Ahead of the 7th Workers’ Party Congress,
the authorities have called for a ‘70-Day Battle,’ a propaganda tool used to
mobilize its citizens. For these 70 days, the slogan ‘With Mallima speed’, has
been issued, suggesting that Kim Jong Un has created his own rallying cry
instead of using the ‘Chollima speed’ slogan of previous eras. Today, we
will take a look at a recent Rodong Sinmun article covering ‘Mallima speed’
with So Jae Pyong, the secretary-general of the North Korean Defectors
1. The Kim Jong Un regime is emphasizing
‘Mallima speed’ to spur production results ahead of the upcoming Worker’s Party
Congress. What exactly does ‘Mallima Speed’ mean?
‘Mallima Speed’, literally means a horse moving at the speed of 10,000 ri (approximately 3900 km) per day. In the past, North
Korea has had many movement-themed slogans like ‘Chollima speed’ (a horse able to travel at a speed of 1,000 ri per day), and ‘Chollima
jockey’. ‘Mallima speed’ is a slogan that is being used in an attempt to
provide the North Korean people with an upsurge in ideological fervor, which
will then inspire competition and productivity.
1-1. When did Kim Jong Un begin using this
The term ‘Mallima’ first appeared in the
Rodong Sinmun on January 30th, 2012, which was the year that North Korea
issued the ‘strong and prosperous country’ slogan. At that time, the term
‘Mallima Movement’ was used to spur the development of a strong and prosperous
1-2. What is the difference between this
term and the term ‘Chollima speed’, which was used in the past?
There doesn’t appear to be a real
difference. Just like ‘Chollima speed’, the term is supposed to inspire the
ideological enthusiasm of North Korean workers, with the idea that this will
result in a high level of competition between individuals, and thereby increase
production. However, there is a slight difference in that the ‘Mallima speed’
term emphasizes that if workers work faster, their production will increase.
2. Why do you think Kim Jong Un is pushing
for this kind of ‘speed battle’?
Right now, there is not much time remaining
before the 7th Worker’s Party Congress. The ‘70-Day Battle’ was also initiated
in February this year ahead of the meeting. If we note that the regime is
actively encouraging ‘Mallima speed’ amidst the 70-Day Battle that is happening
already, it appears that they desire an impressive rate of production within a
short time frame, and are trying to draw out the ideological fervor of the
citizens so that they can finish all of these projects within the time frame
that Kim Jong Un has in mind. North Korea completely lacks the financial
resources needed to achieve these goals, so they’re emphasizing ‘Mallima
speed,’ which carries the implication that people should work all night, 24
hours a day if they have to.
3. As you mentioned, we know that North
Korea’s resources and raw materials are lacking. In these circumstances, isn’t
emphasizing a ‘speed battle’ going to result in overwork across all industries?
Yes. Of course there is already an
excessive amount of overwork in North Korea’s industries. Quality cannot be
guaranteed, and because this emphasis on speed will result in a decrease in
quality and sustainability, the likelihood of industrial accidents increases.
Particularly in the case of construction, a focus on speed alone can result in
substandard construction and increase the risk of accidents and catastrophic
4. If that is true, how are the citizens
responding to this ‘Mallima speed’ campaign?
The people know that there is not really a
difference between Chollima and Mallima. People are saying things like, ‘Chollima, Mallima, it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other,’ and ‘It’s a
means to a living.’ People are saying it’s just an empty slogan broadcast by
the Worker’s Party. Some people are upset by it, saying things like, ‘We don’t
even have enough to eat, what the [expletive] is this Mallima?’
4-1. Do you see any correlation between the
emergence of the ‘Mallima speed’ slogan and the recent sanctions against North
Korea by the international community?
North Korea emphasized ‘Chollima speed’
during the Party’s second iteration of the “7-year plan” between 1971-1976. At
that time, there was an extreme shortage of capital, technology, and
commodities, and the Chollima campaign was implemented throughout the country
as part of an effort to overcome these difficulties. The ‘Chollima movement’
had the goal of spontaneously creating an upsurge in enthusiasm among the
people, who were experiencing national economic failure, in the hopes that they
could turn that around. In my view, the current situation is very similar.
Under the current harsh sanctions, it seems like the regime is emphasizing a
‘Mallima movement’ to promote national unity and overcome the current
5. Does emphasizing ‘speed battles’
actually increase the rate of production?
If the Party orders something, the people
are required to at least pretend to play along, so there can be some level of
productivity through that. However, production will never increase to the
levels that the state desires, and enthusiasm is also not going to increase.
Even so, the authorities continue to emphasize speed battles, because there is
no choice but to engage in ideological struggle. They have no other solutions
to address the circumstances.
6. There has been propaganda saying that
the 70-Day Battle is already paying off (in terms of production). Is this true?
This is a lie. I think that trying to get
more out of North Korea right now is like trying to squeeze blood from a stone.
In short, there aren’t going to be results.