(n.b. Kim Jong-il’s last known appearance was around 1 November at the Unhung Cooperative Farm in Thaechon County, North Pyongan Province)
Continuing with his working for the weekend m.o., Kim Jong-il (or his body double or auto-icon) rode his customized train coach to South Hamgyong Province, and undisclosed locations, for five (5) guidance tours and two (2) concert performances. This marked his first visit to South Hamgyong since late June/early July of this year. General-Secretary Kim visited three famous production sites during his swing through South Hamgyong and he participated in his first inspection of a North Korean military base since he watched KPN exercises in mid-September.
He began his tour of the Hungam area attending a concert of the “art squads” of the 8 February Vinalon Complex and the Hungnam Fertilizer Complex. These music groups are supposedly quite versatile, singing and playing “colorful numbers of diverse genres.” It was neither disclosed nor photographed by the Korean Central News Agency whether “Footsteps” was performed among old chestnuts such as “Are We Living in Days Like Those?” and “My Beloved Factory.” Although in his remarks to the art squad’s secretaries General-Secretary Kim referred to the “revolutionary position of the workers of the DPRK thanks to the large contingent of such dependable workers of the new generation.” Kim Jong-il moved on to the 8 February Vinalon Complex and the construction site of a gas facility at the Hungnam Fertilizer Complex. The art squads of the respective factories moved onto Pyongyang (most likely on General-Secretary Kim’s orders) for an engagement earlier this week at the People’s Palace of Culture.
General-Secretary Kim’s last visit to these industrial sites was in early February of this year. At the 8 February Vinalon Complex he “looked round the dyes and agricultural chemicals produced at the newly-built production processes for hours.” During the guidance tour, Kim Jong-il alluded to the Taean Work System, juxtaposing it against the circumstance that the management and labor of the 8 February Complex were basically left to fend for themselves in renovating the place. He praised them for the renovations, “even under hard conditions where everything was in short supply. . .demonstrat[ing] the might of the Juche-based industry.” Several hours later, Kim Jong-il and his travel party took a short ride (less than 2 miles) to the construction of an ammonia factory at the Hungnam Fertilizer Complex. It is a bit puzzling why a person with a few health problems would decide to visit chemical factories. Nevertheless, General-Secretary Kim conducted a bit of a pep rally in order to ensure the project’s completion before the end of the 100 Day Battle Campaign ( “setting forth the tasks to be fulfilled to wind up the project earlier than scheduled”).
A day or two later, Kim Jong-il and his travel party moved on across the
Songchon River to Jongpyong and Hamju Counties. The first stop was to the “newly-built” Kumjin River Kuchang Youth Power Plant, named after the Kumjingang Youth Shock Brigade members who helped construct it. The Kuchang Power Plant is the second power plant constructed in Jonpyong County, and was under construction since 2006. While the project is complete, it is not clear whether it will be fully functional, a concern which Kim Jong-il highlighted in his instructions to the Party officials escorting him during the tour. However, General-Secretary Kim stuck to his laudatory guns, “expressing great satisfaction over the fact that the senior functionaries of the county. . .have invented the valuable things that can contribute to improving the people’s standard of living.” Whether they know how to game their political connections or have direct connections to KPA shock brigades, Jonpyong officials such as Ri Yong-hun and Choe Kum-sun were held by Kim Jong-il as Party and People’s Committee officials whom “other functionaries should emulate.”
Kim Jong-il then moved on to Hamju County, where he maintains a residence and in 2007 where he voted in Local People’s Committee elections. For the third time in 2009 he visited the Tongbong Cooperative Farm. Hamju County has several cooperative farms and a third tour of the same cooperative farm may indicate something about the DPRK’s problems with its agriculture. That said, Tongbong Cooperative Farm was serving General-Secretary Kim’s propaganda purpose because it is “upholding the great general’s teaching on farming methods” and conforming to the methods of two-crop farming and the use of organic fertilizers that are forming the dual cornerstones of the KWP’s green and agricultural revolutions.
