Kim Offers Simple Prescriptions in 2nd New Year’s Address

At 9am on the morning of January 1st,
Kim Jong Eun delivered his second televised New Year’s Address. Therein,
Kim emphasized
 regime policies “for the people,” such as spurring
economic development through the medium of agriculture, as well as the
imperative to establish highly secure, monolithic leadership.

Kim did not offer concrete
policy prescriptions, instead suggesting broad thematic areas to address, broadly in keeping
with established propaganda narratives from 2012 and 2013.

Kim did not shy away from the recent purge
of Jang Song Taek, which he called an essential and “resolute measure” to remove
traitors and factionalists from the Chosun Workers’ Party and consolidate the
monolithic unity of Party rule. The official will to achieve this ideological
and political consolidation was repeatedly emphasized throughout the address,
with phrases such as “strengthen[ing] the political and ideological might of
our revolutionary ranks” predominant.

Park Young Ho of Korea Institute for
National Unification (KINU) told Daily NK that this focus was intended
to “completely eliminate factions that might try to challenge the system, and
build a monolithic leadership system
with Kim Jong Eun at its center.”

“We can see
in this the immediate urgency of securing the leadership of the Kim Jong Eun
system,” he added. “It also proves that the system continues to be unstable.”

Somewhat in contrast with Kim’s address on
January 1st, 2013, when he used North Korea’s successful launch of an
artificial satellite to prioritize science and technology as the route to
socialist construction, this year Kim prioritized agriculture first, followed
by construction and then science and technology.

However, rather than a policy volte
face, this switch appears intended to set the scene for propaganda on
agriculture in 2014, which marks the 50
th anniversary of Kim Il
Sung’s work on agricultural matters, 1964’s “Rural Theses on the Solution to
the Rural Question.”

“We should clearly prove the validity and vitality of the theses by waging the ideological, technological and cultural revolutions dynamically in the rural areas and bringing about a decisive turn in agricultural production,” Kim declared.

One other noteworthy part of the address
was that, having urged greater productivity in almost every sector of the
economy, Kim then demanded a contradiction: that energy conservation be
attended to in all sectors
at the same time. North Korea, he declared in
typically militant language,
must launch an economization battle.” 

Elsewhere, there was a marked decline in the use of
certain keywords in the 2014 New Year’s Address. Notably, Kim used the phrase
“Songun” on just three occasions, compared with seven in 2013. The phrase
“Byungjin Line” was used only once.

Much of the early South Korean coverage of
Kim’s speech took particular note of his reference to improving
inter-Korean relations. However, closer inspection of this section reveals more limited cause for
optimism.

Although Kim did state that a “climate for improved relations between North and
South” must be created, his attendant explication of the problem cleaved to
traditional ideas of Great Power domination. “To resolve the reunification issue in keeping with the
aspirations and desires of our fellow countrymen, we should reject
foreign forces and hold fast to the position of By Our Nation Itself,” he said, referring to North Korea’s long-standing demand that the U.S. military withdraw
from the Korean Peninsula and that the two Koreas address unification alone (“among our people”).

Experts quickly reviewed Kim’s address, and most declared it rather insubstantial. According to Park of KINU, “The part about
developing the People’s Economy through agriculture re-emphasized something that
had already come out via a Cabinet meeting, while emphasizing improved
South-North relations but without improved behavior cannot be seen as a more
meaningful gesture compared with other times.”

“Improving relations with America was not
mentioned at all,” he noted, declaring that
 overall
the New Year’s Address was a simple one. 
“All it showed was
that under the current circumstances Kim Jong Eun is stressing the importance
of the economic sector, including the people’s food security, and that he will strive to achieve systemic stability.”

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