Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
(n.b. Kim Jong-il’s last public appearance was a visit to the Taedonggang Combined Fruit Farm in Pyongyang)
Even if US Special Representative (and Dean of the Tufts Fletcher School) Stephen Bosworth requested a meeting with Kim Jong-il, an “official concerned” would have declined because General-Secretary Kim was relatively far from Pyongyang in the DPRK’s north country. It is entirely likely that Kim Jong-il was enjoying hunting season in between relaying telephone calls with Senior Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Sok-ju. General-Secretary Kim lit on up to Jagang Province. With the cost of food having skyrocketed in the DPRK and North Korean citizens most likley having to rely on the public distribution system, Kim Jong-il’s first inspection was to the “newly built” Kanggye Stock Farm. The Kanggye Stock Farm is reported to raise a variety of “goats, rabbits, ducks, milch cows and other grass-eating domestic animals.” A note here that “milch” is an old-timey (as in Middle English) word for milk-producing. The Kanggye Stock Farm was only built within the last year, something I am certain will be attributed to the two labor mobilization campaigns of 2009.
General-Secretary Kim said that, “It is possible to supply greater quantities of tasty and nutritious subsidiary food to the citizens of Kanggye.” He also held forth on matters of animal breeding and told local cadres “to deepen their thinking and make tenacious efforts in the spirit of devoted service to the people.” Kim Jong-il then conducted an inspection of the Kanggye General Tractor Plant. He was full of high praise for this industrial facility because “the officials, workers and technicians. . .put the plant on a CNC basis by their own efforts with their own technology by fully displaying the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance.” He also made a reference to the problems experienced in Jagang Province during the “Arduous March” and “prais[ed] them for their patriotic enthusiasn with which they surpassed the world level of the machine building industry with persevering will.” General- Secretary Kim said, “Our workers have made great progress in establishing a production system bases on modern science technology as required by the IT age and firmly held the supremacy of the CNC technology.” He also had alook at some “fire fighting equipment” produced by the factory.
One has to pity the citizens of the closed industrial city of Kanggye whose few permissible movements were further restricted while General-Secretary Kim and his travel party toured the city. He went to three (3) different production facilities in in the provincial capital of Jagang. He visited the Jangjagang Machine Tool Factory and Kanggye Knitting Mills which did not have the CNC technology of the Kanggye tractor facility, but that did not inhibit the General-Secretary’s laudatory ejaculations: “He repeatedly praised the officials, workers and technicians of the factory for having done a lot of work in a matter of one year” (Jangjagang Machine Tool Factory) and “He appreciated the assiduous way it has managed its economic life.” Unless the facotry officials juked the numbers, the Jangjagang Machine Tool Factory “overfulfilled their production quotas on indices by effectively carrying out the technological updating by their own efforts.” He also “set forth important tasks” which involve the factory improving its technological capabilities, which may be not unlike extracting blood from a stone.
Kim Jong-il also visited the Kanggye Knitting Mill, which he toured extensively. He remarked, “This mills is not a big one, having small manpower, but it has contributed the improving the standard in people’s living by widely introducing new technology and profitably managing itself.” With the harsh North Korean winters soon arriving in the country, he stated that “the issue of clothing is as important as settling the food problem.” Kim Jong-il then rewarded his solving “of knotty problems” with a tour of the Kanggye Wine Factory. This place apparently does not just turn out reds and white, but also “production processes. . .for the production of beer and raw rice wine.” The General-Secretary is well known to enjoy his wine (reportedly having foresaken his beloved hard booze due to diabetes) so it was no surprise this report found him touring every nook and cranny of the Kanggye Wine Factory. He remarked, “It is important for the factory to preserve the taste of its special product wine.” Kim Jong-il wrapped up his tour of Kanggye with a series of laudatory comments about Jagang Province’s ability to soldier through the hardships facing the rest of the country. He said, “The people of Jagang Province turned its cities and villages into fairylands by their own efforts in the hard days of ‘the Arduous March,’ the forced march and are now dashing ahead in sky-high spirit as frontrankers in the drive for building a great and prosperous and powerful nation.”
Late in the week, the General-Secretary and his entourage rode the guidance train back to Pyongyang and Kim Jong-il visited the swimming pool at Kim Il-sung University, his alma mater. As an earlier posting on this blog noted, this was his third trip to the swimming complex in 2009. He was greeted by selected students and faculty of the University. He reminisced about Kim Il-sung, “recalling [he] made so much effort for the education of the rising generation all his life.” General-Secretary Kim also noted, “with great emotion” that the late DPRK President “would have been pleased if he watched those teachers and students fully enjoying happiness at the best swimming pool.” Kim Jong-il then took station in his customized blue chair and watched KISU students jump into the pool from the admittedly impressive diving boards. He also held forth on a new library currently being constructed at KISU and even managed to work in a reference to CNC technology. Kim Jong-il’s final tour this week was an inspection of the Pyongyang Cornstarch Factory. The Pyongyang Cornstarch Factory is one of the DPRK’s legacy production facilities, originally built by the Japanese. He toured the factory’s “revolutionary history” exhibitions and fondly
reminisced about his dad who “provided field guidance to the factory 15 times.” While General-Secretary Kim “praised the workers of the factory for having completed the updating by their own efforts” he seemed disappointed that the factory had not “realiz[ed] the modernization and scientification of the production processes.” He pointed out “many factories and enterprises in Jagang and North Phyongan Provinces and other areas of the country are now advancing at a rapid tempo by successfully putting their production on a CNC basis and pushing back the frontiers of science.” General-Secretary Kim then ordered some sort of policy initiative to coordinate production efforts with Kim Chaek University of Technology.