Over the weekend, General-Secretary Kim inspected KPA Unit 1224, at an undisclosed location. This may be his first visit to the KPA unit, which may be part of the Operations Department. During his inspection tour he visited the living quarters and ideological education centers and watched training exercises. In the KCNA bulletin, Kim Jong-il’s remarks about the role of
the KPA are taken directly from the DPRK Constitution. The KCNA report noted that the “interior facilities with all the amenities and their compound kept neat and tidy like a park.” While I don’t want to question the housekeeping of a KPA unit, it should be noted that the cleaning of KPA barracks prior to an inspection tour is mandatory, and compelled by both commanding officers and the State Security Department. Kim Jong-il began, and ended, this batch of guidance tours with an art performance, a concert. His final recent appearance was attending a concert given by the art squad of the Ministry of Public Security. The musically-inclined members of the “interior forces of the supreme commander” broke out the guitars for “Let’s Defend Socialism.” Again, no word on whether any of the singers performed “Footsteps.”
The dispatch that Kim Jong-il was either dead or using a stand-in seems to have found its way to the General-Secretary. While this activity will do little to allay the naysayers, the number of Kim Jong-il’s appearances is staggering. His recent guidance tours and concert going bring the number of appearances to 135 for 2009. It can only be expected that he will continue this kinetic pace through year’s end which dovetails with the conclusion of the 100 Day Battle Campaign. The reports made a particular effort to underscore that his health is at least stable, and sought to establish that he has whatever physical and mental stamina pre-existed his stroke(s).
With so many different appearances, Kim Jong-il reiterated every ideological mode the KWP is trying to peddle. There were numerous references to kangsong taeguk, the Three Revolutions and the Green Revolution. He seemed to bypass Hamhung for Hungnam. With its organized crime gangs and a problem with methamphetamine, visiting the city centre of Hamhung is a dicey proposition. The two complexes he visited in Hungnam have production units within them that are subordinate to the Second Economic Committee. As has been standard practice with his cooperative farm appearances, corn was highlighted as a staple food and General-Secretary Kim addressed the problems affecting North Korean citizens in rural areas. During his appearance at Tongbong Cooperative Farm, he made a point of setting forth a policy of producing and delivering additional machinery to cooperative farms in the rural DPRK, although whether this is actually possible or any cadres will implement his instructions are anyone’s guess.
On chronic succession watch; Kim Jong-il targeted some of his remarks during his swing through Jonpyong and Hamju Counties to the virtues of youth. He noted that “our revolutionary cause. . .is being firmly maintained because the great army of youths–the most lively combat unit–is in charge of the defense of the fatherland and the socialist construction.” In praising the current Party and State elders in Jonpyong County he said that “members of the Youth Shock Brigade, in the future as well, would continue to take the lead in advancing the glorious struggle for the fatherland’s prosperity and development of the people’s happiness.” As mentioned above he referred to “the new generation” during the factories’ concert. The dulcet chimes of “Footsteps” are not sounded and there is no aubade written to the Morningstar General. But these references to “youths” now, and in the future, have been interpreted by earlier cogent analysis of a possible second hereditary succession in the DPRK.
And in the bucket drop of cohort analysis, the question may be who did not travel or attend a concert with Kim Jong-il? The usual gang of three appeared at all of these places with General-Secretary Kim: KWP Secretary Kim Ki-nam, the Boswell of the Suryong, was present to attain total coverage; KWP Financial Planning Director Pak Nam-gi was around to allocate whatever monies and resources the National Defense Commission hasn’t already siphoned, and; Jang Song-thaek was hiding from the cameras and otherwise waiting for the General-Secretary to give him the names of cadres’ heads to crack. Mr. Jang also participated in the inspection of KPA Unit 1224 under the auspices of his NDC membership. In South Hamgyong, Kim Jong-il was escorted by KWP Provincial Secretaries Thae Jong-su and Kim Yong-gyu. Seen in photographs, but not named in the accounts were Organization and Guidance Department Senior Deputy Director Ri Je-gang and Propaganda and Agitation Department Senior Deputy Director Ri Jae-il. At the inspection of KPA Unit 1224, Kim Jong-il was joined by MPAF and NDC Vice Chair VMAR Kim Yong-chun, Chief of the General Staff Gen. Ri Yong-ho and MPAF General Political Bureau Senior Deputy Director Gen. Kim Jong-gak. Seen in Unit 1224 photographs, but not named in the reports were NDC chiefs Gens. Ri Myong-su and Hyon Chol-hae. At the MPS concert, Kim Jong-il was joined by most of these other folks, as well as Jang Song-thaek protege Gen. Ju Sang-song, Minister of Public Security, and MPS Political Bureau Director, Col. Gen. Ri Pyong-sam. Other than a few undisclosed members of the Personal Secretariat, did I miss anyone?
This guidance tour posting is brought to you in part by Taedonggang Brewery Beer. Taedonggang: the Suryong of Beers.