With general participants in the Eighth Party Congress reportedly receiving little in the way of gifts, Daily NK has learned that top-ranking cadres were given watches engraved with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s name, as well as televisions.

In a phone conversation, a source in North Korea told Daily NK on Monday that the authorities gave key cadres watches after the conclusion of the party congress. “The watches are engraved with the signature of Kim Jong Un,” he said.

In North Korea, watches engraved with the national leader’s name are called “name watches” or “namecard watches.” As these watches have the leader’s name on them and are directly bestowed upon the recipient, they carry a symbolic importance equal to a medal.

Late leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il encouraged loyalty from their cadres by presenting them with Omegas, Rolexes and other expensive watches with the leaders’ names.

This is the first time Daily NK has confirmed that the authorities have handed out watches carrying Kim Jong Un’s name.

Relatedly, figures from the country’s provinces who took part in the congress reportedly received watches engraved with “Eighth Party Congress.”

It seems Kim, who is beset by external and internal difficulties due to international sanctions, the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues, is encouraging solidarity among key cadres through “gift politics.”

North Korea authorities reportedly gave top cadres LED TVs as gifts, too.

“Top cadres were given ‘Kumgangsan’ LED TVs engraved with the words, ‘A gift from Kim Jong Un, Secretary General of the Workers’ Party of Korea’,” said the source. “This is the first time they’ve given out Kumgangsan-brand [televisions].”

However, it remains unknown whether the brand existed prior to the congress or was produced for the first time as a souvenir for the event.

“The TVs were given to minister-level [cadres] and above, including newly appointed people,” said the source. “It was to encourage them to properly execute the [national economic] five-year plan.”

“To provide these televisions as gifts, the Taedonggang TV Factory (in Sadong District) went into full operation,” he added. “The television is 32 inches.”

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Kim Jong Un at the leadership podium during the Party Foundation Day military parade in Pyongyang on Oct. 10, 2020. / Image: KCNA

Previously, North Korea had given all participants in the Seventh Party Congress 45-inch “Arirang” LED TVs.

So not only did fewer people receive TVs than the Seventh Party Congress, but the TVs’ screens were smaller as well.

It appears the authorities had difficulty in obtaining parts with trade suspended due to COVID-19, and these difficulties may have impacted the production and size of the televisions.

“In North Korea, TV sizes are usually odd numbers like 15, 17, 19 and 25,” said the source. “The reason they presented a TV with an even-number size is so [recipients] can’t sell them in the market.”

This suggests authorities are trying to prevent the circulation of Kim’s gifts by giving presents that cannot be sold in local markets.

In fact, in 2012, Kim visited the home of an ordinary family in downtown Pyongyang and gifted them a 42-inch Arirang television.

It appears gifts presented during the Seventh Party Congress were in the name of the “party,” while those given during the Eighth Party Congress were in the name of “Secretary General Kim Jong Un.”

Meanwhile, ordinary spectators who took part in the congress reportedly received no gifts. “Spectators received no presents,” said the source. “They were only treated to high-end food such as noodles or turtle soup at the Okryu-gwan Restaurant.”

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.
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Mun Dong Hui is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.