The North Korean authorities have instructed officials conducting lectures for North Koreans living far from the border regions to “cease any criticism of South Korea,” sources in North Korea have reported.
“A lecture with the message that North Korea was leading the way to peaceful unification was held in late July,” a source in South Hwanghae Province told Daily NK on August 24.
“The lecturer emphasized that the attendees should not criticize South Korea or President Moon Jae In.”
Another lecture held in early August communicated the message that “orth and South Korea are conducting broad economic and cultural exchanges,” the source continued, noting that the “crux of the lecture was that we [North Koreans] need to broadly cooperate together [with the South Koreans].”
The emphasis on avoiding criticism of the South could be aimed at safeguarding the regime’s efforts to cooperate with South Korea on economic and cultural projects. This comes as the country continues to actively cooperate with South Korea on railway, road and forestry-related projects following the Panmunjom Declaration.
North Korea has long emphasized that South Korea’s “puppet government is the enemy,” so there was likely a need to de-escalate the shock North Koreans would feel with a relatively sudden shift toward exchanges with South Korea.
However, according to a source in Ryanggang Province, there have been no parallel lectures in the region.
“There have not been any lectures calling for the halt of criticism toward South Korea yet,” a source in Ryanggang Province said, adding that the authorities are “tightening control over private businesses and illegal telephone calls.”
The source also pointed out that the “difference in people’s access to information” was one reason for the contrasting messages given by the authorities across different regions. Unlike those living near the Chinese border, who generally have access to outside information via Chinese-made mobile phones, North Koreans living in the inner provinces generally believe state propaganda. They are also seen as more loyal to the regime and less likely to be “dazzled by capitalism” or to consider defecting from the country.
A source in South Pyongan Province added, “After the inter-Korean and US-DPRK summits, Kim Jong Un’s popularity skyrocketed. In the past, the rule was to fight the American imperialists and the southern puppets to obtain their surrender, but now he’s considered a great man given to us [North Koreans] by a higher power who can resolve everything through simple dialogue.
“The authorities have noticed [the change in how Kim Jong Un is perceived] and have likely gained the confidence to instruct people not to criticize the South […] They may have decided that when the inter-Korean relationship goes sour again, they [the authorities] can just blame the South for throwing away an opportunity [for peace] that we wanted so much.”