The North Korean authorities have been delivering propaganda focusing on Kim Jong Un’s achievements, self-sufficiency, and “the need to work with all one’s might to overcome difficulties,” during state-sponsored lectures. However, the response from many local residents has been negative.
“It’s winter, but those who failed to prepare for it are not going to work nor are they going to any criticism sessions, lectures or study sessions,” a source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK. “Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Organization and Guidance Department (OGD) and Propaganda Department officials are not sure how to respond to the situation.”
A lecture about nuclear weapons was recently held at a farm in Sunchon, South Pyongan Province, but only 80 out of the farm’s 500 employees attended. The lecture was held again the next day after another announcement, and then only 50 people showed up for it, according to the source.
Daily NK reported in November that the North Korean authorities had begun holding lectures to commemorate the first anniversary of the state referring to it as the “day nuclear weapons were completed” and emphasize Kim Jong Un’s achievements.
According to a December 2018 article in the Rodong Sinmun, the Party Committee of the Jagang Province’s Forestry Management Department held a “commentary” and a “very emotional propaganda speech” to encourage logging during the winter, while Jagang Province’s Usi County held a number of ideological and political activities aimed at showing off the superiority of the North Korean state and encouraging greater production.
It is rare for North Koreans to deliberately avoid attending lectures held by the WPK’s Propaganda and Agitation Department in such numbers. The situation may be partly due to the fact that many factory and farm workers pay fees in order to avoid official work duties assigned to them by the state.
Fees can be paid to receive an exemption from work, allowing citizens to conduct their own private business activities. The practice took off after state-run companies and other organizations became unable to pay proper wages. Private business activities can rake in significantly more money than official wages.
Moreover, North Koreans who actually attended the lectures reacted negatively to them, saying that the lecture content is out of touch with reality.
“Those who attend the lectures don’t really listen to what’s being said – rather, they just talk about their own business and concerns about getting food and surviving the winter,” said a source in Ryanggang Province. “The lectures about nuclear weapons are so far from what concerns people that no one even listens to what’s being said.”
A source in South Hamgyong Province added, “Some say that after attending so many of the lectures, they know exactly what’s going to be said just by looking at the lecture title.”
The flow of outside information into the country has also led many North Koreans to distrust the content of such the lectures.
Daily NK reported in July 2018 that people attending a lecture that stated that “South Korea is a rotten, diseased society” mocked the claims and even slept during the lecture.