The Organization and Guidance Department (OGD) in North Korea’s Central Committee recently created an investigative team to better understand the results of the country’s Five-Year State Economic Development Strategy, Daily NK has learned.

“An order from the Supreme Leader [North Korean leader Kim Jong Un] led to the creation of the investigation team by the OGD, which is now looking into how successful the five-year strategy has been,” a source in North Korea told Daily NK yesterday.

“On-site investigations were conducted early this month at the Ministry of Electric Power Industry, the Ministry of Coal Industry, the Ministry of Metallurgical Industry, the Ministry of Machine-building Industry, and the Ministry of Railways,” he added.

LEAVING NO STONE UNTURNED

Kim Jong Un unveiled the Five-Year State Economic Development Strategy at a party congress in 2016. The North Korean leader promised that the strategy would create the “foundation” for sustainable economic development through “balanced” growth.

Because 2020 marks the final year of the strategy, Kim needs to highlight the strategy’s successes; however, international sanctions, and now the COVID-19 pandemic, have long thrown a wrench into the country’s economic development.

In fact, North Korean leaders have refrained from any direct mention of the five-year strategy at recent party plenums or politburo meetings, which suggests that the strategy has failed to meet its original goals.

Ahead of a comprehensive review of the strategy’s results, North Korean leaders appear focused on better understanding how well the strategy has been implemented and on identifying problem areas.

Daily NK’s source in the country said that the recently created investigation team is focused broadly on understanding how well different Cabinet ministries have carried out the strategy and the results they have achieved; probing the “attitudes” of government officials tasked with carrying out the strategy; and, finally, examining “business plans” and goals established by the ministries.

The team is also reportedly sifting through “party life records” (ideology-based evaluations) to more accurately understand levels of corruption and any “ideological issues” among officials.

THE BLAME GAME

According to the source, officials working for the Cabinet ministries at the center of the investigation are saying that the investigation is aimed at “quelling discontent” among “the people” about the failure of the strategy to bring about an economic transformation.

“The officials are really scared about the investigation,” the source said, adding that they believe that the leadership will blame them for the mistakes made.

The source cited past examples of the government blaming working-level officials for failed policies, including the execution of Park Nam Gi after the failed 2009 currency reform and purges that occurred after failed efforts to turn North Korea into a “strong and prosperous country” by Kim Il Sung’s 100th birthday in 2012.

According to the source, the officials in the Cabinet’s ministries believe that it is “clearer than crystal” that North Korea has failed to meet the original goals of the strategy given that the economy is still “unstable.” Their worry, however, is that working-level officials will be fired or punished even more severely for the failure of the strategy.

“The investigation has also caused ‘whispers’ among provincial party-level officials,” the source said. “Provincial party and people’s committee officials are saying that it will be difficult for them to continue putting trust in the state if the results of the five-year strategy are fabricated [in a speech] at the end of the year or during the 2021 new year’s address.”

The investigation team’s findings are expected to be submitted to the Central Committee by the end of May.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Kim Yoo Jin is one of Daily NK's freelance journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.