I. About North Korea’s New Year Address
If one were to measure North Korea’s New
Year’s Address for “quality vs. quantity”, they would be very disappointed.
Anyone that has followed these New Year’s Addresses throughout the years
would be able to write the conventional content and phrases of this year’s address themselves. Whether you are a North Korean specialist or not, ask
yourself: is there anything you particularly remember from the 2013 or 2014 addresses?
Nevertheless, North Korea’s New Year’s Addresses always peak our interest on some level. This is because even though
these New Year’s Addresses just serve to clarify the North Korean regime’s
position on international and domestic affairs in the name of the “great
leader”, there is always the hope that we may be able to attain some new
information. In the past, no matter how much we examined information obtained
by New Year’s Addresses from North Korea, we were unable to fully predict North
Korea’s behavior. Of course, we can form predictions on North Korea’s behaviors
based on the North Korean regime’s basic position on domestic and international
affairs as stated in its address. However, the fact remains that we
would be able to predict those behaviors without examining the address as well.
On the other hand, this year’s New Year’s Address was the subject of such interest because it is the platform from which
the Kim Jong Eun regime would react to the Park Geun Hye administration’s
suggestion of bilateral talks late last year. And, in truth, there are many
mentions of bilateral talks in North Korea’s 2015 New Year’s Address, and it is
clear that South Korean media outlets will place a lot of weight on this fact.
However, this author does not see any hope
or reason or objective evidence of the possibility of reform for the Kim Jong
Eun regime, nor does he think that there is a possibility of constructively
realizing the Park Geun Hye administration’s “Korean Peninsula Trust Policy”.
Therefore, this writer views the positive response to mentions of bilateral
talks between North and South Korea in North Korea’s New Year’s Address rather
skeptically. A more thorough explanation follows.
II. How to Read North Korea’s New Year’s Address
The New Year’s Address is
approximately sixty-pages long, front and back. However, one cannot simply
dismiss as a short bit of writing [about half as long as an academic thesis].
Unless you are pro-North Korean and someone who loves both the Marshal and the
General and has internalized North Korea’s conventional phraseology as though
it were the dialect of your own hometown, it will be difficult for you to read
this address in one go, from start to finish. Therefore, this analysis of the New Year’s Address’ composition and selection of salient areas on which
to focus your attention will save you time:
New Year’s Greetings: 10%
Self-Praise for the Past Year’s
This Year We Will Become a Strong and
Prosperous Socialist Country: 12%
Development of a Strong Military Power:
Civilian Economy: 20%
The Revolutionary Mindset: 8.5%
Reunification Policy: 19%
International Affairs: 6%
Part one [New Year’s Greetings] and Part two [Self-Praise] have no value for us outsiders who are not “ardently missing the
Suryeong and the Great General with an ache that becomes more intense day after
day”. However, it is a necessary section of propaganda towards the North Korean
people. Every year the New Year’s Address says the same thing: “Every sector has
addressed unprecedented successes and monumental creations have been produced”.
If everything in that report were taken at face value, one would think that
North Korea had already joined the ranks of advanced nations.
Number three has, in the past, been forcefully
shoved into the address as an effort to commemorate the new year. It lays out
reasons for why this year will be a meaningful year, and therefore, everyone
should strive towards fulfilling their revolutionary tasks without thinking of
anything else. It emphasizes the mindset and refinement that it takes to
fulfill these revolutionary tasks. Nowadays they summarize this section by
focusing on brainwashing with Kim Il Sung-Kim Jong Il beliefs, called “Kim Jong
Il Patriotism”, such as, “Single-Minded Sincerity Towards the Marshal,” “Noble
Devotion Towards the Future,” and “Fierce Attachment to Socialism”. This
section also holds no value for someone who has already read North Korea’s
previous New Year’s Addresses.
Number four [Building a Strong Military Power] does not really have much important information either, but there are certain
slogans that need to be checked out. First of all, there is vague mention of
“The Fourth Strategic Policy and Three Big Tasks for Strengthening the Military”. This
slogan might reference Kim Jong Eun’s December 1st, 2014 visit to the 963rd unit
of the North Korean Army where he mentioned “strengthening nuclear weapon
capabilities, strengthening political thought, strengthening combat power,
strengthening the defense industry, and strengthening military and civilian
unity” in different conversations and speeches.
On the other hand, the New Year’s Address
mentioned “the Party’s success with the Byungjin Line [simultaneously pursuing
nuclear and economic development]” in this section as well. The one unique
thing about this 2015 New Year’s Address is that it is devoid of direct emphasis on
nuclear development. The word “nuclear” appears in the address a total of four
times: twice when referencing the U.S.-R.O.K. “nuclear war exercises” and twice
when using the expression “nuclear deterrent”. And, honestly, “nuclear
deterrent” is used ambiguously.
The Civilian Economy section is mostly all
fluff as well, but it shows some glimpses of the reality of North Korea’s situation.
