This week’s ‘Latest from North Korea’ analyses the August 13 to 19, 2018 editions of the ‘Rodong Sinmun’, the Workers’ Party of Korea’s official newspaper.
1. “Supreme Leader’s Activities”
A few things to highlight from Kim Jong Un’s activities this week are:
First, he carried out field investigation trips over three days from the 16th to the 18th in North Hamgyeong Province, Gangwon Province, South Pyeongan Province and Yanggang Province.
It is almost impossible to travel to four different provinces over 3 days in a country like North Korea where the roads are so poor. While it is of course possible to travel by air, it is unreasonable for Kim Jong Un to fly a short distance on an airplane every day.
With the poor roads, I was wondering how Kim Jong Un was able to visit four provinces within three days and luckily I was able to find a clue. When he carried out his visit to Samjiyon he criticised the fact that on his way to Samjiyon he could see that the newly paved Hyesan-Samjiyon railway section roadbed was not done well. And so, it appears that lately Kim Jong Un is carrying out his field guidance trips on trains.
Even when Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il went to rural areas they usually went on trains, and they say that Kim Jong Il’s “last breaths were taken in a train.”
Second, lately Kim Jong Un no longer informs the sites before carrying out field guidance trips and suddenly turns up.
Usually when Kim Jong Un travels, his guards go to the inspection site in advance and the state officials are told to be on standby before Kim Jong Un arrives.
But it was reported that this time Kim Jong Un arrived in Yangdok County in South Pyeongan Province in the evening and he just called the committee head of the county party when he arrived at the site.
This shows that Kim Jong Un’s guards did not carry out a prior inspection of Yangdok County beforehand, and that the county party was not aware of Kim Jong Un’s visit.
In North Korea, Yangdok County is famous for its hot springs and soju.
Recently, women who earn money through working in the markets gather in Yangdok County to receive treatment in the hot springs. However, due to the lack of decent inns available, many stay in private homes to enjoy the hot springs.
They say that those who have bad backs can have their back pain cured even after staying in the hot springs for 30 minutes. Consequently, over the past years, many residents living near the hot springs have renovated their houses to accommodate guests and the hot springs have become a fruitful means of making money.
Yangdok soju is infamous in North Korea, and there was even one case in which the county party was dismembered because of the soju.
It started with Choe Tae Bok, who was the WPK Secretary and was rumoured to be a state official who was a man of integrity.
One time he went to Yangdok to inspect a meeting of the county party and when he arrived back in Pyongyang there were a few boxes of Yandok soju in the trunk of his car. He then asked the driver about the liquor and he was told that the Yandok county party had gifted the soju to their comarde to be enjoyed with dinner in Pyongyang.
Choe Tae Bok then reported to Kim Jong Il that the Yangdok county party were swindling all the soju that was meant to go to the local residents for state officials. As a result, Kim Jong Il ordered the Yangdok county party committee to be investigated by the Organization and Guidance Department and all members were to be ‘revolutionized.’
Thirdly, Kim Jong Un’s eagerness to expand the tourism industry could be seen.
During his inspections, Kim Jong Un gave instructions that Wonsan, Yangdok and Samjiyeon should all be well-equipped with tourist facilities and ordered that Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Area and the Yangdok hot spring resort should be finished by October 10 next year.
Fourth, all the state officials that accompanied Kim Jong Un on his field inspection visit were also all made to wear white.
When Kim Jong Il was in power, he always made the state officials closest to him wear jackets identical to his own from the central party tailor. However, it seems like the first time during Kim Jong Un’s rule that he has made the accompanying officials wear the same uniform as him.
Fifth, there is a lot of distrust of the cabinet.
This time, Kim Jong Un gave several orders to Kim Su-gil, the director of the General Political Bureau of the KPA saying that tasks should not be left to the cabinet but rather should be handled by the military.
Looking at the fact that the North Korean military is being deployed across the country in areas such as Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Area, Yangdok hot spring resort, Kyongsung greenhouse to participate in construction, it appears that after it was announced at the Plenary Meeting in April that the new strategic line of the Party would be to concentrate all efforts on socialist economic construction, the army is being mobilized for mass construction.
