According to the report, an opening ceremony was also held on Thursday, attended by high-profile officials such as Choe Ryong Hae and O Su Yong, both secretaries in the Central Committee of the Workers Party of Korea (WPK).
Choe, during the inaugural address, said that “the completion of the power station is a noble fruition of deep trust and loving care and wise leadership of Kim Jong Un who projected the young people as reliable reserves,” as quoted by the KCNA.
“The power station is the gift of loyalty presented by the Korean youth to the mother party on the occasion of the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK),” the report read.
Also in attendance were officials representing the Youth League and the Paektusan Hero Youth Shock Brigade, as well as builders, scientists and employees of the power station.
Other state-run media outlets, Korean Central TV (KCTV) and the Rodong Sinmun, also covered the opening ceremony of the station, which was claimed to have been constructed at a far quicker pace than Paektusan Hero Youth Power Stations one and two.
The various reports claim that the construction was completed in under six months, with Radio Free Asia (RFA) previously reporting that the other two stations took around 20 years to complete.
However, despite the headline suggesting that the power plant is operational, the various coverage mainly referred to the station as being “completed” and provided little further space asserting its exact operational status.
Lee Seok-gi at the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade, speaking to NK News on April 19, expressed doubts about the likelihood that the station would be fully operational prior to the upcoming 7th Party Congress, as was intended by the country’s leadership.
This is due in part to the need for facility testing, which would take further time to complete following the construction of the station.
“For a smaller hydro facility, I’m not sure these would necessarily require all that much time, maybe weeks or a few months,” David Von Hippel, senior associate at the Nautilus Institute, told NK News.
A limited assessment of testing of the station was mentioned in a Rodong Sinmun report on April 22, which said that “no-load operation tests of generating units ended in success.”
“In the case of the DPRK, I would imagine there would be every incentive to rush through the commissioning process as fast as possible if a public ceremony were imminent, and/or to skip tests and do them later,” Von Hippel added.
The effectiveness of the plant and its potential impacts on the power shortages in the country has also been met with expert skepticism.
“My guess from the apparent height of the dam and the glimpses of the flow going through that the capacity is in the single-digit or low tens-of-megawatts,” Von Hippel said.
“Recently-completed hydro plants in the DPRK have reportedly been plagued by poor construction of dams due in part to the speed (haste) of construction and in part due to the use of substandard materials, such as concrete made using low-quality and/or insufficient cement,” he added.
“Building the plant is one problem, and building enough power lines and pylons to distribute the energy to whole of North Korea will be another task for Pyongyang, and I am not sure if they have done this job as well,” Lee told NK News on April 19.
The lack of domestic energy infrastructure was also a point of importance to Hippel.
“I have not heard of an overall effort by the DPRK to renovate or rebuild its transmission and distribution grid, which would be a major undertaking indeed (and would likely require significant technology imports), and such an effort would be needed to truly be able to deliver the power from these new plants (or any plants) to other locations in the country,” Hippel said.
Construction projects around the country have been profiled and promoted by state-media outlets in the lead up to the 7th Party Congress set for May 6.
Additional reporting by JH Ahn
Featured Image: Rodong Sinmun]]>
This would be the fourth set of colored statues of the former leaders revealed to the public since Kim Jong Un’s rule, with this being the tallest.
“We are holding the ceremony to present the flower bouquets to the colored statues of comrade Kim Il Sung and comrade Kim Jong Il,” the master of the ceremonies said during her speech in the auditorium of Pyongyang’s Mansudae Assembly Hall on April 30.
The height of the statues was not revealed during the ceremony, but NK News could roughly calculate the height of the statues by comparing the height of the North Korean honor guard standing next to them.
Photo analysis shows the height of the Kim Il Sung statue (left) was around four times the height of the honor guard in the picture, while Kim Jong Il’s (right) was around 3.75 times taller.
The minimum height requirement for the North Korean honor guard is unknown, but assuming that they are at least 158 centimeters (5’2″), which the South Korean Ministry of Unification (MoU) says was the average height of the North Korean adult male in 2013, the Kim Il Sung statue would be at least 6.3 meters high, while Kim Jong Il’s would reach around 5.9 meters.
The North Korean report did not reveal what the statues were made of, but a South Korean professor said the material used for these “colored statues” would most likely be bronze, despite its “waxy” look.
“Sculptures of that size would soon collapse if they were made of wax, a natural material that comes from beeswax,” Kim Sung-yong from Department of Fine Art Education, Hannam University told NK News.
“The sculptures look like they are made with synthetic resins or bronze, but as synthetic resins are relatively cheap materials, I think North Koreans would have used bronze for their former leaders,” Kim said.
The professor added that it would cost at least 1 billion Korean won (around $877,000) in South Korea to produce similar sculptures with around a one-year of production period for both.
The first “colored statues” of the two leaders were introduced to the world in early 2015, when national leader Kim Jong Un visited the Fatherland Liberation War Museum that February, the MoU said.
