Western Papers Discuss War, North Korean Papers Discuss Economy

In North Korea, four out of five front page articles in the country's main paper are about the economy
April 5th, 2013

As the self-perpetuating speculation of imminent war on the Korean peninsula continues to dominate headlines in 24-hour news coverage and world media outlets, North Korea’s largest daily newspaper the Rodong is sending out quite a different message.

While the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) has been releasing almost daily statements threatening to start conflict, the cover of this morning’s Rodong Shinmun (Worker’s Paper) was almost entirely dominated by economic news.

“The party daily has been calling for economic growth as always, and factories and farms appear on the TV news before the announcers launch into anti-U.S. and anti-South Korean rhetoric,” long-time North Korea propaganda pro Brian Myers told the Wall Street Journal yesterday.

True to his reputation as a knowledgable reader of North Korean propaganda, Myers is right. The lead headline in today’s Rodong says “Let’s Speed up the Pace of Byungjin [a policy that calls for simultaneous development of the economy and nuclear weapons] and Economic Development”:

Lead headline in North Korean newspaper the Rodong (Worker), Friday 5 April, 2013 (modified by James Pearson, NK NEWS).

The second lead article on the front page follows the first, and also talks about economic development. The headline reads “Pushing Forward Both Economic Development and Nuclear Weapons is our Revolutionary Strategy“:

Second lead headline in North Korean newspaper the Rodong (Worker), Friday 5 April, 2013 (modified by James Pearson, NK NEWS).

In total, of the five front page articles in North Korea’s biggest and most widely-read newspaper, four are about strengthening the North Korean economy, or advancing nuclear weapons (or, euphemistically, ‘nuclear deterrence’):

Front page of North Korean newspaper the Rodong (Worker), Friday 5 April, 2013. Areas highlighted in red are articles about the economy (modified by James Pearson, NK NEWS).

The only article that matches the current level of hostility in the KCNA is in the bottom right. The headline reads “Foreign Affairs Will be Dealt With With Guts [willpower/determination].

North Korea announced its new policy of simultaneous nuclear and economic development at a meeting of its parliament last Sunday, whereupon it also named Pak Pong Ju as new premier of the North Korean cabinet. Pak is rumored to support Chinese-style economic reforms, although it’s still far too early to ascertain whether or not his appointment will encourage economic development.

Still, regardless of action, domestic North Korean media is very much focussed on talk of strengthening the economy, even if world media is still interpreting inflammatory KCNA statements literally.


Recommended for You

How private finance took hold in North Korea

How private finance took hold in North Korea

It has become more or less commonplace to say that over the last two decades North Korea has undergone a dramatic transformation. This transformation is often described by observers as “marketizatio…

June 30th, 2015
North Korea's tale of two front pages

North Korea's tale of two front pages

On April 20, 1992 Kim Jong Il was promoted to his first military rank – that of marshal of the DPRK. The next day, on April 21, Rodong Sinmun published the government decree to this effect on the fi…

June 26th, 2015

About the Author

James Pearson

James Pearson (@pearswick) was the NK News Seoul Correspondent.