North Korea seeks self-sufficiency through technological development

Merchants well grain and solar panels in Sunchon, South Pyongan Province
Merchants well grain and solar panels in Sunchon, South Pyongan Province. Image (taken in October 2018): Daily NK

Following the failure of the US-North Korea summit in Hanoi, the regime is adhering to a strategy of “enduring.” The organizers of a people’s committee director meeting in Pyongyang held last month ordered them to rely on their “self-sufficiency” efforts to resolve the food and electricity crisis. The meeting’s leaders also handed down orders to acquire “new scientific technology” to aid their plans.

During his speech at the meeting of the Supreme People’s Assembly in April, Kim Jong Un said that the strategic policy “pursued by our party and the government of our republic in promoting socialist economic construction is to make the national economy Juche (ruling ideology of self-reliance)-oriented, modern, IT-based and scientific.”

This policy is purportedly being implemented by local governments.

“The provincial, municipal and county people’s committee directors meeting held in Pyongyang in mid-May discussed the need for each local committee to deal with the lack of electricity and food shortages by themselves,” a South Pyongan Province-based source told Daily NK.

“In short, emphasis was again placed on self-sufficiency.”

The directors also handed down an order to local committees to take whatever actions necessary to ensure families do not starve, and even to provide them with rice from the state if necessary.

The directors also ordered local people’s committees to learn about new science and technology through the country’s intranet to discover the “secrets” of economic growth.

“The meeting’s organizers ordered the officials to learn about technology so that they can contribute to growth in production and business management skills,” said the source. The order appears related to Kim Jong Un’s vision to develop North Korea into a “strong knowledge economy.”

The directors also discussed efforts to resolve the country’s electricity shortages by calling for the construction of small to mid-sized power plants and solar power and methane gas stations.

However, some of the directors who took part in the meeting said that “the ideas are already being implemented so we’re not sure what is going to be accomplished.”

There were also criticisms leveled at the people’s committee leaders for corruption. “The leaders of the meeting said that new change can come to the country only when corruption in the government is eliminated,” said a separate source in South Pyongan Province who attended the lecture.

“The leaders told the attending directors that growth in the economy must come from changes in how they produce and manage their economic activities.”

“The directors at the meeting were threatened with losing their jobs if they failed to follow the orders of the central government to the letter,” he added.

The Rodong Sinmun also placed emphasis on the need for scientific and technological development and a “revolution” in education to promote self-sufficiency. The state-run publication ran an article on June 17 that mentioned Kim Jong Un’s order to “use self-sufficiency to drive forward science, technology and educational revolutions.”

“The best way to ensure the problems facing economic construction are resolved and to improve the overall civilian economy is to use self-sufficient efforts to develop science, technology and education,” the article continued, emphasizing that the priority on science and technological development “is very important to fight against the evil efforts by our enemies to blockade our country.”

Given that the US and North Korea negotiations remain at an impasse, the piece illustrates sustained emphasis by the regime on self-sufficiency through scientific and technological breakthroughs.

“We can continue to produce more electricity through a variety of methods,” the article reads, “including the implementation of our science and technology breakthroughs that will lead to more efficient electricity use and decreases in the waste of electricity.”