Other colored statues are known to have been placed in Munsu Water Park, the state-run water park in Pyongyang, and the Youth Movement Museum, the state museum which opened recently in January, the Korean Central News Agency reported.
Featured image: Korea Central Television (KCTV)]]>
On paper, the source of the alcohol is relatively surprising. Trade figures show that while China by far ships the most booze to the DPRK, in recent years North Korea has recently turned its eye to Europe for its (official) supplies of spirits, wines and beers.
According to figures from the ITC Trade Map, Germany is now the DPRK’s largest supplier of whiskey, vodka and wine, and the North’s second-largest booze supplier overall
According to figures from the ITC Trade Map, Germany is now the DPRK’s largest supplier of whiskey, vodka and wine, and the North’s second-largest booze supplier overall, with some eyebrow-raising shipments possibly butting up against European export bans.
BERLIN, NOT BEIJING
This isn’t to say China has stopped selling anything but beer to the DPRK. China’s shipments include many millions of dollars’ worth of alcohol, which clocks in at an alarming strength of greater than 80 percent.
But exports of whisky, rum, gin and liquors are all at zero, though Beijing also rather unhelpfully categorizes some shipments as “Spirituous beverages, not elsewhere specified.” What those drinks are is unclear, given the other trade categories include everything from tequila to alcoholic cordials, but China could simply be categorizing many drinks together for the sake of convenience.
As with most North Korean trade, the overall volumes of the German shipments are less than those shipped from China, though still cost the DPRK more $630,000 last year alone, and more than $1.5 million in the last three years. Nor are the values caused by misreporting, or a confusion between South and North Korean figures.
“It turned out that in this particular case the country codes for North and South Korea were not confused by the declarants, but the spirits were actually delivered into North Korea,” Konrad Schemer, at Germany’s Federal Statistics Office told NK News.
The number is all the more respectable when considering the legal hurdles and definitions involved, as Germany’s EU membership make the export of high quality alcohol to North Korea illegal.
QUANTITY OVER QUALITY
Annex III of European Council’s Regulation (EC) No 329/2007 includes a long list of luxury goods which are EU member states are banned from exporting to the DPRK. Many of the items are not included in UN sanctions, but legislated autonomously by the EU.
No. 4 on the list prohibits the export of “high quality wines (including sparkling wines), spirits and spirituous beverages,” though it does little to provide further clarification on what exactly makes a drink of sufficient quality to bar from export.
The problem highlights one of the trickier issues for sanctions regulations and enforcement, which often rears its head when dealing with luxury goods embargoes: With no set definition of the term “luxury,” how a UN resolution is enforced becomes subject to national legislators.
In this case, the EU has defined some alcoholic drinks as luxurious, but not specified which drinks. In so doing shifting the vagueness surrounding the term “luxury good” to a more specific product.
Nonetheless many expensive alcohols would likely fall under most traditional definitions of the term “luxury,” and are unlikely to be bought or drunk by ordinary North Koreans. But in the case of alcohol exports from the EU, the lack of clarity on quality has meant some governments have had to improvise.
“As it is not clear what exactly qualifies as high quality spirits, wine etc. it became administrative practice to set an approximate value per liter liquid (not per liter pure alcohol) which is 20 euro in the case of North Korea. Spirits below this threshold are not considered to be high quality spirits and therefore can be exported to North Korea,” Schemer said.
Whether or not all the alcohol exports heading over to North Korea are high quality under this definition is difficult to check however, with trade data often not including both prices and volumes at very specific levels. Nor is it clear who is doing the calculations, or how the “administrative practice” was decided upon.
‘(We are) not responsible for monitoring and ensuring the compliance with prohibitions of Council Regulation (EC) No. 329/2007′
“(We are) not responsible for monitoring and ensuring the compliance with prohibitions of Council Regulation (EC) No. 329/2007. The German customs administration is responsible for monitoring the foreign trade,” Patrick Ortner from the Federal Office of Economic Affairs and Export Control (BAFA), told NK News.
However, at the time of publishing, the German customs administration had not replied to numerous requests for comment on the exports.
SINGLE MALTS AND CHAMPAGNE
Some types of alcohol which aren’t generally considered low quality also made their way across the DPRK’s borders from Europe last year.
The trade figures show single malt whiskies of a value of $3,000 shipped from Germany, and many thousands of dollars’ worth of what are listed as “quality” wines from numerous regions around France.
While Germany also exported “sparkling” wines, Denmark went one step further declaring $2000 worth of “champagne of actual alcoholic strength greater than 8.5” in their shipments to the DPRK last year.
“French wine (in North Korea) tends to be random, lots of Bordeaux but not usually particular brands … Bubbly tends to be German, they don’t have much proper Champagne around and if they do it gets prime spot in the shop,” Troy Collings, DPRK managing director at Young Pioneer Tours told NK News.
While many kinds of blended whiskies and imported beers are often seen around North Korea, tracking where single malts go is more difficult.
