North Korean state media on Friday released four new official propaganda posters focused on economic development, with one prominently featuring several recognizable domestic consumer brands.
The inclusion of such branded consumer products represents a first in several years for the line of primary propaganda posters, which receive attention in state newspaper Rodong Sinmun and other outlets and which are displayed throughout the country.
The release of the new posters was accompanied by an article in Friday’s Rodong saying the new batch was produced to “rally the people to carry out the campaign for increased production in accordance with the goals of the 5-year economic strategy.”
That poster’s slogan reads, “Guard the Party for the sake of the goals of the 5-year strategy for national economic development!” calling on the people to “walk in lockstep with the central Party and ideology to continuously innovate and advance the revolution.”
The poster primarily references the country’s industry, including the familiar molten metal industrial theme and products including coal, fertilizer, steel, and even patterned fabric.
But one poster with “5-year strategy” in bold at the top and carrying the slogan, “[Let’s achieve] the best outcomes and [put forth our] greatest efforts in the campaign for increased production!” points the viewer directly to the idea of increasing market share of domestic brands.
Such promotion of domestic brands, and even specific shopping malls, has appeared of late in similarly-styled propaganda posters for sale to foreign tourists, and are frequently featured in other ways in state media, but have not shown up in the official line of posters since 2015.
Earlier this year and in years past, consumer goods have shown up in the posters, but typically as generic items without brand names.
In previous examples of branded goods, medical products were featured prominently in posters in 2010 and 2014, packaged meats and other foods in 2014, and the Pyongyang Children’s Department Store (평양아동백화점) in 2015.
In the newest poster, clearly visible are sports shoes made by the Ryuwon Shoe Factory (류원신발공장), Sonamu or “Pine” (소나무) branded children’s backpacks (produced in various factories), and products from the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory (평양화장품공장).
The illustrated spread of products in the background also appears to be recycled from another poster from eight years ago, which carried the slogan “A decisive change for the lives of the people!” and a neon sign for a generic “Department Store” in the background.
That version even featured an image of a bottle of the well-known Taedonggang Beer, though this is absent from the new poster.
Many of these logos would only be recognizable to the trained eye or to North Koreans already familiar with their presence on store shelves.
All of the above mentioned recognizable brands, however, have been featured heavily in the past in state media, with Kim Jong Un making official on-the-spot guidance visits to many of the factories.
They all also utilize modern branding, packaging, and designs which would not look out of place on store shelves across the border in South Korea – North Korean manufacturers are known to have taken inspiration from southern competitors in the past.
But while these brands – all property of state-owned enterprises – now appear to be receiving even more recognition, a multitude of other companies are producing consumer products and gaining visibility as the country places a priority on “self-made” goods.
Kim Jong Un stated this goal in his 2018 New Year’s Address, saying that “light-industry factories need to… produce and supply more diversified and quality consumer goods with domestic raw and other materials.”
Other recent propaganda posters, including one purchased at a shop for foreign tourists and obtained by NK News, do appear to follow a similar theme of overtly advertising domestic brands.
However, these have not appeared in the “Propaganda” (선전화) sections of state-run sites like DPRK Today or Naenara – which proudly announce the release of more official state slogans – since 2015.
Still highly political, however, this one proclaims, “For the people, with the General’s noble love!” with three modern women in traditional outfits carrying multiple shopping bags.
It includes depictions of branded storefronts and shopping bags for the Kwangbok Area Shopping Center, Mansugyo Meat Shop, Samilpo Specialty Store, Samilpo Exhibition Center (with a visible bar code on the bag), Hungsong Ryongsong Meat Shop, and Pothonggang Department Store.
While the new, more official propaganda posters released today do not include as clear a nod to the capitalistic shopping experience, the presence of brand names represents another step in the ongoing changing attitude towards brand-based consumerism.
Peter Ward, NK News columnist and researcher on the North Korean economy, points to the airing of “infomercials” on state television in recent years, which promote domestically-branded products and stores.
“Happy customers are also shown in shops, and there is often reference to one of the Kims, and their visit there in the past or their policy ideas contributing to economic improvement,” Ward said, providing examples such as a visit to the Mangyongdae Kyunghung Foodstuff Factory (만경대경흥식료공장) and the Unha Taesong Foodstuff Factory (운하대성식료공장) producing “Taeha”-branded products.
“The shops/production facilities are always praised for contributing to the improvement of the People’s lives/living standards and upholding the party line. They are also often extolled (in the case of factories) for plan fulfillment,” he added.
The new posters, he said, can be viewed as combining “advertising in content with the form of politically-correct agitprop.”
As for the two other new posters, one is focused on agriculture and encourages people to “unconditionally work vigorously on the campaign for increased production and take up the agricultural production goals!”
The other focuses on the ever-popular topic of building construction, saying, “Let’s become brilliant creators of the large-scale construction battle under the principle of taking responsibility and guaranteeing for all eternity!”
Absent again, as with almost all official posters this year, are any signs of missiles or anti-U.S. sentiment.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: KCNA
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