“Just as it was before and after the rehabilitation construction, the entire
Party, the entire army, and all of the people must work hard for forest
recovery, so our country’s mountains are covered with overgrown forests like
Hwanggeum Mountain.” Though the regime is urging the North Korean people to do
their part, there is not one person who thinks that forest recovery is actually
The rest of the content regarding the
economy is the same as it has been for the past few decades. Whether it is
achievements or plans, one can just think of this section as lacking in the
extreme. North Korea is like a broken record player in this aspect, repeating
the same things over and over again. There is the phrase “all financial
institutions, companies, and company activity must be active and emergent” that
indicates that the Kim Jong Eun regime may be going in the direction of
economic reform, but this kind of declaration has been made several times in
the past. They are just under the delusion that they can order the economy to
Next, there is nothing worth reading in the
Education or the Revolutionary Mindset sections. There is only the phrase
“people of the Korean race are the best” which exposes North Korea’s
anachronistic nationalism for what it is. This phrase has become the New Year’s Address’ primary, irremovable principle, and the way in which they brainwash
the North Korean people.
The most important section to South Korea
is one that comes near the end of the address: the Reunification Policy. It is
not a short section, but the main, unchangeable point of North Korea’s
reunification policy is “exclude foreign powers [the U.S.], and reunite our
people”. The Reunification Policy section undoubtedly relates to the Park Geun Hye administration’s suggestion of
bilateral talks and, in its own way, lays out the conditions for such talks. As
such, this section needs further, detailed analysis.
III. North Korea’s Response to the
Suggestion for Bilateral Talks
The reunification policy suggested in the
2013, 2014, and now 2015 New Year’s Address is the same, in principle. One can
summarize it as the “Three Main Principles to Reunite Our Nation”. However, in
2015, there was detailed mention of bilateral talks between North and South
Korea and even specific mention of a “summit between North and South Korea”
which is technically an unconstitutional phrase. North Korea even mentioned a
“highest-level summit”, which is defined as involving South Korea’s president
and the highest leader in the North Korean regime. So, what did North Korea’s
New Year’s Address specifically state about bilateral talks?
North Korea offered an important suggestion
to improve relations between North and South Korea and for “reunification of
our nation” in 2014.
Because of a disturbance scheme by powers
that are against reunification, this important suggestion could not be realized
and relations between the North and South worsened.
As long as the U.S.-R.O.K. military
exercises continue, relations between the North and the South cannot move
The North and South cannot push each
other’s ideology and system on the other.
North Korea has never coerced South Korea
South Korea must stop pursuing systematic
The Joint Statement of July 4th, the Joint
Declaration of June 15th, and the Declaration of October 4th that specified the
charter of reunification and acknowledgement of reunification guidelines must
If South Korea truly wants to improve
relations with North Korea, a high-level summit or even highest-level summit is
Numbers 1 and 2 might be referring to when
Hwang Pyong So and other top-level North Korean officials suddenly visited
South Korea to attend the closing ceremony of the 2014 Incheon Asian Games and
suggested bilateral talks. The “disturbance scheme” referred to in number two is
the effort to send flyers to the North Korean people which stopped preparations
for bilateral talks. In other words, though it does not explicitly say, one of
the conditions for bilateral talks is that the Park Geun Hye administration
stops further efforts to send flyers to North Korea.
Next, the issue with the U.S.-R.O.K.
military exercises is nothing new, and there is no way that halting the
exercises will become a condition for the bilateral talks. It is just a point
that North Korea will bring up again and again as an obstacle to improving
relations between the North and the South.
Numbers four to seven are most pertinent to the
recent suggestion of bilateral talks between the North and South. The main
point is “South Korea must give up reunification as a liberal democracy!”
Unlike the Lee Myung Bak administration, the Park Geun Hye administration has
not once mentioned reunification as a liberal democracy. In fact, not long ago,
Ryu Gil Jae, Minister of Reunification, said that he was pursuing “peaceful
reunification” not “absorption reunification”. However “absorption
reunification” and “peaceful reunification” are not contradictory terms. A
peaceful absorptive reunification is possible, a good example of which is
German reunification. Absorption reunification is an issue pertaining to the
reunification system and peaceful reunification is an issue pertaining to the
reunification method. Minister Ryu seems to have intentionally made the mistake
of trading one categorical term for the other.
North Korea is especially citing the Joint
Statement of July 4th, the Joint Declaration of June 15th, and the Declaration
of October 4th, agreements that even President Park Geun Hye cannot deny, as
support for its insistence that reunification be carried out with both
countries maintaining their systems of governance. North Korea also especially
continues to insist on the Joint Statement of July 4th, which elucidates its “Three Main Principles to Reunite Our Nation”. This Joint Statement was made with
North Korea and President Park Geun Hye’s father, former President Park Jung
However, the Park Geun Hye administration
has to understand that the autonomy, peace, and greatest national solidarity
that make up the “Three Main Principles to Reunite Our Nation” that were formed
from the Joint Declaration of July 4th only refer to the process of
reunification and are not the goal of reunification nor the reunification
system. In fact, the rules of the Chosun Workers’ Party of North Korea clearly
outline the goal for reunification and stipulate how the three Main Principles are
to be applied:
“The Korean Workers’ Party’s immediate goal
is to build a strong and prosperous socialist nation in the northern
hemisphere, and on the national level, free all Korean people and fulfill the
task of democratic revolution. The end goal is to spread Juche ideology and
give complete autonomy to the people.”