“Whiskey in General is mainly Chivas Regal, Johnnie Walker, Ballantines … Single Malt Whisky isn’t very common, it’s mostly blends,” Collings added.
Simon Cockerell from Koryo Tours agreed, saying he usually only saw Ballantines (a very popular blended whisky) or some higher quality Japanese whiskies.
But overall, the numbers also show that North Korea’s imports of foreign alcohol have dropped dramatically in recent years. While flows from Germany have remained steady, China’s exports dropped by nearly over 50 percent in in 2015.
The news could bode ill for the DPRK’s drinkers, many of whom (at least in Pyongyang) can afford to drink imported beers. Of course, the local alternatives are also plentiful – and might not even cause a hangover.
Featured image: NK News]]>
In theory the Congress is the highest ruling body of the Party, electing the Central Committee, the Politburo, the Standing Committee and the First Secretary. However, this is just a theory, and in practice the highest ruling body of the Party is called “Kim Jong Un.” Why then would he convene the Congress? What is it, and why it is needed?
The Party’s structure in the DPRK is largely copied from the Soviet Union, and thus it would be reasonable to look at the Soviet original. In the former USSR, Congresses were convened every few years, and each of them was preceded by an ideological campaign: an upcoming Congress was called a “historical event” and an organization conducted a “labor watch” – a session of intense work dedicated to the glory of the Party.
… in practice the highest ruling body of the Party is called ‘Kim Jong Un’
At the Congress itself, the General Secretary gave a speech, followed by a “discussion” – speeches by other high-ranking party members in which they expressed total support, then the pre-approved list of members for the new Central Committee and other ruling organizations was voted for, the final speech by the General Secretary was given and everyone went home.
All the Congresses in the Soviet Union can be divided into three categories: ones where the Party leadership attacked the opposition, ones where nothing of any importance happened and ones conducted under Nikita Khrushchev. The most important of the latter was undoubtedly the Twentieth Congress, in which the Soviet leader boldly denounced Stalin.
As the readers will see, North Korea clearly had Congresses belonging to the first two categories. The question is, might the WPK’s Seventh Congress resemble something like the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, or not?
THE FIRST CONGRESS
The First Congress was not the first meeting of North Korean communists after Japan’s defeat, but it was considered first, since it was at this meeting that the Communist Party of North Korea merged with the New People’s Party, forming the Workers’ Party of North Korea. The Rodong Sinmun was also established as the Party’s organ at this congress.
All this was largely a cosmetic change; by that time all these organizations were controlled by the Soviets.
Seen above is seemingly the only surviving photo of the First Congress. The symbol in the front likely is an “I” (the Roman numeral), signifying that this the Congress is the first one.
THE SECOND CONGRESS
The Second Congress was conducted when the division of Korea was about to produce two independent states, so the speeches were mostly about North Korea being good and South Korea being bad. Meanwhile, Kim Il Sung used the Congress to attack one of his subordinates – O Ki Sop, a member of the Communist Party since 1920s. O Ki Sop was subjected to repeated criticism, force to make a public confession, and was subjected to the humiliation of being the only person not to be elected to the Central Committee unanimously.
The second Congress was the first to feature the Party’s emblem, consisting of hammer, sickle (the Korean one, which look more like a scythe) and a brush. Before that, in February, one could have observed a very strange emblem consisting of a sickle, hammer and another sickle, as if it had symbolized the union of workers, farmers and farmers. However, since March 1948, the Party’s emblem remains unchanged.
This Congress was also the last one to feature the old Korean flag of Great Extremes. Since this is now the national flag of South Korea, all the photos featuring it are edited by the DPRK.
THE THIRD CONGRESS
The Third Congress was convened very soon after Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin at the 20th Congress of the CPSU. In was a time of great unease, and Kim Il Sung was afraid that he might lose power. As he should have been – Leonid Brezhnev, the CPSU representative to the Congress, gave a speech in which he mentioned the “restoration of Leninist norms of collective leadership,” which was a veiled attack on Kim Il Sung’s one-man authority.
Meanwhile, as the Congress went on, the DPRK’s ambassador to the USSR Lee Sang Jo started to talk to the delegates, criticizing the personality cult of Kim Il Sung. The Great Leader was infuriated and started to consider not letting Lee to leave the country, but eventually was persuaded otherwise by Kim Tu Bong. Given that Lee Sang Jo later defected to the USSR and was granted asylum, Kim Il Sung had every reason to be suspicious of Kim Tu Bong. However, the attack on the authority of Kim Il Sung came later – in August – and the opposition was swiftly defeated.
THE FIRST CONFERENCE
The first Conference was the culmination of the purge which started after the defeat of anti-Kim Il Sung opposition in August 1956. Kim Il Sung expelled them from the ruling circles immediately after the attempt on his power, but was forced to cancel his decisions by the Soviets and the Chinese. However, when Moscow and Beijing’s attention was no longer focused of Pyongyang and relations among them began to deteriorate, Kim was free to act as he pleased – and the opposition was, once and for all, purged.
