Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
DPRK state media reported on 27 September (Thursday) that a seminar was held at the People’s Palace of Culture in Pyongyang that day to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s visit to a military camp in Oun-dong, located in suburban Pyongyang. Central leadership attendees at the seminar included Kim Ki Nam, Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Secretary and Director of Propaganda and Agitation (publicity and information), Mun Kyong Dok, Chief Secretary of the Pyongyang City (municipal) KWP Committee, Jo Yon Jun, Senior Deputy (1st Vice) Director of the KWP Organization Guidance Department and Song Ja Rip, Minister of Higher Education and President of Kim Il Sung University and according to KCNA “officials concerned and teachers and students of universities here including Kim Il Sung University and employees of the Oun Revolutionary Museum.”
Song Ja Rip delivered one of several speeches at the event. KCNA reported that Song “noted that his guidance was a turning point which showed in practice what level of the arts of pen and sword a modern statesman and leader should master and how to lead the masses from the standpoint of attaching importance to military affairs, and consolidated the eternal cornerstone of carrying forward the revolutionary cause of Songun (military-first).” Seminar speakers “speakers called upon all the young students to shine forever the undying feats the great man of Mt. Paektu performed in the days of his guidance and to prepare themselves to be reliable Songun revolutionary vanguard keeping to the road of Juche, Songun and socialism true to the leadership of Marshal Kim Jong Un.”
Throughout September, DPRK state media has reported that several groups of university students and members of workers’ organizations have visited the Oun Revolutionary Site and Museum. The Oun-dong was designated as a revolutionary site in 1979 as part of cultural conditioning in support of Kim Jong Il’s hereditary succession. It is one of several revolutionary sites that members of the Kim Il Sung Youth League, Workers’ Organizations and officers serving in the security agencies and the Korean People’s Army [KPA] are required to visit. The Oun Revolutionary Site has also been the setting for rallies and commemorative events on national holidays.
According to the official chronicles Kim Jong Il and his classmates at Kim Il Sung University spent several weeks during August and September 1962 participating in basic military training activities to fulfill the minimum requirements of their national service obligations. Chapter 5 of the 2005 edition of the English version of Kim Jong Il’s official biography details his time in Oun-dong. According to this excerpt:
For 40-odd days from late August 1962, Kim Jong Il went through an exercise of military camping at Oun-dong, some 24 km northeast of Pyongyang.
On September 11, a student, at the Oun-dong military camp, asked him if he intended to pursue a military career.
“I’m interested in the pen and the sword alike,”he answered.
“I intend to have an easy rapport with both fields without any bias towards either. I mean to have not an average but a perfect command over them and go into them in depth.”
He expanded on the need for statesmen to place equal emphasis on both fields: A man of politics is not so in the true sense of the word if he is ignorant of the military arts. The prestige, role and ability of a modern statesman must find expression in his military prowess, courage and ability to command. I advocate top priority for military affairs. I’m ready to confirm that my foremost concern is for the military. I’m in no way a pacifist. I’ll counter by force of arms the reckless sabre-rattling of imperialists and reactionaries.
Firmly determined to develop into a statesman versatile in civil and military affairs and to carry the revolutionary cause of Juche through to the end, Kim Jong Il started his routine at the military camp as a rank-and-file soldier together with the other campers, divided into different squads and platoons. The political department of the camp’s battalion repeatedly invited him to act as a supervisor. But he dug his heels in replying:
“An old saying goes that hardship in one’s youth is something that cannot be bartered for gold. A soldier’s experience must be acquired in the prime of one’s life, a period far more valuable than gold. The most victorious of generals has memorable recollections of his experiences as a rank-and-file soldier, the first stage of his ultimate career. Without these experiences, he cannot have an understanding of ordinary soldiers, and this, in turn, will lead to his command over them slipping out of his control. Only a commander appreciative of his soldiers and mindful of his life as a soldier can take loving care of them, build them up into a compact strong army and lead them to win battles. It is only natural that the wisdom and courage of a brilliant commander should stem from his soldierly experience and that the stars on his epaulette should be built up by the sweat of his years at the grass roots.”
This was Kim Jong Il’s creed on the soldierly life.
Together with the other campers, he participated zealously in the military drill, scaling rugged and steep mountains and traversing deep valleys. With utmost perseverance, he fully met the demands of the schedule including tactics, firing, engineering and terrain-grasping exercises.
Even as he performed his duties as a loyal soldier, he approached the whole schedule from the standpoint of a commander: He mastered the whole range of essentials of modern warfare including offence and defence, mountain battles and night warfare, the necessary movements involved, and cultivated the ability to organize and command a unit’s actions.