The New Year’s Greetings in North Korea

[imText1]The government of North Korea published a “New Year Cooperative Column” using the name of the three main newspapers in North Korea; Nodong Shinmun, Chosun-In-Min-Gun (military newspaper), and Cheong-Nyun-Jun-Ui (young adults newspaper). When Kim Il Sung was still alive, Kim gave out the new year’s greeting every year in person, but after his death, the new year cooperative column is published. The greetings in text have much lower political significance than the speeches in the past.

The “New Year Cooperative Column” for 2006 has not changed from of the previous years. The title is rather dry and abstract, “Let’s Make Bigger Progress with a Lofty Aspiration and Devotion.” The length is about the same as of the previous years, about ten thousand letters. The content lacks clear arguments and contains a mouthful of adjectives.

In this year’s greetings, emphasis was made on a military-first construction of a strong state, our way of socialism, and safeguarding of revolutionary executives. Then in the economic part, agriculture was chosen to be the main goal, emphasis was also made on socialist culture, Minjok unity, and relations with South Korea, respectively.

The main characteristic of this year’s greetings is that it is written in more a defensive voice. Although it has repeated what it has always emphasized in previous years, the general voice of the writing has lost its power and it generally defends Kim Jong Il’s military-first politics.

Furthermore, there is no mention of the nuclear problem and some superficial criticisms were made about the US, but they eliminated criticisms of Japan. It seems that North Korea is expecting better diplomatic relations with Japan.

Its mention of South Korea must also be noted. Although it emphasizes the 6.15 Declaration and Minjok cooperation and building unity, it also argues that it is important for the pro-North Korean groups to build “Anti-conservative Alliances,” a remark clearly made in reference to the coming presidential and local elections next year. It strongly criticized South Korea’s new-right movement calling it a “new kind of conservatism (neo-conservatism).”

Some of the main characteristics of the new year’s greetings of 2006 are as follows.

Characteristic 1. Continuous Emphasis on the Military First (Politics)

In 1999, North Korea made up the word “military-first” meaning to put military above all else, using the word in all ways possible. For example, they use it as an adjective to make phrases such as military first line, military first leadership, military first character, military first great work, and military first revolution.

In this year’s greetings, the word “military-first” was used 42 times. In 2005, it was used 41 times, and in 2004, 43 times. In 1999, it was used 2 times, in 2000, 2 times, in 2001, 13 times, in 2002, 19 times, in 2003 24 times, and the number of its use dramatically increased starting 2004.

Such a frequent use of the word reveals that the North Korean regime believes that it can maintain the power only through force, and force will be used to control the population and as the strategy toward South Korea. North Korea already has lost much of its socialist characteristics even while it contains a military state. In this year’s greetings, it does not suggest any clear socialist planned economic goals but only military ones.

Characteristic 2. Defensive Mood in General

For the past few years, the “New Year Cooperative Column” was written in an offensive voice while containing defensive content.

Unsurprisingly, this year it evaluated the past year as; “We have firmly fought against the American anti-regime isolationist actions with superceding power and was able to maintain the great progress of ours”, ▲We must well prepare the third and fourth generations, who form the main force, in political and ideological ways to maintain one-hearted unity, ▲We must never forget the mind of the “March of Tribulation” which has safeguarded socialism, ▲We must fight against the enemy’s psychological war where they use nasty cultural/ideological strategies to adulterate the socialist regime with revolutionary ideologies (emphasized multiple times).

Although it has announced possession of nuclear weapons, there is no mention about it and considering the American actions against North Korea’s illegal activities such as money laundering, North Korea’s criticisms on the US were rather moderate. It seems as though North Korea has decided to keep its voice low to avoid confrontation with the US. On the other hand, anti-American sentiment in South Korea is expected to increase.

Characteristic 3. Amplified and Clarified Policies toward South Korea

The more notable characteristic of this year’s “New Year Cooperative Column” is that the content regarding the policies toward South Korea has been clarified and specified.

There had also been content about policies toward South Korea in previous “New Year Cooperative Columns,” but the content this year is double the length of other years. Furthermore, unlike last year’s vague propagandistic argument, “(the nation) must cut out outside invasion and intrusion and must strongly stand in the struggle to protect the minjok sovereignty and dignity.” This year, it states specific and belligerent ideas such as; ▲ We must set June 15, the day the North-South Cooperative Declaration was adopted, as the day of celebration ▲We must root out the American military with a nation-wide movement campaign, and ▲It is important that a anti-conservative alliance be formed in South Korea.

Compared to the ambiguous writings about the internal goals, the clear and specific statements about South Korea shows how confident the North Korean government feels about its policies toward South Korea.

The most notable idea is the emphases on an anti-war movement and formation of an anti-conservative alliance.

The “New Year Cooperative Column” states, “There is a gray cloud of war above our Minjok who desire for unification,” as though there is an imminent threat of war present on the Korean peninsula. Then it urges, “We must obtain peace with struggle,” calling for an anti-war movement. Just as it has for the past few years, it has called the movement for North Korean human rights as a plot for war against North Korea. It is foreseeable that North Korea will use the South Korean political force in power and amplify its own power upon South Korea.

Regarding the formation of an anti-conservative alliance, it is an order for action, which had not been found in previous years. Below is the excerpt regarding the anti-conservative alliance.

“The pro-American conservative force in South Korea is trying to return the nation back to the period of confrontation from the present 6.15 unification period, and this is their last outrage to win the political seat. They have no interest in the nation’s destiny, but jumping in madness only for factional gains. Leaving them will cause return of the “Yusin” dictatorship and dark years of the Middle Age and we will no longer be able to expect the movement for unification. Poisonous plants must be rooted out from the beginning. The people of South Korea in all classes must bring a total downfall of the traitorous groups though massive progressive alliance.”

Such strong arguments, which may well be considered an intrusion from the South Korean part, were made without any hesitation in order to show off the kind of superiority it feels toward South Korea, yet it also reveals the fear it has against the rapid spread of the “near-right movement” of which it has named “neo-conservatism.”

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