This week’s ‘Latest from North Korea’ analyses the September 24 to 30, 2018 editions of the ‘Rodong Sinmun’, the Workers’ Party of Korea’s official newspaper.
1. “Supreme Leader’s Activity”
Aside from Kim Jong Un’s visit to Kim Chaek University of Technology in commemoration of the 70th founding anniversary of the university, there were no other public activities.
I can assume that the fact that there has only been one public activity in one week is because of Kim Jong Un’s exhaustion after the inter-Korean summit.
Kim Chaek University of Technology, the university that Kim Jong Un visited on September 28th is a university of technology that educates North Korea’s top engineers.
Generally in North Korea, when children of state officials i.e. children of the elite class want to easily get into positions of power and have an easy life working as party officials, diplomats or in trade after graduating from university then they will go to Kim Il Sung University, Pyongyang University of International Relations or Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies. Whereas those who have good grades but do not have the necessary family background, yet still dream of climbing up to the upper classes will go to Kim Chaek University of Technology.
Intelligence-wise, there is no doubt that graduates from Kim Chaek University of Technology are far more superior. However once they are dispatched into society it is the graduates of Kim Il Sung University who become political state officers that manage others in the party departments while Kim Chaek graduates will work in scientific research institutions or factories and be treated far worse.
Kim Chaek University of Technology was originally part of Kim Il Sung University and established as the Pyongyang College of Technology in September 1948. In January 1951, the college was named after Kim Chaek, a general who died during the Korean War. At the 40th founding anniversary, the college was raised to the status of a university and named Kim Chaek University of Technology.
The university has two colleges, the College of Mechanical Science and Technology and the College of Information Science and Technology as well as 11 faculties including the Faculty of Resources Probing Engineering, Mining Engineering, Metal Engineering, Material Engineering, Heat Engineering, Shipbuilding and Ocean Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Automation Engineering, the Faculty of Science and Engineering and the Faculty of Management of Industrial Economy.
There are also 11 institutes (nano physics engineering, robotics, semiconductor, IT, general assay office, designing information, analytic instrument, material, electric power system, electric engineering and information communication)
The faculties are mostly not pure science but rather engineering and there are many faculties that are related to nuclear engineering.
The E-Library in Kim Chaek University of Technology is one of the few places in North Korea where it is possible to access the internet. However, students are prohibited from accessing the internet and it is only teachers or researchers who are given access. In order to access the internet, they must first receive permission from the Central Committee, and even while using the internet they are watched intensely by a security official and even then, they are only allowed to look at materials that have received prior approval.
Despite the complicated procedure and intense surveillance, there are still so many who wait eagerly to have access to the internet that for the average professor or researcher to use the internet once a month is near-on impossible and equivalent to squeezing blood out of a stone.
When Kim Jong Un visited Kim Chaek University of Technology he praised the university for its great contributions to the country’s build-up of national defence capabilities. He pointed at the new slogan “Let us make a leap forward by dint of science and guarantee the future by dint of education!” and expressed expectations and belief that the university’s teachers and researchers would become the leading chariot and locomotive powerfully propelling the development of the country’s science and technology and its economic construction.
2. International and Inter-Korean Relations
This week, in President Moon Jae In’s address to the UN General Assembly he stated that Kim Jong Un was committed to denuclearization and appealed for the support and cooperation of member states for Kim Jong Un to denuclearize. At the same time, there were strong expressions and differing opinions that sanctions and dialogue cannot co-exist.
On September 30 the Rodong Sinmun referred to the Singapore Declaration and stated that confidence building measures need to be taken first on their way to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and thus insisted that North Korea and the US should move forward with a “step-by-step approach” with things that can be achieved first.
Ultimately, North Korea clarified its position that unless it is through the method of ‘confidence-building first, then denuclearization’ then denuclearization is an non-negotiable matter at the moment.
This came at the same time as Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho’s address to the UN on the 29th where he emphasised ‘trust’ and stated that North Korea would not disarm unilaterally.
In commemoration of World Tourism Day, on September 27, an unusual article entitled ‘The Growing Tourism Industry’ appeared in the Rodong Sinmun.
The article reported that World Tourism Day was established in 1979 at the third session of the UNWTO General Assembly in Spain. It continued with a positive introduction to tourism, stating the importance of tourism and how it affects social, cultural, political and economic values and how many countries are concentrating on tourism.
In the past, tourism was seen to be a channel through which the outside world and capitalism could filter in and was approached with caution by the North Korean government. However, this article has shown a new development in North Korea’s approach to tourism.
With the establishment of the Masikryong Ski Resort and other impressive cultural facilities, there has been a lot of activity in the development of the industry.
The article also encouraged the development of the tourism industry as it reported that picturesque Songdowon sea bathing resort, Majon sea bathing resort and Ryongsupo sea bathing resort are being used as coastal district sites and highlighted the ongoing construction at the Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourism zones.
In spite of this, on the 29th the Rodong Sinmun released an article that the reactionary ideological and cultural poisoning of Imperialists such as Radio Free Asia should be checked. The article went onto say that the ideological and cultural poisoning through grotesque and sexual movies, music, e-books, photos and broadcasts should be blocked.
There was a particular emphasis that education for the next generation needs to be carried out properly, saying that “failing to do proper education of young people would result in getting them affected by bourgeois ideology and culture to be hooligans seeking their own luxury only.”
The development of inter-Korean relations will come with an expansion of the tourism industry which will ultimately lead to an increase of the North Korean people having contact with the outside world. This article clearly shows North Korea’s preparation and anticipation to control the public sentiment in fear of North Koreans swaying towards South Korea and capitalism as the country opens up.