The “spread Juche ideology and give
complete autonomy to the people” section means the realization of the so-called
“people’s democracy”. This usually means the “South Korean revolution” or
“reunification under communism”. Interestingly, the Chosun Workers’ Party’s
regulations even specify the method for South Korean revolution.
“The Korean [Chosun] Workers’ Party
strengthens all of Chosun’s patriotic democratic capabilities and unified
front. The Korean Workers’ Party will oust the American imperialists’ military
invasion from South Korea, will put an end to various other foreign powers’
dominance, will stop Japan’s military from reinvading, and will actively
support and root for the South Korean people’s battle for rights to life and
democracy. With all of our people’s strength combined, we can combine our
nation with the principles of autonomy, peace, and the greatest national
solidarity. The Korean Workers’ Party will fight for our country and our people’s
Nevertheless, North Korea asserts in its
New Year’s Address that it has never once coerced South Korea into socialism.
This is because North Korea’s method of reunification does not involve coercing
South Korea into socialism, but there are various other methods in which South
Korea can actualize North Korean-style socialism.
One can see this point clarified in enough
detail in the written judgment by the Constitutional Court in the dissolution
of the United Progressive Party [UPP]. There is a clear connection between the reunification policy presented in North Korea’s address and the assertion that the UPP’s progressive democracy was an interim structure put in place in order for North
Korea to bring socialism to the entire Korean peninsula. If the Park Geun Hye
administration accepts and adopts North Korea’s reunification policy, South
Korea will have no choice but to acknowledge North Korea’s dictatorial regime
through both the reunification process and the issues that will arise from the
reunification system. Right now, we can define “acknowledge” as just
acknowledging them as a conversation partner and can gloss over what the phrase
was really meant to mean. However, if a political party forms in South Korea
that acknowledges North Korea’s dictatorial regime and, in turn, acknowledges
North Korea’s goals of the means of reunification, it would be difficult for
the South Korean government to insist that that political party was
IV. The Park Geun Hye administration’s
Mid-Term Policy On North Korea
Since the start of the Park Geun Hye
administration, this author has stressed that constructively realizing the
“Korean Peninsula Trust Process” would be difficult. The reason for that is
because the South Korean government’s long-term policies on North Korea only
last for five years, and history has repeatedly shown that these short-term
administrations cannot be reconciled with the reality of the situation. It is
2015, the third year of the Park Geun Hye administration. More accurately, half
of the Park Geun Hye administration’s term in office has passed, and now it has
no choice but to strongly pursue contact with North Korea as per its policy.
The Committee for the Preparation of Reunification, which spews rose-colored views,
the so-called “Reunification as Jackpot” policy, etc., are all just backup
dancers for the song called the “Korean Peninsula Trust Process”.
The fact that this is a weakness of the
South Korean government is well-known to the Kim Jong Eun regime. North Korea
knows that the second half of the South Korean administration will bring
financial aid, and even if they sit still and do nothing, money will flow in on
its own. Former president Roh Moo Hyun promised dozens of trillions of won as
financial aid in the Declaration of October 4th, and that was the result of the
summit between Roh Moo Hyun and Kim Jong Il, which occurred in the last year of
the Roh Moo Hyun administration. There is a fair chance that the Park Geun Hye
administration will also be unable to escape from this trap
Of course, the problem is not that North
Korea is seeking financial aid. North Korea is stubbornly demanding that South
Korea officially reaffirm the “Three Main Principles for Reuniting Our Nation”,
while at the same time, demanding that South Korea seek peaceful reunification
and acknowledge the North Korean regime. And, as mentioned above, Minister Ryu
Gil Jae went from talking about “absorption reunification” to “peaceful
reunification” which brings us one step closer to North Korea’s reasoning.
However, the probability of North Korea
agreeing to the Park Geun Hye administration’s “Korean Peninsula Trust Process”
plan is close to zero. North Korea will demand that the South Korean government
come into the trap that is North Korea’s reunification policy and will declare
success and be satisfied if its demands for either stopping flyers from going
to North Korea or acknowledgement of the North Korean regime are met. This is
because the rest of its demands can easily be met by the next administration.
And maybe they are preparing another present for the latter half of the Park
Geun Hye administration. Maybe a fourth nuclear test or launching an ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile]. It does not specifically say so in North
Korea’s New Year’s Address, but it is a possibility.
*Views expressed in Guest Columns do not necessarily reflect those of Daily NK.