North Korea’s top newspaper on Tuesday hailed the opening of a new phosphatic fertilizer factory in the city of Sunchon as the country’s first victory in its “head-on breakthrough battle” against sanctions, warning readers against the temptations of the “reform and opening” model of economic development.
In a political essay (jongron) — the Rodong Sinmun’s first since last month’s Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) session — and special article (ronsol), the newspaper emphasized the importance of self-reliant technology and economy.
The opening of the Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory, overseen by leader Kim Jong Un on Friday in his first public appearance in 21 days, served as “the roar of the gun marking the first victory in the solemn head-on breakthrough battle,” the political essay said Tuesday.
The essay, to which the Rodong dedicated its entire second page, detailed the hardships, technological breakthroughs, and political implications of the construction of the fertilizer factory.
While the article referred to the factory as set to provide more high-quality fertilizer for North Korean farmers and as a means to resolve the longstanding issue of food insecurity, the Rodong also hailed it as a milestone achievement for the country’s chemical industry.
“Another foundation for further developing the chemical industry has been secured… completing the construction with our own power and technology,” the jongron said.
The jongron argued that the spirit of the “head-on breakthrough” — first announced at December’s ruling party plenum last year — served as the ideological bedrock for overcoming difficulties in the construction project, including those caused by international sanctions.
Minju Choson, the newspaper of the DPRK cabinet, also issued a political essay Tuesday referring to the Sunchon fertilizer factory as a “cutting-edge fort” for the country’s science and technology sector.
“Feet on our land, eyes to the world… let’s rupture the hostile forces’ wall of murderous sanctions pressure with our proud achievements in science and technology,” the article said.
REFORM AND OPENING: AN IMPERIALIST MODEL?
Multiple Rodong Sinmun and Minju Choson articles Tuesday tied the opening of the Sunchon fertilizer factory to Pyongyang’s ongoing battle against “hostile forces,” reiterating arguments by veteran economic technocrat Pak Pong Ju in his speech at the ribbon cutting event on Friday.
The completion of the factory, as a result, represented victory “amid the hostile forces’ harshest sanctions pressure and a world stuck in the great chaos due to malicious virus infection,” Pak said, a reference to the COVID-19 pandemic and the country’s “emergency quarantine situation.”
Phosphatic fertilizers can be “self-reliantly” produced without relying on imported goods, Pak — who is believed to have worked in the chemical industry before entering high politics — said, while underscoring the North Korean leader’s desire for the plant to meet “global standards.”
Tuesday’s ronsol in the Rodong Sinmun, however, warned readers against being lured into the “reform and opening” model of economic development.
“An economy dependent on other country’s technology and money is like a candle in the wind,” it said.
“However shiny it is… an economic model that cannot protect the dignity [of the country] is a model to be guarded against, not a model to learn and follow,” it argued, reminding readers that hostile powers were keen to “propagate about reform and opening.”
North Koreans should also avoid being too proud and satisfied about recent achievements, it continued, warning that hostile forces’ “seduction…to block [our] independent development” continued apace.
“Military threats and economic pressure are growing,” it said. “Our-style, and our power, is the best.”
Tuesday’s political essay also disclosed more details on the technology being used at the newly-opened fertilizer factory.
Researchers of Ri Su Bok Sunchon University of Chemical Engineering, it claimed, had successfully found a way for the country to mass-produce high-concentrate phosphatic fertilizer using low-grade ore.
The article also referred to State Planning Commission, Ministry of Metal Industry, Taean Heavy Machine Complex, and Ryongsong Machinery Complex as having contributed to the completion of the factory.
Some experts have argued that the factory may be put to use in other ways, however, with research by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) last month raising the possibility that the North could use similar facilities for extracting “yellowcake uranium.”
In response, former South Korean unification minister Jeong Se-hyun expressed skepticism about those claims, telling local press that North Korea “already has” immense uranium reserves in its territory and that such dual usage of fertilizer factories would be “inefficient.”
“It’s like if you condensed juice to get sugar where there are already a whole lot of sugar cane fields [in your country],” he argued.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
North Korea's top newspaper on Tuesday hailed the opening of a new phosphatic fertilizer factory in the city of Sunchon as the country's first victory in its "head-on breakthrough battle" against sanctions, warning readers against the temptations of the "reform and opening" model of economic development.
In a political essay (jongron) -- the Rodong Sinmun's first since last month's Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) session -- and special article (ronsol), the newspaper emphasized the importance of self-reliant technology and economy.