Peter Ward, who to my knowledge has studied this conference more deeply than any other scholar, suggests that North Korea was probably influenced by China for choosing a conference as a model for purge. In 1955, the Communist Party of China purged Rao Shushi and Gao Gang for opposing Mao Zedong – and it was conducted at a conference, not on a congress.
THE FOURTH CONGRESS
This Congress was the first after purges and after the DPRK became politically independent from the Soviet Union. Logically, the Party’s ruling institutions were now composed of Kim’s old friends and followers (largely former Manchurian guerrillas). The personality cult as we know it was yet to be constructed, but the age of factions was gone by 1961.
THE SECOND CONFERENCE
The second Conference was perhaps the most enigmatic major Party event in North Korean history. No transcript of it exists in public domain. Reports about it from foreign embassies in Pyongyang remain quite murky, and even East German diplomats, despite serious efforts, failed to obtain the transcript. Their report to the East Berlin simply stated that some high-ranking politicians were seemingly purged. One of the people not re-elected was Kim Chang Man, seemingly the person who coined the phrase “Juche idea.”
Fortunately, the war never began and the plan of invasion as eventually abandoned
It was also seemingly at this conference when the DPRK announced its new line of militarization of the economy. Various sources say that Kim Il Sung was considering a second attempt to invade the South in the late 1960s and testimonies from the people who lived at that time say that it was a time of intense drills for both military personnel and civilians. Fortunately, the war never began and the plan of invasion as eventually abandoned.
This conference also started the process which led to the dramatic rebirth of the personality cult of Kim Il Sung. Kim purged some of his loyal comrades, known as “Kapsan faction,” and in April 1967 announced the creation of the “monolithic ideological system.” In his speech on May 25 Kim gave more detailed instructions, then it all began: North Korea became a much more autocratic and repressive state than before.
THE FIFTH CONGRESS
The Fifth Congress was perhaps the least important of all Party events in the DPRK. Kim Il Sung delivered a speech about the “three revolutions” – ideological, technological and cultural, which had to be implemented. This showed that the DPRK’s concept of a revolution was no longer a Soviet, but a Maoist one, in which the revolution is not a people’s uprising to overthrow the regime, just a regular activity of the Party.
North Korea claims that it was at this Congress that Kim Jong Il introduced the iconic Kim Il Sung badges, which all North Koreans have to wear. This is likely true, since the pictures showing the Northerners wearing the badges started to appear roughly from that time.
THE SIXTH CONGRESS
The Sixth and to date last Congress of the WPK convened in 1980. Its main purpose was to present the heir to the throne – Kim Jong Il – urbi et orbi. However, this was not officially stated and Kim Jong Il’s name was only the fourth in the list of the elite, preceded by Kim Il Sung, vice presidents Kim Il and Lee Chong Ok, and General O Chin U. In was not until 1981 when Kim Jong Il came to be presented and a successor to his father openly in publications.
The Congress begin on October 10 – the official birthday of the North Korean Committee of the Communist Party of Korea (in reality, in was created on October 13). Speeches were given, a new Central Committee was elected – nothing really major happened.
Many foreign guests attended the Congress – mostly from African countries. Perhaps the most notable guest was Robert Mugabe, who, 36 years later, still rules Zimbabwe.
THE THIRD CONFERENCE
In many ways the Third Conference mirrored the Sixth Congress, since it was also the first case, when the anointed successor – Kim Jong Un – appeared in the Rodong Sinmun.
Initially announced to be convened in the “first 10 days of September 2010,” the Conference only began on September 28. We do not know why it was postponed, but to the present day this was seemingly the only such case in North Korean history. Kim Jong Un was given the rank of a four-star general and appointed vice chairman of the WPK’s Central Military Commission. Like Kim Jong Il in 1980, the young Kim initially did not have a personality cult of his own in open publications. Eventually, it would have probably changed, but since Kim Jong Il died in 2011, Pyongyang had to rush – and by the next month the youngest Kim was already “the unsurpassably great man” and the “sun of the nation.”
THE FOURTH CONFERENCE
Like its predecessor, the Fourth Conference was mostly about the ascension of Kim Jong Un. By April 2012, the only formal positions in country he held were that of supreme commander of the KPA and vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Party. At the Conference, Kim was promoted to first secretary of the party and the chairman of the Central Military Commission, while simultaneously “elected” first chairman of the National Defense Committee. Kim Jong Il, meanwhile, was proclaimed the eternal chairman of the NDC and the eternal general secretary of the Party, mirroring his father’s position of eternal president, which Kim Il Sung has held since 1998, four years after his death.
When it comes to the supreme leader of North Korea, it is not his position that makes him a leader, it is the person who makes a position one of leadership
This was, of course, a purely symbolic action. When it comes to the supreme leader of North Korea, it is not his position that makes him a leader, it is the person who makes a position one of leadership. Kim Jong Un may be called supreme commander, first chairman or even God-Emperor – it does not matter, his is in charge by the right of bloodline.
