the Daily NK source, the construction of “Hoiryeong Food Street,” which was planned by the Hoiryeong Municipal Committee of the Party, had to be suspended shortly after the ground-breaking ceremony due to a lack of iron rods to reinforce concrete structures.

It was supposed to sell Chinese food in order to attract Chinese tourists. This project got the go-ahead when Kim Jong Il visited Hoiryeong this year, after which the Party allegedly conveyed $800,000 to the Hoiryeong Municipal Committee of the Party in April.

“Right now, a way to import iron reinforcing rods from China has been found. However, the Hoiryeong Committee of the Party cannot move ahead with it because the budget allocation is short,” the source explained.

Since factories are not operating much of the time, the authorities have handed down a decree to workers, demanding that they endeavor to earn foreign currency any way they can. The few ways an average citizen can earn foreign currency is by collecting wild herbs and offering them to the state. However, now is not the season for such activities, making it impossible.

Meanwhile, the situation as described by a source in Yangkang Province is no different. Apparently, while Hyesan Shoe Factory, Essential Food Factory, Hyesan Textile Factory and Hyesan Chemical Factory are partially operating, all others have ground to a halt.

Hyesan Shoe Factory produces military boots, but due to a lack of raw materials cannot produce any shoes for citizens. Hyesan Chemical Factory is responsible for paint for the outer walls of apartments, but its output has reached only 30% of the target.

The source concluded, “This is nominally a 150-Day Battle. But we cannot work without anything to do. What we have been doing is taking a lunch box and doing farm support activities.”

No Materials, No Work for 150-Day Battle
Daily NK
Lee Sung Jin

‘150-DAY BATTLE’ drawing ire from DPRK residents
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No.09-8-6-1

The campaign was launched by authorities to overcome North Korea’s economic woes as part of the country’s overall strategy of building a Strong and Prosperous Nation by 2012, but has only managed to bring more difficulties to the lives of the people. This has led to growing discontent among the public.

North Korea has launched similar campaigns in the past. When suffering from domestic or international difficulties, Pyongyang pursued campaigns focused on mobilizing local manpower, increasing short-term domestic production in order to stimulate the economy. However, economic development based on mobilization of domestic labor is no longer reflective of the daily lives of North Koreans, creating conflict between residents and authorities.

Authorities have increased controls over every kind of economic activity in order to create an atmosphere conducive to full citizen participation in the ‘150-day Battle.’ Crack-downs are being carried out on the sale of banned goods in markets and street vendors. That has had a devastating impact on the poverty-stricken urban vendors that live hand-to-mouth.

Travel restrictions and home inspections have also been stepped-up, leading to growing complaints by residents. Recently, inspections by security forces have even grown to include inspections of backpacks worn by residents out in public.

Plain-clothes security officers have also increased the number and intensity of raids on commercial activities taking place under the apartments of residents living in the vicinity of markets. These days, as rumors spread of a 100-day Battle to continue where the 150-day Battle leaves off, citizen complaints about North Korean authorities continue to grow.

The Workers’ Party of Korea Central Committee distributed a classified memorandum to all Party two months prior to the April launch of the campaign, with specific targets for each segment of the economy. According to the memorandum, targets set for the campaign included 1) concentrating efforts on turning around economic stagnation in the energy, coal, metal and railroad sectors, 2) complete resolution of all food shortages, and 3) transforming the national economy into a technology-centered economy. More specifically, the targets set for the priority sectors include 1) capacity to create 7,760,000 kW of electricity, 2) producing 35 million tons of coal, 3) railway transport capacity of 73.2 million tons, and 4) harvesting 6 million tons of grain this year, to be followed by 7 million tons in the future.

UPDATE 3: The Daily NK gives us an update on the importance of coal production in the DPRK’s 150-day battle to increase production:

An inside North Korean source has revealed to the Daily NK that with two months to go before the completion of the “150-Day Battle,” each regional party organization in North Korea has been scrambling to find new coal deposits with which to reach production targets set by the authorities.

The source told on the 28th, “In Yangkang Province, a general meeting of the Provincial Committee of the Party was convened on the 18th to discuss developing the Baekam Coal Mine. Not just in Baekam; party provincial guidance units have also been dispatched to the Coal Exploration Bureau and the Coal Mine Development Office to seek out fresh coal in Woonheung and Kim Jong Suk Counties.”

According to state media propaganda, “In the 150-Day Battle, an unprecedented reform miracle is being created.” However, the local source explained that, in direct contrast to those claims, the actual production results have been low; the mine has not been able to achieve the economic goals proposed at the beginning of the year.

