Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
(n.b. Kim Jong-il’s last known appearance was attendance at a concert of the KPA 33rd Art Festival around 26 October)
Kim Jong-il seems to be making a habit of conducting guidance tours later in the week and into weekends. I suppose if the masses are compelled to work the weekend, then General-Secretary Kim should create the appearance of being busy himself. Not unlike last week, the guidance tours moved from north to south and whether it’s medical or climatological, General-Secretary Kim has traded his suede overcoat for his winter parka, and in Taechon the notorious fur hat. The first stop on the second round of North Pyongang guidance tours was to the Suphung Power Station. The Suphung Power Station actually seems to function, at least some of the time. Kim Il-sung officially opened the power station in 1958. General-Secretary Kim has been reported as visiting the Suphung Power Station on two prior occasions. Because it was erected during one of the DPRK’s more triumphant periods, and more successful mobilization campaigns, it is likely that Suphung is being held up as a model for the KPA and Workers’ Organization members presently toiling at the behemoth Huichon plant. In perhaps the closest approach the North Korean press will get to “meta” General-Secretary Kim toured “the monument to the on-site instructions of President Kim Il-sung and the room for education in the revolutionary history.” As Suphung seems to function, or is “thriving” in the current DPRK idiom, there was little guidance to offer except to take care of the machines: “The most important task facing the power station is to improve the management of equipment and technological control to operate it in full capacity.”
Kim Jong-il moved on to visit the Amnokgang Gauge and Instrument General Factory, the Suphung Bearings Factory, the 10 October Factory and the Amnokgang Daily Neccessities Factory before making a stop at the North Pyongan Chicken Farm. He remained in the area of North Pyongan near Sakju County. This was the first time General-Secretary Kim was reported to have visited any of these locations. Sakju County consists not so much of towns and villages, but is comprised of nodongjagu which are designated workers’ districts. It is likely General-Secretary Kim and his travel party availed themselves of his residence in Changsong county.
The number of locations KCNA reports General-Secretary Kim as visiting exceeds the number of photographs that appeared both in the North Korean press and the television news broadcast, so it is likely one of these factories is involved in the North Korean defense industry. It is also likely Kim Jong-il had car pull up the entrance and did not tour one or more of these locations. During the guidance tour General-Secretary Kim marveled at the “various type CNC [computer numerical control] machine tools at work.” Which ever factory was photographed the machinery certainly does not resemble the usual 1950’s-era heavy equipment. During this Kim Jong-il emphasized heavy industry, a departure from many recent guidance tours that were primarily to light industry and food production. Like his Suphung Power Station tour, these factories were held up as exemplary enterprises, remarking that “all units [should] learn from the enterprising work style of the factories.”
The back-end of Kim Jong-il’s was taken up with food production. During his tour around Sakju County, he visited the North Pyongan Provincial Chicken Farm. This was an opportunity for him to drape a white lab coat over his outerwear. The KCNA report finds that the farm is using chicken excrement as a fertilizer, which is a method used organic farming. General-Secretary Kim said that “It is very gratifying that officials and the workers of the farm are raising a lot of ducks and pigs by making an effective use of the excrement of chickens.” I am reminded of Lyndon Johnson’s remark that “in politics. . . overnight, chicken shit can turn into chicken salad.” Is General-Secretary Kim channeling the man who was
President of the United States at the time the USS Pueblo was captured by the Korean People’s Navy?
During the weekend, General-Secretary Kim visited the main building at the Unhung Cooperative in Taechon County, North Pyongan Province. This was his first known visit to the Unhung farm. From the outset of this inspection tour (as against guidance), one might sense Kim Jong-il is trying to deflect external concerns about the DPRK’s food supply (“bringing about the richest harvest ever known”). The DPRK seems to be trying to keep with its South Korean counterparts and its Japanese neighbors with “the WPK’s policy of green revolution.” The Unhung guidance tour also found General-Secretary Kim alluding to the plight of the DPRK’s rural population ( “to settle the rural question” ). Kim Jong-il also held forth on the implementation of an “agricultural revolution” which can only read as a tacit concession that the DPRK’s recent food policies are a failure. He said, “it is necessary to strengthen the assistance to the countryside and improve the state supply to it, and, at the same time, strengthen the guidance to the rural economy and its management.” The idea to “strengthen the guidance” of local management may refer to a possible Central Party crackdown on mid-level Party and State officials. A recent interview with North Korean citizens that appeared in the Japanese press put the blame on the DPRK’s unrelenting food crisis on corruption among local officials, and not General-Secretary Kim (although this perception is open to interpretation). The Unhung inspection and the guidance tour of the North Pyongan Provincial Chicken Farm are intended to assuage the anxieties of North Korean citizens consuming meager amounts of corn porridge.
This recent round of guidance and inspections found General-Secretary Kim serving again as the DPRK’s head cheerleader. He was in laudatory form and the essence of these reports was him telling these workers to keep up the good work, and take care of the equipment. There was also an emphasis on classic socialist (or, communist) themes of science and pressing forward. At all of the locations, the KCNA reports noted that any accomplishments were the results of collaborative efforts among workers, party officials and management. The reports also make a point of saying any accomplishment was “done on their own” which may imply a diminished role from the Central Party. Amid the 100 Day Battle Campaign, and with General-Secretary Kim’s recent nostalgic remarks about past “speed campaigns” this may read as a conjunction (or reiteration) of Chonsgan-ri and the Taean Work System. It also seems that the KWP has modified their ambitions in terms of kangson taeguk. These guidance reports contain little to no reference to “strong and prosperous state” prefering “a thriving nation.”
The travel party escorting General-Secretary Kim was the usual trio: Secretary Kim Ki-nam, KWP Financial Planning Director Pak Nam-gi and stalwart Jang Song-thaek. Not mentioned in the KCNA reports, but photographed at the Unsung Cooperative Farm was Organization Senior Deputy Director Ri Je-gang. During all of the guidance tours, Kim Jong-il was escorted by North Pyongan KWP boss Kim Phyong-hae.
One further note about this week’s and last week’s guidance tours which directly concern the North Korean nuclear issue. In the previous two weeks of guidance tours, Kim Jong-il was joined by Ju Kyu-chang, a Member of the National Defense Commission and the Vice Chair of the Second Economic Committee. It is likely that Mr. Ju’s presence relates to policy matters concerning the DPRK’s nuclear program, as he is one of the nuclear program’s political managers. Perhaps more interestingly is Kim Jong-il’s visit to the Unhung Cooperative Farm. The Unhung Cooperative Farm in Taechon County is a quick twenty (20) mile guidance train (or Mercedes motorcade) ride to the Nyongbyon facility. According to Yonhap channeling a KCNA bulletin, the reprocessing of the fuel rods occurred at the end of August. This does not rule out Kim Jong-il making an unreported inspection tour of the Nyongbyon facility, or at the least, teasing Pyongyang watchers about the possibility of such a trip.