THE SEVENTH CONGRESS
Scheduled for May 2016
The major question for the upcoming Congress is, “Will North Korea announce political and/or economic reforms?” One could of course write out multiple scenarios – like “major reforms,” “minor reforms,” “no reforms” and “counter-reforms,” but it would be honest to simply say that we do not know.
However, there is one conclusion we might come to after the Congress – if they will not announce reforms on the Congress, it is quite unlikely that the DPRK will follow the Chinese or Soviet way in the near future.
In has been more than four years since Kim Jong Un came to power. Since that time the only reforms he has implemented have been letting the farmers in collective farms have a part of their harvest and giving autonomy to some state-run enterprises. If these were compared to Khrushchev, Deng, Kádár, Dubček or any other communist reformer, the results would be laughable.
Meanwhile, Kim Jong Un has antagonized China for no reason, deteriorated inter-Korean relations to the point of shutting down the Kaesong Industrial Complex, united the American politicians in a single hawk faction in their North Korean policy and irritated Moscow to the point that Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Pyongyang should understand that its behavior “gives international right-basis to use military force against it, according to the right of a state to self-defense, as it is stated in the UN Charter.” This is very bad from investment perspectives.
… only a die-hard optimist would still say (Kim) is a reformer in his heart
Other specifics of the young Kim’s policy include a crackdown on foreign information, including death sentences for watching South Korean movies, and continuous executions of members of the top leadership. Other policies – censorship, pervasive propaganda and a personality cult, a total ban on the Internet and foreign media for the common people, closed borders and concentration camps in active use – remain as they were before 2011. Considering all this, only a die-hard optimist would still say he is a reformer in his heart.
However, let us imagine for a moment that die-hard optimists are actually right. Kim Jong Un wants to announce reforms, he is just waiting for the right moment. What would be the right moment? Obviously, a grand event like the Party Congress – the first in 36 years.
So in May we will be given an answer as to whether the DPRK will pursue the path of reforms or not. If yes – good for all of us. If not, we should be prepared for the really bad things to happen.
Main image: Rodong Sinmun
All other images provided by Fyodor Tertitskiy]]>
Pastor Han Choong-ryeol left the church at 2 p.m. Saturday and was found on the Chinese side of the Changbai Mountain at 8 p.m. with knife and axe wounds in his neck.
Activists and local journalists suspect he was assassinated by North Korean agents.
Han in 1993 established the Changbai (Jangbaek) Church in the county, which borders the North Korean city of Hyesan via the Yalu river. The church has more than 300 believers, mostly Korean-Chinese, as it is the sole church in the area.
He has been widely known as a person overseeing the defection route via Hyesan, one of the main defection routes.
However, one activist said helping defectors, considering he started activities related to defectors decades ago was not the reason for his death.
“Since last year, U.S. organizations have started funding him to establish underground churches in North Korea,” Pastor Kim Hee-tae, president of the missionary organization North Korea Human Rights Mission, told NK News.
The church started dispatching deacons into North Korea last year, Kim said.
“Some of them were arrested by North Korean authorities and some were missing. The North Korean State Political Security Department is likely to have learned Han’s role,” Kim added.
A similar incident happened three years ago, in which South Korean citizen pastor Kim Chang-hwan was killed by a poison needle in Dandong, China.
“He was about to infiltrate to North Korea with a fake Chinese passport to build underground churches,” Kim said.
Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director at the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) said this kind of assassination against North Korean human rights activists is “nothing new.” He cited the case of former high-ranking North Korean official Hwang Jang-yop, who faced several attempts on his life after his 1997 defection.
Scarlatoiu, who heads a U.S.-based organization dedicated to exposing North Korean human rights violations, said he himself underwent suspicious cyber attacks in recent days.
“My computer was turned on in the morning many times, with a document I received from Syrian human rights defenders opened,” Scarlatoiu told NK News.
Scarlatoiu said North Korea has geared up multiple layers of character assassination, particularly after the UN Commission of Inquiry report about North Korean human rights was released in early 2014.
While the Ministry of Unification said on Monday that the Chinese police administration is investigating this case, since Kim had Chinese citizenship, a Christian activist based in Seoul released a message of consolation.
“It is hard for me to speak without tears since he was our coworker, fellow warrior and friend,” Reverend Eric Foley, founder of Voice of Martyrs who personally knew Kim, told NK News.]]>
As the “70-day battle” draws to a close ahead of the landmark Party Congress on May 6, teams of workers could be seen squatting on roadsides and suspended from platforms on the facades of buildings at work sites across the city.
Workers have repainted apartment blocks, re-laid turf, planted flowers and renovated the base of a stone mural engraved with a eulogy to the country’s leaders beside the city’s Revolutionary History Museum and bronze statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.
Signs counting down the days to the Party Congress urge each worker “to be a glorious winner” at factories and offices across Sinuiju.
The hand-painted propaganda signs feature a red flag and a soldier pointing at passersby with the question: “Have you fulfilled your battle plan for today my friend?”
