North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a construction site in Samjiyon County, Ryanggang Province. Image: Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
The North Korean authorities have been encouraging residents to display increased loyalty to the Kim regime and earnestly accomplish tasks that have been set by the leader. It is also being announced that the key to the advancement of the country is unity of the people, with calls for achievement of the socialist revolution.
One example is the song lyrics to “Socialism Loves You” being featured on the inside cover of the June edition of Joson Woman, North Korea’s most iconic women’s magazine. In contrast, hot topics such as “denuclearization,” “peace,” “reformation,” and “opening up” are omitted. The findings are similar in other popular magazines such as Joson Literature, and Children’s Literature. While economic development has been a long-term goal for North Korea, it appears that the current focus is the rapid mobilization of the workforce to achieve “Mallima Speed.”
*Mallima is a term that refers to an extension of a proverbial story (Chollima) about a horse that traveled 1,000 km in a single day. North Korea replaced the suffix Cho-, meaning 1,000 (km), with Man- (meaning 10,000) to symbolize moving at an even faster speed*.
In North Korea’s state publication Rodong Sinmun, the achievement of socialism is being heavily promoted in the agriculture sector. It was reported on July 9 that Kim Jong Un visited Chunghung Farm in Samjiyon County, calling for it to become a model for mechanized agriculture and ordering it to be modernized.
Kim Jong Un also stated that all construction must be completed as quickly as possible in Samjiyon County, an area that has been receiving a large amount of support and currently an area of interest in North Korea. It appears that the rapid mobilization of the workforce here may be used to create a new slogan for propaganda, “Samjiyon Speed,” to also mean rapid mobilization of the workforce. This is comparable to the use of “Masikryong Speed,” a term used during the early years of the Kim Jong Un regime.
The area receiving the most attention is the “Paektu Mountain Miryong Revolutionary Battlefield.” With the goal of the Kim administration being to become the “Paektu Mountain Nation,” the phrase “Paektu Mountain” has become paramount to maintaining control by the regime. There are two driving forces behind this goal: becoming a nuclear power and economic development. However, above all else, the most important consideration has always been guaranteeing Kim Jong Un’s rule. This is presumed to be the reason behind North Korea declaring Kim Jong Un as one of the “Three Great Generals of Paektu Mountain” last year in November, three months before North Korea declared itself a nuclear power.
With the first goal of obtaining nuclear weapons having been accomplished in April, efforts are turning towards economic development so as to enter the “Mallima Era.” As far as the population is concerned, North Korea has already become a nuclear power and the term denuclearization is not widely discussed. Despite being the primary focus of the summits between South Korea, North Korea, and the United States, denuclearization has already become an idea of the past for the North Korean people. The denuclearization issue is only being marginally discussed between Kim Jong Un and a small group of elites, keeping up with the façade in order to lift economic sanctions and attract foreign investment and economic aid.
Despite being considered essential to becoming the “Paektu Mountain Nation,” if North Korea sacrifices or weakens its position of being a nuclear power for economic development, the goal becomes difficult, if not impossible. The regime understands this, and rather than giving up one or the other, the focus is simply being shifted to economic development from last year’s push to becoming a nuclear power.
The two areas that have been at the forefront of building the Mallima- Era have been the Wonsan Kalma Area and the Mount Paektu region near Samjiyon County. Until last month, the focus had been centered on the Wonsan Kalma Area, and has recently shifted to Samjiyon County with the launch of projects to improve the rail infrastructure there, as was similarly undertaken in the Wonsan Kalma area. Although the official purpose of the project is to facilitate the movement of needed materials and supplies to construction sites, the result is the improvement of infrastructure in the area needed for transportation. Could this be a subtle way of setting the stage for economic development by Kim Jong Un? It seems that the leader is interested in developing the Paektu Mountain area and Wonsan areas as tourist destinations without publicly mentioning the phrase “opening the country.”
* Views expressed in Guest Columns do not necessarily reflect those of Daily NK.
Translated by Brian Boyle