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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korea’s party daily on Tuesday issued a notably toned-down series of articles to mark the 69th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, with coverage emphasizing the importance of building a “powerful” country and support for the country’s leadership.
An editorial on the front page of the Rodong Sinmun, the chief organ of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), called on North Koreans to “inherit the spirit of defending the fatherland.”
“Let us all powerfully fight for the victory in the feat of constructing the powerful socialist country, following the leadership of the party, withholding the spirit of defending the fatherland as a weapon of unfailing victory,” it said.
And while the party daily sent a warning to the U.S., the editorial sought to emphasize that the “revolution has been advancing more vigorously at a new high-level today under the leadership of the great party.”
“Our current power has become incomparably stronger than it was in the 1950s when we fought with rifles against the formidable imperialist enemy armed with an atomic bomb,” it said. “We are fully prepared to deal with any kind of war.”
“The U.S. imperialists should not misjudge our Republic’s national power and the situation of today, and should act sensibly with a correct way of thinking.”
Tuesday’s anniversary has traditionally seen North Korea begin its “Struggle Against U.S. Imperialism Month,” which typically runs from June 25 until July 27.
But amid improving relations last year, the North Korean state-run media outlets kept a relatively low profile during a month often dominated by anti-American media coverage, rallies in Pyongyang, and other reminders of the war against the U.S. and South Korea.
Last year’s June 25 edition of the Rodong was largely silent on the Korean War, in stark contrast to previous year’s call for North Koreans to “sternly smash the U.S. imperialists’ scheme of nuclear war provocations.”
Tuesday’s edition appears to have sought to strike a balance between these two approaches, with one North Korean watcher noting that while it contained references to “U.S. imperialists,” the “language is very bland.”
“Rather than dwelling on the evils of the U.S., the party daily dedicated approximately half of the editorial to domestic ideology — the importance of uniting around the leader and increasing economic output,” Rachel Minyoung Lee, senior analyst with NK News‘s sister site NK Pro, said.
Dedicating pages two and three to the Korean War, the Rodong on Tuesday made mentioned of “U.S. imperialists” seven times over five different articles — not including the front page editorial.
Coverage, however, largely focused on domestic ideological themes, urging citizens to engage in the “high goal of building a powerful socialist country” highlighting the importance of the “spirit of defending the country.”
“[The people] should politically-ideologically guard… Kim Jong Un with their life while devoted to the leader, which is the fundamental core of the spirit of protecting the fatherland, and the first requirement of their life as well as the life and soul of a revolutionary,” it said.
Calling on citizens to “continue to strongly reinforce the national defense capabilities while they always bear in mind the philosophical principle that peace is only guaranteed by a strong military force,” the party daily emphasized that the people “should never overlook phenomena destroying and undermining the [party’s] ideas, systems, and socialist lifestyle, and should intransigently struggle against them.”
In order to defend the country, the Rodong continued, the DPRK must give a greater impetus to “grand march of economic construction.”
“All party members and workers should make a new miracle and great achievement in implementing the goals of the five-year strategy for national economic development… with indomitable mental strength and adamant offensive.”
The Rodong also called on the country to “decisively enhance the role of the Party and working people’s organizations,” urging party and affiliated organizations to engage in “political and ideological work in various formats and methods in a progressive manner to deeply engrave the sprit of defending the country.”
Lee, the NK Pro analyst, said the party daily editorial indicates that the DPRK leadership was not willing to return to the kinds of rhetoric in previous years but that it “felt a need to acknowledge the 25 June anniversary” to placate more hardline members of the country’s military elite.
“This appears to tie in with the trends we’ve been seeing in recent months, including the resurgence of military/munitions industry personnel and even the two short-range missile launches in early May,” she said.
“I do think Kim Jong Un has faced a need to mollify certain segments of the population, namely the military, and the munitions industry, when the Hanoi summit yielded no tangible results.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: KCNA