Some of these posters also featured adjacent propaganda signs featuring a laborer in a yellow hard hat, fist raised to the sky in front of a gleaming skyscrapers.
“High enthusiasm for politics and brilliant aptitude at work,” it reads.
Most of the major roads in Sinuiju are lined with red flags, and at main road junctions teams of women dressed in smart black jackets were seen waving red flags to revolutionary music playing from loud speakers.
These “volunteers” – who have turned out every day during the 70-day campaign – were mostly “housewives” keen to “encourage workers,” said a source in Sinuiju.
Authorities have also deployed minivans emblazoned with the words “broadcast propaganda” and “the loyal 70-day battle” which drive around the city blaring out political slogans from mounted loudspeakers.
On the outskirts of Sinuiju, a squadron of school children dressed in black shirts attached with Kim badges and tied with red neckerchiefs marched in formation down a road lined with red flags. Some held garlands of plastic flowers which they pumped into their air, fists raised.
Children at the front of each formation held up a hand-painted in red with the simple slogan: “winners’ congress.”
Story and photos contributed by an NK News correspondent who wishes to remain anonymous for security reasons.]]>
The Korea Institute for National Unification published its analysis on Wednesday, which described “youth” as the most essential theme ahead of the Party Congress.
The KINU identified the Korean word cheongnyeon (youth) as having frequently appeared in Rodong Sinmun articles about the upcoming Party Congress over the past six months. It’s frequency was even greater than staple terms including “Paektu bloodline,” “Kim Il Sung” and “Kim Jong Il.”
“Kim Jong Un has continued to try to describe his young age as ‘North Korea’s young era’ and give hope to the youth. It is indeed to get rid of the people’s distrust in the young leader and justify a shift in generation,” the analysis reads.
Kim Jong Un’s emphasis on youth is not new. He stressed the youth’s contribution to building a strong nation when he gave his New Year speech. Youth interests such as sports and cultural activities have been highly encouraged under Kim Jong Un’s leadership.
NK News director of intelligence John Grisafi said the shift toward youth is a somewhat “easy object to achieve.”
“It depends on how the criteria is defined: how much of an age change you require and how much time you allow to accomplish it. If you are lenient in both, it will undoubtedly come true as officials in the regime retire and younger ones are promoted,” Grisafi said.
Another North Korea leadership expert said that the group at the highest levels of power in the country would become younger after the Party Congress, but not too drastically, as “the definition of youth varies in political and biological term in Kim Jong Un era.”
“In biological terms, youth definitely is defined as people in their 20s and 30s. Kim has provided benefits in sports and culture to appeal to them,” said Cha Du-hyeogn, a former secretary to President Lee Myung-bak for crisis information told NK News.
“At the same time, youth in the political field is defined as those starting in their 50s. He would definitely promote a shift in the core elite group in order to refresh the party with a young atmosphere. Kim Jong-un was in his 20s when he was first made a general, a position which takes ordinary people until the age of 50 to achieve through selection process,” he said.
“Kim Jong Un would narrow the age gap between him and the elite group,” said Cha.]]>
Unless South Korea returns the 12 female North Korean restaurant workers, North Korea warned that a “ruthless response” will follow.
“If the puppet state (South Korea) keeps on ignoring our warning and acts in defiance, we will begin our ruthless response against the warmongers of the Blue House and South Korean intelligence for fabricating this (mass-defection) case,” Pyongyang said on Thursday.
Since the mass-defection incident of North Korean restaurant workers to South Korea in the first week of April, North Korean authorities have been calling the incident an “abduction” organized by South Korean intelligence. South Korea has firmly denied such claims, urging the North to stop distorting the event.
“The North Korean announcement distorted the recent mass-defection case as an ‘abduction’ carried out by the South,” South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MoU) spokesperson Jung Joon-hee said Friday.
“We strongly condemn Pyongyang’s distortion of the mass-defection case, repeatedly made false claims and threats against Seoul.”
The spokesperson emphasized that all of the defectors came to South Korea of their free will, and said there is no “hunger strike.”
It is South Korean custom to send all recently arrived defectors to Hanawon, the South Korean government institute that provides help for every defector on how to adapt to South Korean society.
As the instituted remains hidden from the public eye, there would be practically no possible way for North Korea to know the current state of the defectors.
Nonetheless, Pyongyang claimed that its “citizens” are protesting against South Korean authorities in defiance to their “abduction”.
“South Koreans’ are locking each of our citizens into solitary cells, forcing them with their threats, lies and deception to ‘defect’ to the South,” Pyongyang’s statement read.
“All made up,” the South Korean National Intelligence Service’s public relations office told NK News in response to North Korean government’s claims.
Featured image: KCTV]]>
Kim Dong-chul, a South Korea-born pastor from Fairfax, Virginia, admitted to spying for South Korea in January during an interview with CNN in Pyongyang.