It was a greatest hits playlist of ideological modes last week for Kim Jong-il’s public appearances. On display were juche, “speed” and of especial interest to the North Korean elites, kangson taeguk. In light of the hot currency exchange mess, General-Secretary Kim used these guidance tours to address nationwide shortfalls in North Korean citizens’ basic needs. With the exception of his tour of the Pyongyang Cornstarch Factory, he was full of praise. If he was not lauding the efforts of factory and farm officials, he was attempting to appeal to his internal audience as a travel agent for guilt and nostalgia trips. There is also the sense of the window quickly closing on the current 100 Day Battle Campaign.
But “CNC” was the word, and theme, of the week for General-Secretary Kim’s recent jag of guidance and inspections. Kyodo News Service mentioned the acronym as one of the English words finding recent usage in the DPRK. But not to outdone by a Japanese press service, KCNA issued a bulletin dated Saturday, 12 December, entitled “New Terms Come into Being in DPRK,” which listed CNC as well as “patriot village,” “ostrich street” “Huichon Speed” and “fish breeding girl of Kujang.” The Kyodo report took “CNC” as another indicator of the Kim Jong-un succession, with good reason. CNC first appeared in KCNA reports in January 2002. CNC also surfaced in a November 2003 KCNA report, but then it did not appear again until 9 September 2009. (It should be noted that 2002 was also the year the DPRK Central Bank commenced to printing the new currency that it is now circulating, and compelling North Korean citizens to exchange.) Five (5) days after the 2002 CNC appearance in KCNA, a writer with the name Ko Yong-hui published the first of what would total approximately 160 articles in Rodong Shinmun.
These articles were not necessarily the original work of Ms. Ko (particularly because articles with this by-line appeared 2 years after her death), but were part of a possible nom de plum propaganda effort in support of one of Ms. Ko’s sons with General-Secretary Kim. Other Kim Family by-lines to appear in the North Korean press have included Kim Jong-suk (these articles appeared almost twenty years after her 1949 death), Kim Jong-il (in the 1960’s prior to taking similar Party positions as Kim Jong-un is reported to have assumed), Song Hye-rang (Kim Jong-nam’s aunt, who was an accomplished writer in her own right and whose work appeared in DPRK media in August of this year) and Kim Kyong-hui (who may or may not have penned pieces in the DPRK’s own foreign language magazines).
The KCNA report about General-Secretary Kim’s inspection of the Kim Il-sung University swimming pool has a lot of the
phrases associated with the succession drive. If one were to isolate that the late DPRK President “would be pleased to see” does this refer to the swimming pool or would the Suryong “be pleased to see” the bloodline of Paektu being passed in the near future to a third generation? But this report has direct references that connote the succesion drive. There is the “pool of the university as it is an eternal edifice for posterity.” Kim Jong-il remarks that “it is neccessary to successfully train the students into revolutionary talented persons equipped with knowledge. . .who would shoulder upon themselves the future of the country.” General-Secretary Kim also looks forward to the library under construction at KISU being “present[ed] to the younger generation as early as possible.”
What does the tangential miasma mean? Not a lot. Other reports find the Kim Jong-un for Supreme Commander Campaign (don’t blame me, I voted for Jong-nam) has gone into hibernation mode. And the officials at KWP Propaganda and Agitation Department enjoy toying with Pyongyang watchers. The idea of “strong and prosperous nation” underscores whatever power transition will take place, hereditary succession or collective management. Whom- or whatever succeeds Kim Jong-il–which is to say the pool of contenders–will have garnered his affections and loyalty. Kim Jong-un is not as entrenched in the DPRK’s power organs as either his dad or his dad’s cohorts, and it is highly likely General-Secretary Kim regularly reiterates this point of fact to his son. Some of Kim Jong-il’s cohorts may be of advanced age, but just because there’s snow on the roof does not also mean there’s not fire in the chimney. And these individuals stand ready to cut Kim Jong-un and his posse off at the knees.
Speaking of cohorts, Kim Jong-il was joined at all of these visits by KWP Secretary Kim Ki-nam and architect of the currency exchange, KWP Financial Planning Director, Pak Nam-gi. He also joined by husband and wife power players, sister Kim Kyong-hui (Director of the KWP Light Industry Department) and Jang Song-thaek. Although it should be noted, Ms. Kim did
not seem to appear in any photographs from these visits, which could mean Kim Jong-il’s kid sister is coordinating her brother’s logistical and security arrangements on these tours. In Jagang Province, General-Secretary Kim was joined by Pak To-chun, KWP Provincial Secretary there. Seen in photos in Kanggye, but not mentioned, was Second Economic Committee Vice Chair and NDC Member Ju Kyu-chang. Seen in the photos in Kanggye and Pyongyang, but not accounted for in KCNA reports, was OGD Senior Deputy Director Ri Je-gang. At the KISU Swimming Complex, he was joined by KWP International Secretary Choe Thae-bok and was conducted by KISU President Song Ja-rip and University KWP Secretary Kim Thae-hi. At the Pyongyang Cornstarch Factory, General-Secretary Kim was joined by Pyongyang Municipal KWP Chief Secretary and SPA Secretary-General Choe Yong-rim, as well as DPRK Vice Premier Pak Myong-son. Mr Pak, who was previously involved in the KWP’s foreign relations apparatus, was appointed as Vice Premier in September of this year.
KCTV News Broadcast featuring coverage of Kim Jong-il’s visit to Kanggye can viewed here
(this is an MS PowerPoint File; click the bright red box and the video should play)
Other KCNA Photos of General-Secretary Kim’s guidance/inspection tours from 8-11 December: