With the North Korean authorities busily coming up with the goals and political slogans to use in the new five-year economic development plan ahead of the Eighth Party Congress in January, major cadres are reportedly confirming the indices of enterprises and investigating actual production levels.

“Workers from the Cabinet and central specialized agencies have gone to factories and are reviewing their goals and plans,” a source in Pyongyang told Daily NK in a phone conversation on Sunday. “Groups of five to seven reportedly spend 10 days at each major unit, including collective enterprises and factories.”

During a plenary session of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea in August, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un acknowledged that national economic goals have not been met and called for the presentation of a new five-year plan at the Eighth Party Congress. As such, it seems officials are working hard to get an accurate read of the production capacities of enterprises and set goals based on them.

“With the start of the 80-day battle, the Party ordered staff not to engage in armchair arguments but instead listen to the voice of the working class on the ground and reflect what they say in Party policy,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “In fact, you could say even cadres from the national party are taking part in the 80-day campaign on the ground alongside [the working class].” 

However, despite all-out efforts during the 80-day campaign, it appears the interim consensus is that actual production is not meeting the Workers’ Party’s goals.

“The situation is very difficult,” said the source. “We’re waging the battle, but we’re not in a situation to complete it successfully as the Party wishes.”

kim jong un kanggye tractor factory
Kim Jong Un made an on-the-spot visit to the Kanggye Tractor Factory in May 2019. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

The source claims that with the cadres confirming the sizable gap between party goals and actual production, the country’s leadership will stress the role of enterprises and laborers during the Eighth Party Congress.

In fact, with the state having failed to reinvigorate the people’s economy, responsibility for reaching production goals could shift entirely to low-level work units such as the enterprises and their laborers.

“The working class is the master of the factories, and the Party is calling for the aggressive adoption of an alternative business system,” said the source. “In other words, along with a call to create a structure in which the top helps the bottom by getting on the ground and listening to on-site voices, there could also be ideological emphasis on the working class being the main force of the socialist revolution.”

Moreover, with widespread discontent with the economy spreading in North Korea given that local markets have dried up due to the ban on smuggling imposed after the border was closed to stop COVID-19, the North Korean authorities are reportedly thinking about playing the “military card.”

“It’s likely that the authorities will adopt a military strategy to raise tensions with its external enemies, be it the United States or South Korea, around the time of the Eighth Party Congress,” another high-ranking source told Daily NK. “Even if they don’t actually act prior to the party congress, they could clarify during the congress that they will continue to develop their defensive military strength.”

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Seulkee Jang is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.