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View more articles by Colin Zwirko
Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
North Korea released a series of 13 new propaganda posters on Wednesday, promoting in typical fashion new slogans introduced in leader Kim Jong Un’s party plenum speech first reported on January 1.
The posters, which are expected to be displayed across the country in the coming weeks, follow the familiar templates and themes of those released immediately following Kim’s New Year Addresses in past years.
This year’s new batch of propaganda posters has yet to produce any with references to relations with the U.S. as in previous years, even though Kim laid out in his plenum speech the national policy of self-reliant economic development and rejection of talks with the U.S. as long as new major concessions are not offered.
Explicitly anti-U.S. posters such as those threatening missile attacks on the American mainland were last released in 2017, but were taken down from public spaces in mid-2018 ahead of the June Singapore summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.
The topic of unification has also yet to feature in this year’s new posters following significantly deteriorating inter-Korean relations in 2019.
“Recently propaganda posters were produced by the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Publishing House, the Mansudae Art Studio, the Pyongyang University of Fine Arts, and the Central Art Studio to inspire the people to vigorously carry out the tasks set forth by the 5th Plenary Meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK),” Wednesday’s report in the party daily Rodong Sinmun said.
It added that the posters should serve to “solidify the united stand around …. Kim Jong Un” and “employ an ideology of a massive turnout and all out effort in the head-on battle to break through, lifting high the banner of self-reliant wealth and power and self-reliant prosperity.”
The line to ‘break through the barriers’ has become the keystone slogan in the new year.
“All towards achieving the decisions of the 5th Plenary Meeting of the 7th Party Central Committee!” 《모두다 당중앙위원회 제７기 제５차전원회의 결정관철에로!》
This poster also features just the phrase “Head-on battle to break through” in bold letters as a new succinct version of the primary slogan. It includes mostly industrial themes and red flags with the slogans “Self-reliance” and “Science and Technology.”
“Let us break through head-on all the barriers impeding our advance!” 《우리의 전진을 저애하는 모든 난관을 정면돌파전으로 뚫고나가자!》
This is again the main slogan being promoted most heavily in state media as of January 2020, showing workers, a farmer, and an intellectual with flags carrying the slogans “Self-reliant wealth and power, Self-reliant prosperity” in the background.
“Let us firmly carry on with the march of Paektu!” 《백두의 행군길을 꿋꿋이 이어가자!》
This poster follows another theme heavily promoted in state media since late last year: the lore of Mt. Paektu and how Kim Jong Un is tapping into the mountain’s historical significance to encourage people to follow the party’s new directives.
North Koreans have been said to be traveling to the mountain in droves lately to march along the supposed path of founding leader Kim Il Sung and other anti-Japanese “revolutionary” fighters.
“Let us follow the party to increase electricity production!” 《전력증산으로 당을 받들자!》
The newly-opened Phalhyang Dam at the as-yet unfinished Orangchon Power Station features in the background of this poster, alongside windmills and solar panels.
“The agricultural frontline is the main attack in the head-on battle to break through!” 《농업전선은 정면돌파전의 주타격전방!》
Staple crops are shown bundled in the words “bumper crop,” referencing Kim’s statement in the plenum speech that the country saw “an unprecedented bumper crop in this year’s  farming of surpassing the best harvest year” despite sanctions and inclement weather conditions.
There is also the nod to science and technology with the microscope inserted in the bottom corner, following the “conference for reviewing the work in the agricultural field” in 2019 held over the weekend in Pyongyang that placed an emphasis on sci-tech innovations in the field.
“Science and technology is an inexhaustible strategic asset worthy of us pursuing!” 《과학기술은 우리가 의거할 무진장한 전략자산!》
This poster more pointedly on the subject of science and technology notably includes a rocket bearing the name Kwangmyongsong for the country’s satellite program in the upper background section for the first time in several years — a possible reference to plans in the country’s space sector for this year or the near future following a public-facing pause since late 2017. Satellites have, however, remained a staple in similar science-themed propaganda poster in the interim years.
The poster also prominently features a new metro car design which has shown up in propaganda for years but has yet to be introduced in physical form.
“Let us cultivate more persons of talent in the academic field!” 《교육부문에서 재능있는 인재들을 더 많이 키워내자!》
Kim Chaek University of Technology is featured throughout this poster including the new Mirae (Future) Sci-Tech Center building opened last year in the top-left corner and a slogan on the front of the school calling for “Producing more talents of science and technology among all people.”
“To more valuable achievements in science and technology!” 《가치있는 과학기술성과들을 더 많이!》
“Let us promote without exception the superiority of our country’s socialist public health system!” 《우리 나라 사회주의보건제도의 우월성을 남김없이 발양시키자!》
“To more high-quality consumer products of all kinds for the people!” 《인민들에게 다양하고 질좋은 소비품을 더 많이!》
The words “Modernization,” “Boosting Domestically-made [products],” and “Boosting Quality” are featured in the top corner, while the Unhasu Cosmetics factory takes up the background. The factory’s products as well as other consumer goods often touted in state media, such as backpacks from the Sonamu (Pine) brand, are shown off in the foreground.
“Let us become patriotic workers making the spirit of conservation an inveterate habit!” 《절약정신을 체질화한 애국적인 근로자가 되자!》
Images referencing savings of crops, water, electricity, and work materials such as nuts and bolts are featured in the background as workers are shown collecting fabric scraps. Encouraging conservation of energy and materials has long been a staple of North Korean central propaganda.
“Let us finish construction of the Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory in a quick span of time!” 《순천린비료공장건설을 빠른 시일내에 끝내자!》
This was the only one of the new posters that have been publicly released to specifically reference an ongoing construction project. Kim Jong Un visited the Sunchon factory earlier this month in his only on-site inspection so far in 2020.
“Let us wield the wisdom and bravery of the youth that are at the very front line in the head-on battle to break through!” 《청년들은 정면돌파전의 맨 앞장에서 청춘의 슬기와 용맹을 떨치자!》
Edited by James Fretwell