Now that the development of nuclear and ICBMs have been completed, it appears that all units apart from the Strategic Forces which deals with missiles have been deployed for construction. In other words, North Korea is showing confidence in an indirect way that the US and South Korean military are unable to do anything.
With Kim Jong Un’s constant reprimands of the Cabinet, Premier Pak Pong Ju has been unable to sit still in his office and has also been carrying out field guidance trips across the country.
However, not only is Kim Jong Un demanding too many tasks, with North Korea’s economic situation, resources and efforts, no matter how many field guidance trips he carries out Premier Pak Pong Ju will not be able to make much of a difference despite his efforts.
2. Other News
According to reports in the ‘Rodong Sinmun,’ Kim Yong Chun, the marshal of the Korean People’s Army died at the age of 82 on the 16th.
The article shed light on Kim Yong Chun’s exceptional contribution to Kim Jong Il’s monolithic leadership as the general and director of the General Munitions Mobilization Bureau during the Arduous March and as the Vice Marshal and Chief of the KPA General Staff.
While working as the commander the Sixth Army Corps which was stationed in Chongjin North Hamgyong Province in February 1994, Kim Yong Chun became aware of the plans for a military coup, reported it to Kim Jong Il and arrested all the conspirators which led to his promotion as the Vice Marshal in 1995.
Towards the end of his life he became hard of hearing and travelled to Moscow for treatment but was unable to find a cure. He was also one of the escorts during Kim Jong Il’s funeral.
However there were rumours in North Korea that Kim Yong Chun was in fact the mastermind behind the coup and that he had created it so that he could be promoted. While it had been true that the state officials in the Sixth Corps were involved with China in terms of China, but rumours stated that the accusation that they were starting the coup was groundless.
However, it was impossible to overturn the incident while the ringleader, Kim Yong Chun was still alive.
Now that Kim Yong Chun has passed away, the hundreds of soldiers and families affected by the Sixth Corps incident will have their ‘honour restored.’
3.Inter-Korean, Inter-national relations
In a commentary entitled “DPRK-U.S. Ties Can Never Become victims of Political Scramble in U.S.” that appeared on the 18th of the Rodong Sinmun, the commentary mentioned Pompeo’s failed visit to Pyongyang in the beginning of July and blamed it on US’ unilateral and strong demand for ‘denuclearization first.’
The commentary stated that President Trump has a “dream” of achieving a centuries-old feat of improving US-North Korean relations and achieving world peace, but accused the administration and Presidents’ aides for talking and acting in a manner that is different from the will of the president and blurring the eyes and ears of the president.
The commentary then went on to denounce that if Trump is not able to adopt the end-of-war declaration which is a political statement, then how is North Korea meant to be optimistic and put any faith in the progress of US-North Korean relations. The commentary demanded a bold decision from President Trump and for Secretary of State Pompeo to “resolutely smash the unreasonable and foolish assertions with his own view.”
Meanwhile, on the 16th, ‘Rodong Sinmun’ published an article entitled the “The Implementation of Panmunjom Declaration” and criticized the South Korean government for being so wary of the US which is only focused on keeping the pressure of sanctions and for clinging onto its dependence on foreign powers.
The article stated that the fate of our nation should be decided by ourselves, which was the key of the Panmunjom Declaration, but the South Korean government is always looking at foreign powers and choosing to go down the narrow path. It then urged South Korea to join hands with the people of the same nation and walk down the wider path.
Every day North Korea is pushing its agenda of ‘end-of-war declaration first, then denuclearization.’ There are also however some journalists and experts in South Korea who claim that it was the Singapore Declaration was a way for new relations to be established between North Korea and the US, thus they say that the signing of a peace treaty will provide a basis for denuclearization. By stating that we should be discussing peace-building through confidence-building before denuclearization, these South Koreans are only giving power to the North Korean regime.