He said that he had collected pictures and files on USBs “for South Korean conservative elements” for the purpose of “destroying the North Korean system.” His said he had smuggled the materials from April 2013 to October 2015, when he was arrested.
A North Korean soldier who had access to a great deal of information allegedly helped Kim.
#BREAKING: #DPRK sentences S. Korea-born American Kim Dong Chul to 10 years of hard labor for subversion, espionage pic.twitter.com/81EhPB2Xfc
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) April 29, 2016
Go Myung-hyun, a research fellow at the Asan Institute previously indicated Pyongyang was revealing its diplomatic considerations by allowing a CNN interview in the hopes of inducing a U.S. representative’s visit to the Seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, which is scheduled to start May 6.
“What Pyongyang hopes for is to go to the negotiation table with strategic superiority,” Go told NK News. “This would increase Kim Jong Un’s diplomatic contribution for domestic politics.”
Go expected North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons and the meeting is likely to be symbolic rather than practical.
“North Korea will prefer well-known former government officials like Carter or Clinton, but it’s up to the U.S. who to dispatch,” Go continued.
Washington dispatched intelligence director James Clapper in 2014 to arrange the release of detained Americans Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller. Bae had been detained for missionary activities in 2012 while Miller reportedly tore up his visa and declared intent to seek asylum in early 2014.
In 2009 former U.S. President Bill Clinton went to the North to bring back two American journalists who had been captured inside the Sino-North Korean border area.
In March, North Korea sentenced American university student Otto Warmbier to 15 years of hard labor for stealing propaganda posters in Yanggakdo Hotel in January. Warmbier tearfully admitted his wrongdoings at a press conference in Pyongyang in February.
The U.S. embassy in Seoul told NK News that a statement regarding Kim will be provided by the U.S. State Department.]]>
A closer look at the practice of North Korean leadership shows, however, that every North Korean “father” had his own soft spot: an area of leadership which he enjoyed or interested more than others. For Kim Il Sung it used to be heavy industry, for Kim Jong Il culture and cinematography. As for Kim the Third, in addition to his affinities for sports and pop culture, he so far has demonstrated particular interest to the world of North Korean childhood.
At first, this connection seemed predominantly practical. “Father Kim Jong Un and the children” became one of the first core themes of Kim Jong Un’s image-making, due to evident political reasons. If 33-year-old Kim Il Sung once ascended to the top leadership being surrounded by young political companions, in 2011 octogenarians at the highest positions of North Korean military and the Party made up an uncomplimentary backstage for his rosy-cheeked grandson. Kim Jong Un’s public image was in a desperate need of maturation. Thus, there was little surprise that the first writings of propaganda fiction devoted to the young Marshal and describing him in detail as a fatherly figure appear in media aimed at a younger audience. Literary texts for children could naturally apply terms like “father” or “uncle” to the 27-year-old Kim Jong Un.
A good example is a mature image of Kim Jong Un in the medium-length documentary novel for children, Children of the Military-First Epoch by Kim Yu-jin (2014). The novel presents Kim Jong Un in the typical mode of a caring father involved in the distribution of sugar to children, who gives them advice to drink hot water with dissolved sugar and recommends they write good novels. A protagonist in the novel, a boy poet, writes a verse about his only wish: to let “father Kim Jong Un” live a long and healthy life.
Soon, however, it becomes clear that the involvement of Kim Jong Un in children-related themes extends far beyond purely propagandistic purposes
Soon, however, it becomes clear that the involvement of Kim Jong Un in children-related themes extends far beyond purely propagandistic purposes. Heard of as a doting father of a little girl, Kim Jong Un not only likes to pose around kids – he seems intensively involved in projects related to the orphans’ childcare, issues of early education and middle school reforms.
MAKING A CHILD HAPPY
North Korean fiction, which glorifies such projects, has developed a special stereotype of such texts. The narration invariably starts with the depiction of an unhappy little kid who suffers from the lack of space to play near his childcare center, or from separation with his elder brother who has been moved to the other building of the orphanage, or has learning difficulties due to the badly structured study materials. Due to these stresses, the child misbehaves – runs into the busy street to play, or runs away from the orphanage to search for his elder brother, or gets bad marks at school. The next scene depicts a Dear Leader who happens to be thinking about exactly that problem which torments the child, and after much deliberation, giving wise orders to his subordinates. In the finale, the reader is relieved to see a happily obedient child playing at the wider and a better-equipped schoolyard, who, together with his brother, has moved to one joint orphanage where children of all age groups live nearby, and who enjoys learning with better materials.
While these texts primarily aim at leader worshiping, they also promote the idea of loving attention to the emotional needs of children and broader speaking, an idea of North Korean educational institutions as happy, comfortable places. Instead of scolding the misbehaved child the fictional teacher strives to search for the reasons of his disobedience, and finds them, following wise instructions of the father leader. The teacher loves and understands.
