This week’s ‘Latest from North Korea’ analyses the July 30 to August 5, 2018 Editions of the ‘Rodong Sinmun’, the Workers’ Party of Korea’s official newspaper.
- “Supreme Leader’s Activity”
On August 4, North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun wrote an article reporting that Kim Jong-un had watched a new-type trolley bus and tram. Usually when there is an article about Kim Jong-un’s field guidance trips, it is speculated that he had embarked on the trip the day before. However, the August 5th edition of the Rodong Sinmun made it clear that Kim Jong-un had been shown the new-type trolley bus and tram on August 3rd.
In North Korea the movements of the Supreme Leader are known as ‘No.1 Events.’ In the case the organizing department of the ‘No.1 Event’ reports Kim Jong-un’s movements before the event or before it has been reported by the Rodong Sinmun, it is a big offense that is met with a punishment.
Thus, the fact that the exact date of the field guidance trip was reported by Rodong Sinmun which never reports information on specific dates, was a form of ideological training. By disclosing the specific day, the report suggests that as even Kim Jong-un is carrying out field guidance trips in this sweltering heat, North Koreans participating in the agricultural mobilisation should not complain.
On August 5, Rodong Sinmun reported that despite the continuation of high temperatures in North Korea over the month of July, Kim Jong-un visited 20 units in different provinces and cities including North Pyeongan Province, Yanggang Province, Kangwon Province and Pyongyang. Kangwon Province was evaluated to have the best quality of work.
In North Korea, electric buses and trams are called ‘electric trains’. The trolley busses are built in North Korea while the trams used to be imported old trams from the Czech Republic. But with North Korea’s lack of foreign currency as well as the fact that the Czech Republic was no longer willing to sell them to North Korea, North Korea had no choice but to make them themselves. In the case of subways, most of the trains are from China while some have been made locally.
An unusual point about Kim Jong-un’s latest guidance trip was that he stated that his heart was heavy seeing the increase of taxis in Pyongyang. It is the first time I have ever seen a North Korean leader acknowledge the fact that the public transport system is not operating well in Pyongyang and instead, acknowledge the increase of taxis– a symbol of capitalism.
In fact, one of the things that has changed in Pyongyang with the Kim Jong-un regime is the increase of taxis and the allowance of taxi operations on Sunday, that were once previously banned.
During Kim Jong-il’s time there were only a few taxis such as the State Administration Council Taxi Enterprise and the Ministry of People’s Security Taxi Company which was under the jurisdiction of Jang Song-thaek, that monopolized the taxi industry. However, with the establishment of the Kim Jong-un regime, many organizations have had their taxi services approved including Air Koryo.
As is the case in other countries, the taxi industry in North Korea is a way to earn a lot of money. As the monthly income of taxi drivers is higher than a lot of state officials and university professors, there are a lot of people who graduate from elite universities and become taxi drivers. In fact, unmarried taxi drivers are much more popular amongst young women than unmarried university professors.
- “In DPRK”
After this week’s War Veterans Conference that was held across the country, all the participants returned to each of their homes, fighting the drought in the sweltering heat.
During this time, all the central government officials go to nearby farms every day, bring in water in buckets and pour it on the corns.
If the high temperatures continue, then North Korea’s agricultural work will be severely damaged this year and the food situation will become increasingly difficult by the end of the year.
It was reported that North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho left North Korea to join the ASEAN Regional Forum in Singapore, but there were no reports on the activities of the North Korean delegation at the ARF.
Additionally, as usual there was a lot of criticism against Japan, however, there was an extra high level of criticism for the automatic renewal of the US-Japan Atomic Energy Agreement that had reached its 30-year deadline on July 16.
It was particularly noteworthy the attacks launched against the US for automatically extending a nuclear agreement with Japan. The criticisms were that while Japan is in possession of an enormous amount of plutonium that can make thousands of nuclear weapons, the US was aiding them of nuclearisation while it showed a hypocritical attitude to North Korea, which is making its own efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, stating that North Korea needed to make “more reliable measures” and there were “suspicions about denuclearization.” This is North Korea’s way of making a case for North Korea to break the denuclearization talks.
In regards to news about South Korea, there were reports that the support of the Liberty Korea Party and Bareunmirae Party dropped by 20%. Additionally, due to the decrease of support, the Liberty Korea Party in Yeouido were forced to move to Yeongdeungpo-gu as they were unable to pay their rent. There were also detailed reports about the Bareunmirae Party’s size reduction of the central organization to make it less prone to corruption.
Such news is an attempt to show that South Korean politics are operating favourably to North Korea so as to prevent any North Koreans from swaying to South Korea.
This was the latest on North Korea as seen through the Rodong Sinmun.