Kim Jong Un’s New Year Speech: What it Really Means (Part 2 of 2)

North Korea's former poet laureate takes a look at Kim Jong Un's New Years Speech - it seems this year is all about strengthening legitimacy, not economic reform or bold foreign policy.
January 3rd, 2013

North Korea’s vision for 2013: as seen through Kim Jong Un’s new year speech

Kim Jong Un’s new year speech contains two thematic halves. The first half summarizes the events and accomplishments of 2012 while the second half lays down objectives for the year ahead. The summary of 2012 boasts of the nation’s political stability

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About the Author

Jang Jin-sung

Jang Jin-sung is North Korea’s former poet laureate under Kim Jong Il, and is now Editor-in-chief of New Focus International. 

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  • Frequent visitor

    This is a lot of reading between the lines from someone who has obviously not visited the DPRK recently. The people themselves have changed in the way they speak and the hopes they have and this is a far greater indicator of what they expect than someone’s nitpicking of a speech. Time will tell. Only time.

    • NewFocusINTL

      I don’t know if you understand that this speech analysis is about the regime’s stated POLICY for the year, not about the people! Jang, of all people, agrees with you entirely in terms of the fact that ‘the people themselves have changed’. For example, see Jang’s article here:

      • NewFocusINTL

        Want to add, too many people sadly conflate the regime and people as if they are one. The North Korean people are very forward looking and nothing like the propaganda suggests. Whereas the regime…The fact that Jang says the regime is not at present interested in reform does not mean at all he is saying that the people feel the same.

    • Guest

      Want to add, that is the usual mistake people make – to conflate the regime and people as if they are one. The North Korean people are very forward looking and nothing like the propaganda suggests. Whereas the regime…


    Jang Jin-Sung provides a very one-sided analysis and at that a very biased one. That is his right! One has to understand that DPRK politics operate very differently than anything else that we are used to. Kim Jong Un mentioned confrontation that leads to wars. Jang fails to note that. Rather than render a judgement today, I would like to revisit both Kim’s speech and Jang’s analysis on December 31, 2013. Only the future will tell !!!

    • NewFocusINTL

      Thanks for your comment! With regard to ‘confrontation that leads to wars’, you’re right, Jang doesn’t spell it out. But he does say that in terms of foreign policy, nothing Kim said is new.

      With regard to ‘very biased’, I appreciate what you’re saying entirely, but want to point out – just for the record – that omitting the negatives is also ‘very biased’. As you pointed out, he’s using his vast knowledge of the DPRK speech-writing tradition to point out that we must interpret Kim’s speech in the DPRK traditional context.

      Crucially, he points out that lack of ‘linguistic innovation’ in the speech items (such as with regard to economy and foreign policy) means that no thought has been given to revising these existing policies.


        Thank you for the comments. I totally agree with them. I like many don’t have confidence in what Kim Jong Un says, but I like to give him the benefit of doubt and only the future can tell.

        DPRK needs food aid, and South Korea, ROK, can provide that along with economic assistance. So I also don’t take what Kim Jong Un says for cash. However, one thing I can assure everyone here is that unification WILL NOT HAPPEN under North Korean, DPRK, terms.