In an unusual move, North Korea’s Chosun Central News Agency (KCNA) has released a report proclaiming the coming year as the year for laying the foundations of the strong and prosperous state.
The North generally announces the direction of its policy for the coming year, as well as its claimed results for the year at hand, in its “New Year Joint Editorial” published annually on January 1st, but this type of analysis is a rare event.
Since 1998, KCNA releases of this ilk have only happened on the 10th anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s Military-first political line in December, 2004 and the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Chosun (North Korea) Workers’ Party in October, 2005.
In any case, today’s KCNA report was full of typically upbeat propaganda, “The beacon of revolutionary exultation has spread nationwide, resulting in this year shining as the historic year when the heyday of military-first Chosun unfolded,” it claimed, “Our revival has been put to great use and serves as a resolute guarantee which will open wide the front gates of the strong and prosperous state in 2012.”
Such grand claims may well be intended to stabilize the societal atmosphere, which has been rather chaotic of late, and normalize the return to a socialist economic regime, though the people are unlikely to pay them any heed.
North Korea is officially concentrating its efforts on the goal of constructing the much-quoted “strong and prosperous state” by 2012, which marks the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth. Construction projects such as that of the Heecheon Powerplant and several hundreds of thousands of new homes and public buildings are parts of that plan.
Following the tradition of mobilizing the labor power of the citizenry to the extreme in order to increase productivity when internal and external hardships come along, North Korea launched the “150-Day Battle” and the “100-Day Battle” back-to-back during this year.
After completing the “150-Day Battle” on September 25, the authorities reported that it resulted in an 11 percent surplus over the period and that industrial production had increased 1.2 times over that of the same period last year. In reality, however, more negative side-effects were observed from the campaigns than successful results.
According to inside sources, the North Korean authorities asserted that “revolutionary exultation” should be stirred up in the people’s economy during the “150-Day Battle,” but shortages of fuel and electricity resulted in setbacks in attaining the production goals. Some major national policy projects planned for completion by 2012 had to cease altogether due to insufficient resources.
Also, the toughening of market regulations directly affected the lives of citizens this year, causing effects such as an increase in the price of rice. Simultaneously, North Korea’s implementation of currency reform in the latter half of the year, without warning, devastated the foundations which the citizens had built through the jangmadang.
Naturally, there was no such information in the KCNA report, which went on to justify its positive stance in the science and technology sphere, claiming, “Satellite Kwangmyungsung-2, the proud creation of our self-regeneration, was successfully launched. By precisely putting the satellite into orbit in a single try, a new milestone in advancing space technology was achieved.”
However, South Korean, U.S. and Japanese intelligence authorities all believe that the satellite launched by the North failed to enter its orbit, and propose that the aim of the launch of ‘Kwangmyungsung-2’ was rather to fulfill the aim of testing an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM).
Continuing unabated, the KCNA described Kim’s on-site visit schedule this past year as a “forced march similar to that of a historically unparalleled guerilla unit,” noting, “The leadership of the General (Kim Jong Il), who traveled to the north, south, east and west of the Fatherland without limit to lead the march against the enemy, caused the mental power of ten million residents to erupt like a volcano.”
By the by, Kim seems to have participated more actively in economic rather than military activities this year, in line with the fact that this year the North Korean authorities have concentrated most heavily on activities aimed at boosting productivity such as the “150-Day Battle.”
In sum, while North Korea has indeed pursued a variety of policies aimed at achieving domestic improvements this year, rather than producing distinctively concrete results the government actually spent the majority of the year toughening domestic regulations and successfully retarding the livelihoods of the average citizens.