The source stated, “Peat, the current production from the Baekam Mine, is unsuitable for heating residential homes, so it has been put to use as fertilizer in the nearby farms instead. Efforts to find new coal seams are ongoing.

He explained, “In Yangkang Province, the Provincial Committee of the Party has been hands-on in trying to salvage both the Hyesan Coal Mine and the Masan Mining Area since the beginning of March. However, the exploration has failed to find any new deposits.”

With the coal reserves that North Korea has mined these last several decades almost running out, the country has been engaged in efforts to find new seams. The economic feasibility of existing mines and seams is falling due to the need to lengthen existing tunnels, as well as deterioration of mining equipment and facilities, so the North has been forced to try and expand its reserves by discovering new coal.

In this year’s New Year’s Statement, the North ordered, “We must bring forth the strength to support the primary industries. We must secure the smooth production of the amount of coal necessary for economic development and the citizens’ lives by increasing investment in coal-related industries and prioritizing exploration.”

Moreover, Kim Jong Il himself, since the beginning of the year, has visited the Ranam Mining Complex, Anju-district Mining Complex and Geumduk-district Mining Complex in North Hamkyung Province, and has expressed a deep interest in coal exploration. He even issued a special order at the time of the field visits, saying, “The ministries, including the Cabinet and central organizations, should actively encourage and support exploration projects.”

The source emphasized, “The coal issue, regardless of the 150-Day Battle, is one directly related to the citizens’ heating needs in the winter. If the presence or absence of food seriously influenced civilian sentiment during the March of Tribulation, then the situation has reached a point now where winter firewood is about to have a similar effect.”

Enterprises that received logging permits under the amended Forest Protection Law in March also received a decree ordering them to retrieve all of the small branches and twigs from the cut trees and send them to schools in the nearby regions as firewood.

This reminded me of a complaint Hwang Jong Yop raised with Kim Jong il’s previous speed campaigns:

During the 70s after he seized power, Kim Jong-il initiated the famous Campaign called the “70-day battle” in order to display his political strength. When this campaign was being carried out, his true nature was clearly revealed. Without giving consideration of economic issues, he mobilized the people to an excessive degree driving them without thinking under the slogans like “battle of speed”.  As a result, he abused the facilities and ignored the price costs and ended up wasting endless amounts of effort and resources.  He also ignored the very basic principles of economics and landed a fatal blow to the economic development of North Korea.

For example, in order to mine for coal, digging and finding the coal veins must be accomplished first. However, since only the achievement of high, fixed production targets were being demanded, the principle of giving priority to digging first for new mines was ignored and the people only concentrated on scraping out the coal from the coal veins that had already been procured. Despite this, the ones who met the set production targets received awards. However, since the coal continued to be mined without new mines being dug, in the end the production of coal nearly came to a standstill. Even then, Kim Jong-il frequently gave exaggerated reports of his achievements to Kim Il-sung.

Kim Jong-il had majored in economics in university. According to a professor who taught him, Kim did not read properly the books that were complicated and difficult since he lacked endurance and an intellectual spirit. Thus in reality, he did not know much about economics. He believed that he could succeed in economics, like he did in politics, by employing tricks. So he did not pay much interest in repairing the facilities and normalizing production. His interest was only concentrated on projects with which to dominate the various organizations of power.

Coal a Key Concern for 150-Day Battle
Daily NK
Lee Sung Jin

I Saw the Truth of History
Hwang Jang Yop

UPDATE 2: North Korea strenghtens labor discipline for the 150-day battle
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 09-7-20-1

North Korean Labor Vice-minister Kim Hyeong Jo has emphasized that the “revolutionarey labor spirit” will be further emphasized in order to ensure the success of the ‘150-Day Battle’ to rebuild the economy, which got underway on April 20. According to the article “Establishing a Revolutionary Labor Spirit Guarantees Success of the 150-day Battle,” which ran in the June 24 edition of the DPRK Cabinet mouthpiece, the Minju Choson, Vice-minister Kim called for strengthening discipline and ideological education of the masses, as well as strictly controlling labor sites.

The article quoted Kim as stating, “The most important thing in establishing the revolutionary labor spirit is firmly establishing Juche’s perspective on labor,” and in order to do so, to instill “a deep understanding of the meaning and goals of socialist labor,” to include a “sense of honor and responsibility regarding one’s job.” Furthermore, the vice-minister ordered labor training to be carried out, “closely linking education on devotion, collectivism, and socialist patriotism.”

