Rodong Sinmun caught between “reality and propaganda”

Two recent editorials published by in North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun merit a closer look: a July 1 piece entitled, ‘Let Us Further Deepen Education in Self-reliance in Keeping with the Requirements of the Developing Situation,’ and another published on July 4 entitled, ‘Rapid Rise.’

The first editorial is fairly long but its overarching message can be roughly summarized as follows: ‘The actions of wavering in the face of difficulty, begging others for help, or just hopelessly waiting for sanctions to be lifted can be counted as surrender and betrayal. We need to root out all sorts of negative phenomena such as over-reliance on others, selfishness, protectionism, excessive belief in technology, and shortsightedness.’

North Korean party cadres and residents were reportedly satisfied with the outcome of the Kim-Trump meeting at Panmunjom, but after reading the Rodong Sinmun’s July 3 editorial emphasizing self-reliance, they might surmise that the meeting actually did not go very well.

So on the following day, July 4, the third page of the Rodong Sinmun ran an article entitled ‘Rapid Rise.’

This article can roughly be summarized with statements like: ‘The journey that took our republic to its current status of power can only be described as rapid’, ‘the world has never seen such an exceptional speed of development like ours,’ ‘the world is used to seeing a nation achieving military, political or economical superiority based on its large population and land area, enormous natural resources, accumulation of wealth and other materialistic circumstances; however, our republic has shown the world that our development process is a completely new model based on the greatness of our leader, a man with exceptional ability, which is where our Marshall’s greatness lies,’ ‘through the Great Marshall’s outstanding leadership, our people can see endless prosperity for the nation’s future.’

The article suggests that North Korea’s status is rising in Northeast Asia, the future looks bright and it also insinuates that sanctions could soon be lifted. North Korea’s state media has frequently reiterated that the US president, who previously held a hostile policy towards North Korea, set foot for the first time on North Korean soil and also claims that both President Trump and Kim Jong Un were satisfied with the Panmunjom meeting.

However, the US view differs.

The US says that following the Panmunjom meeting there will be a working-level meeting between the two nations to discuss the dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, but that sanctions will continue until the denuclearization of North Korea is realized.

The Rodong Sinmun’s July 3 article on self-reliance came in response to the more reserved perspective from the US.

But it appears that the Rodong Sinmun hurriedly published the “Rapid Rise” article the next day, as too much emphasis on self-reliance in the immediate aftermath of the Panmunjom meeting might suggest to the general public that the meeting did not have positive results.

As meetings and exchanges of letters became more frequent between the two sides, the Rodong Sinmun sought to portray US-North Korea negotiations as going well to highlight Kim Jong Un’s greatness. But in reality, the sanctions are still in place and the economy is struggling, so it also needs to emphasize self-reliance.

In other words, the Rodong Sinmun is confused as well.

*Views expressed in Guest Columns do not necessarily reflect those of Daily NK.

*Translated by Yongmin Lee