The civilians of the North Korean border region appear to have mixed feelings about Kim Jong Il’s trip to Russia, according to sources. On the one hand there are those who are hopeful that it might yield some real economic benefits, while on the other hand there are others who expect to see little improvement, and of course are feeling the pinch of increased border security as a result of Kim coming by.
The fact that the domestic North Korean media is not only engaged in a propaganda blitz about North Korea-Russia relations but is even revealing news of the trip via Chosun Central TV and Rodong Shinmun is helping to fuel the hopes of many, it appears.
Speaking on the 22nd, one Yangkang Province source explained the logic of the positive thinkers, saying, “Some of the people who have heard about the Russia trip through broadcasters are asking whether we might really become a strong and prosperous country by next year; since the General has gone to China and now has gone to Russia as well, they say it looks like before long we too will be living well.”
“But others are critical, wondering ‘what he has gone to sell off this time,” the source added, pointing out, “They complain that in May he went to China and gave them Hwanggeumpyeong, so this time where will he give away; at this rate we will have given everything away to more powerful countries before unification even comes.”
The sense of mixed emotions is equally apparent in neighboring North Hamkyung Province, according to sources there. One such source from Chongjin told The Daily NK, “Solving food problems is important too, but the rumor is that a few months ago he went to China for the basic purpose of discussing military alliance problems, and now the same with Russia, causing some people to think unification is getting to be close at hand.”
This is because, the source added, “We are told that the strong and prosperous state is about ‘becoming a unified motherland first, rather than living and eating well’, so people trust that we will unify next year one way or another.”
According to a third source from Saebyeol County, “Here, the propaganda is that he went abroad to try and improve the people’s economy. Accordingly, some people are clamoring about how ‘It is clear that next year will be the year of the unification of the motherland.’”
In opposition to which, an Onseong County source reported that people there are more annoyed with the inevitable ramping up of surveillance that has resulted from Kim’s armored train passing across the border.