He also called for labor to be carried out in strict accordance with regulations, observing an 8-hour workday and strengthening enforcement of regulations regarding the start and finish of the workday and shift schedules. On July 4, the Choson Sinbo, a newspaper distributed by the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, introduced the new campaign, reporting that since the launch of the ‘150-day Battle’, women laborers in a clothing factory in Pyongyang begin work at 6 a.m. every morning, working busily all day long.

The paper reported that these women had previously reported for work at 8 a.m., but “now everyone that must gather at 6 o’clock does so,” and since the launch of the ‘150-day Battle’, “the amount of work has grown tremendously, but no one leaves the workplace until the daily quota has been met.”

These workers all live within 1~2 Kilometers of the factory, but since the ‘150-day Battle’ got underway, “there is almost no harmonious time spent with family in their nearby homes,” and, “During the 150-day battle, meals for the laborers working in the factory are sent by their families…at dinner time, there are many cases of husbands being tasked with errands.” The paper also stressed, however, that these new schedules were not imposed on the women; these women reportedly worked extra hours and spent time away from family of their own free will.

UPDATE 1: The Daily NK informs us that, not surprisingly, DPRK’s current “speed campaign” is not exactly winning over the hearts of the North Korean people:

A source from North Korea reported to The Daily NK on the 20th, “Since April, when the decree launching the 150-Day Battle was handed down by the Central Committee of the Party, resident mobilization orders have been increasing in number, and regulations have also been strengthened. Therefore, grievances about this situation are growing, but improved productivity is nowhere to be found.”

According to the source, state control of private trade and population migration are getting more intrusive, and people’s lives are being seriously hindered.

The source revealed, “Numbers of Community Watch Guards, who check the belongings of passers-by, have gone up, in addition to the strengthening of regulations by the People’s Safety Agency. In street markets and the yards of apartment complexes around the jangmadang, checks by plain-clothes agents of the People’s Safety Agency have dramatically increased.”

In each district of Pyongyang, the People’s Safety Agency has selected three or four of their criminal associates and organized them into regulatory groups. Since May 5th, these regulatory groups have reportedly started harassing residents night and day. They check up on people suspected of anti-socialist activities and send them to the People’s Safety Agency. During this process, they steal money from the accused.

The source concluded wearily, “People say that after the 150-Day Battle, there will be a 100-Day Battle to follow. National mobilization for the construction of the Heecheon Power Plant in Jakang Province is also rumored to be starting soon.”

Original Post: The “150 day battle” to achieve higher production goals was supposedly announced to Worker’s Party members in April by a secret letter from the Central Committee.  It is supposed to last from May 10th – October 10th and it aims to boost housing construction and improve operations at the nation’s railways, factories, and mines.

According to the Daily NK:

The precise production goals for the strong and prosperous state announced in the letter were to generate 7.76 million kilowatts of electricity a year, produce 33 million metric tons of metal, 13 million metric tons of coal and 7 million metric tons of food, move 72 million metric tons of freight and, additionally, modernize the economy and technology-intensive industries.

North Korea has suggested such targets and undertaken citizen renovation campaigns when it has faced difficulties before. The most obvious cases were the “100-day battle” of 1978 and the “200-day battle” which took place 10 years later.

During the “200-day battle” of 1988, the North Korean authorities completed facilities for the 13rd World Festival of Youth and Students, the first phase of construction of both the Suncheon Vinylon Complex and Sariwon Kalium Fertilizer Factory, and the construction of a 100 kilowatt hydraulic power plant and extension at the Kim Chaek Steel Mill.

Yonhap asserts that Kim Jong-Un, Kim Jong il’s third (known) son, is running the campaign.  Yonhap has been touting Jong-Un as a shoe-in to replace his father.  The Joong Ang Daily has more on Kim 3 here.

Read more below:
150-Day Battle Regulations Burdening the People
Daily NK
Moon Sung Hwee

150-Day Battle for Strong and Prosperous State Underway
Daily NK
Jung Kwon Ho

What Is the 150-Day Battle?
Daily NK
Jung Kwon Ho


6 Responses to ““150 Day Battle” production campaign stories”

  1. Michael Madden says:

    For anyone interested in the blow-by-blow of the 150 Day Campaign, Korea Central TV’s daily news broadcasts are featuring “special reports” on the progress of the 150 DC. You can see the KCTV news at

  2. Jeremy says:

    The North Koreans really seem to be steeping up ideological control. I think this 150 day battle has far more to do with that than coal production. Have you seen this report by the KEI, http://www.keia.org/Publications/AcademicPaperSeries/2009/APS-Bechtol.pdf?

  3. Frank Kim says:

    I wonder how growing public discontent is evidenced. Lower production as the 150 day campaign continues? Stories from refugees that people are complaining? Graffiti on Kim Jong Il photos?