MAKING THE LEADER HAPPY
One of the dramas on North Korean TV produced in 2015 and entitled Long-Awaited Father (Kidarineun Abeoji) depicts promising young pianist Chang Hyok who attends Kyeong-seong kindergarten in Pyongyang and is preparing for the international children’s piano competition. The boy badly misses his father, who is working at the distant construction site, and the stress caused by this separation negatively influences his performance. The teacher allows the boy to interrupt practice for a while in order to visit his father.
At the moment when Chang Hyok and his mother are about to take the plane which is going to the father, Chang Hyok overhears a TV report about Kim Jong Un now visiting his kindergarten. Without warning, the boy rushes back to the city in the hopes of catching the leader. A police car intercepts Chang Hyok but, instead of scolding him, the kind policeman gives the boy a lift to his kindergarten while calling to his mother by mobile and informing her that Chang Hyok is with them. The mother takes the plane leaving Chang Hyok to the care of his grandfather.
Chang Hyok reaches the kindergarten when the Father Leader has already gone and bitterly cries with disappointment on the shoulder of the director of his kindergarten. The woman gently explains to the boy that the Father Leader will inevitably come to their kindergarten once again. Meanwhile, Chang Hyok can make him happy by practicing the piano well and winning the competition. The boy starts intensive practice, gaining inspiration from the portraits of Kim Jong Un and visions of the chair on which the Father Leader used to sit while in the kindergarten. Chang Hyok promptly wins the competition and is granted a meeting with the beloved leader.
THE OLD AND THE NEW
In a typical mode of North Korean works devoted to the leader, Kim Jong Un never emerges in front of the audience. His meetings with children are portrayed in a traditional way of North Korean cinematography: the camera follows a crowd of kids running toward it cheering “Father Leader!” In the cases of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, such scene used to be complemented with the visions of rising sun and blooming Kimilsungia/Kimjongilia – flowers devoted to the relevant leaders. In the case of Kim Jong Un, such symbols are yet absent.
In Long-Awaited Father Kim Jong Un is substituting for the protagonist’s living and much-loved real father
Another old theme is that of substitution of the real father by the Father Leader. Such a motif was particularly popular in the works of North Korean cinematography set in the “Arduous March” – the famine of the late 1990s when many children lost their parents. It is enough to mention the films like My Father (Naeu Abeoji) or Run to the Sky (Dallyeoseo Haneul) (2000) where the photograph of the Father Leader Kim Jong Il on the wall was supposed to substitute for the recently deceased fathers of the children. In Long-Awaited Father Kim Jong Un is substituting for the protagonist’s living and much-loved real father. Since the moment of his return to the kindergarten, the boy never mentions his father again, raving only about Kim Jong Un.
Interestingly enough, Chang Hyok’s role is played by an overweight boy named Choe Tae Yong who even physically resembles Kim Jong Un.
Priceless is the moment when at the end of the film North Korean teachers and kids are approached by foreign correspondents. Like in the majority of foreign characters in North Korean films, these are the cases of pure stupidity. They predictably ask a little Korean girl pianist their greedy capitalist questions about the money, which her family spent of her study music – only to be proudly rebuffed that in the DPRK, education is free. When witnessing warm welcoming hugs of the teacher with her boy student, another dumb Western correspondent asks whether they are related – apparently in ignorance that while under capitalism homo homini lupus est, people are brothers in the DPRK.
These old good stereotypes, however, fail to overshadow a feature which I have not witnessed yet in the other works of North Korean cinematography: a surprising dose of free indomitable spirit and individuality, which all children characters demonstrate. The children may feel tired or distracted from their studies by the new toy; sometimes they fight and get angry; they may even run away from their supervisors. Their instructors are astonishingly patient and use only positive reinforcement, correcting the wrong ways of the children with love and care.
When a little pianist refuses to continue his practice, the teacher gives him a break and goes out with him to play at the new slide and swings, so the boy returns to the classroom refreshed and ready to work. When another little boy fails to remember the notes, the teacher helps him by drawing notes in the form of various fruit on the wall. When a little girl demonstrates lack of study discipline, the teacher mildly points to her mistakes in the form of allegory about a hardworking turtle and a speedy but not disciplined hare.
Physical education constitutes a large part of the kindergarten curriculum in the film, as a counterbalance to the intensive intellectual load. The children are encouraged to play actively with no fear of injury, for the kindergarten’s playground is covered by the special protective cover. Unfortunately, not all aspects of modern healthcare are properly promoted in the film: the protagonist Chang Hyok, an obese child of an overweight mother played by the popular actress Sin Yong Ni, as well as his minder played by another overweight actress O Hwa Soon are surely supposed to serve as pictures of health. An even more problematic detail is the boy’s rotten front teeth, which the authors of the film apparently ignored.
Despite these shortages, the films say heaps about a new mindful approach to early childhood in North Korea, the particularly curious feature of which is the respect to the manifestations of children’s personality. Characteristically, these manifestations are referred in the film as the desire of talented children to do everything “in their own way” (jagisikeuro) – the terminology which normally describes political course of Juche Korea.
Images: Long-Awaited Father stills]]>