“Eating well and living well are the first revolutionary duties of revolutionaries,” a Party secretary apparently told a New Year’s Common Editorial study lecture on January 3rd at an enterprise in Yangkang Province, causing a very great deal of amusement.
This was because the secretary’s words were a reflection of, “Studying is the first revolutionary duty of revolutionaries,” one of Kim Il Sung’s most famous quotes.
According to the Yangkang Province source who reported the story today, one worker apparently characterized the positive response of listeners to the secretary, saying, “Exactly right. Eat well, and then we can both defeat the Americans and construct the strong and prosperous state.” Another reportedly added, “Too true; that’s what I wanted to say.”
However, the secretary apparently requested, “There is no ideology in these words, only words about life, so don’t talk about it anywhere else.”
The North Korean authorities carry out lectures on the New Year’s Common Editorial in each work place across the country from the first day of work in the New Year. Alongside rallies officially intended to unify popular resolve to put into practice the editorial, it is the first political work of the year, according to defectors.
Studying of the Common Editorial is led by Party cadres in enterprises and factories, and tends to continue until approximately January 20th. Every morning before work the staff assembles in a study hall and the Party secretary lectures them with centrally distributed materials for between 30 minutes and one hour.
In the last week of the month, they must then take a test on the contents of the Common Editorial both in verbal and written format.
Any worker who fails the exam becomes the target of criticism at every weekly, monthly, and even quarterly evaluation meeting thereafter.
Therefore, the people take studying the Common Editorial relatively seriously. One defector said, “Even though it is tough, passing the exam at once is certainly better than getting grief for almost a year. Therefore, they do their best during the study period.”
Of course, this is not to say that people actually care about the contents of the test, the Yangkang Province source said, “From the start of work on the 3rd until today we have been studying the Editorial constantly, but people have no interest in the contents. What we want is just for the study period to pass quickly.”
However, to the people the Common Editorial is not a set of guidelines for national management. Even though it has emphasized, “improvement of people’s lives” for two years in a row, what the people hear is just political rhetoric.
So while the authorities claim, “Rallies for the comprehensive carrying out of the Common Editorial have been held everywhere and the entire Chosun people are united around the Party,” in reality cadres and the people see it in the opposite way.
What they see is a facile and pointless burden for a people who are having difficulty getting by this unusually cold Korean winter. Therefore, in the words of the source, studying the Editorial is only a surefire way of getting the people to complain about the authorities.