The North Korean authorities have reportedly begun delivering lectures to workers employed at enterprises in the border areas including Sinuiju (North Pyongan Province) and Hoeryong (North Hamgyong Province) announcing the breakdown of bilateral relations with China.
These developments are noteworthy as they are deliberate actions by the North Korean regime to promote anti-China sentiment, although China remains its only ally while the country faces international sanctions.
“Earlier this month during the mass lecture held at the enterprise arranged by the Sinuiju People’s Committee, it was mentioned that people should take precautions against China, even to the extent of preparing for the severing of ties because the relationship between the two countries has reached its lowest point ever,” a source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on February 21.
“During the lecture, remarks such as, ‘We cannot trust China anymore and should not be dependent on it,’ were repeatedly emphasized. ‘The lecturer concluded that we should become a strong nation through self-reliance.'”
According to the source, the lectures were delivered at several enterprises employing between 100 and 300 people. The workers are said to be responsible for securing and distributing construction materials in Sinuiju, and over 1,000 are estimated to have attended.
As the lecture materials in North Korea are usually created by the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Party, it is assumed that similar remarks have also been made in lectures nationwide. Daily NK has confirmed from separate sources that similar lectures took place in the Yuson Workers’ District of Hoeryong City and in Ryanggang Province.
“In a lecture held in Hoeryong City, the officials instructed us to cease relying on China and to overcome any difficulties on our own. It is known that factories and mining enterprise staff were gathered in Yuson Workers’ District,” a source in North Hamgyong Province said.
Workers in the border areas expressed some level of shock at the content that explicitly promoted anti-China sentiment. For many, concerns about international sanctions have been offset by the belief that trade between China and North Korea will continue.
Some residents reportedly expressed confusion as they were abruptly told not to trust China.
“The state has been emphasizing self-reliance in recent lectures, but this is the first time that it openly criticized China. Workers in the border areas are somewhat baffled by the lectures as they have been believing that trade with China, be it official or smuggling, would help them survive the international sanctions,” the source said.
However, many believe that despite these lectures, the North Korean regime is not likely to completely turn its back on China because trade between the two countries is the only way that North Korea can survive. As the international community moves to further block North Korea’s foreign currency earning, the country is becoming increasingly dependent on China.
In view of this, many suggest that the lectures are intended as a type of warning to the population. The authorities appear to be trying to reduce the number of people developing favorable opinions of China due to their livelihoods depending on the country.
“The majority of people in the border region believe that they cannot survive without trade with China. This is not in line with the regime’s ideology, as it emphasizes the notion of ‘self-reliance.’ So the lectures must have been intended to promote the spirit of self-help rather than to regard China as an enemy,” the source noted.
A source in Ryanggang Province further explained, “The lectures are mere words. If the authorities really wanted to cut ties with China, they would not have asked the foreign currency earning enterprises to increase business with their Chinese counterparts. The regime knows very well that it cannot survive without China and that China is unlikely to abandon North Korea. This is why it can boldly lecture the workers in such a way.”