North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

On the road again

En coda

Naenara posted the KCNA account of Kim Jong-il’s guidance tour to the Migok Cooperative Farm on the outskirts of the city of Sariwon.  It included the model family photo of former KPA officer Ri Yong-jun, his wife and two sons.  The photo is rather exceptional because of the crabby facial expressions of Mr. Ri’s sons.  The best part of this photograph is that General-Secretary Kim seems not only aware of this, but is quite amused.  It should be noted that a visit like this would be quite intimidating from the perspective of a child.  This family has had members of the State Security Department combing through their home for at least two days in advance, not to mention that with General-Secretary Kim’s appearance there were at least several hundred zealous members of the Guard Command in the immediate area.   Members of General-Secretary Kim’s person security detail are not exactly known for being especially pleasant or unobtrusive.

Kim Jong-il posing with the family of former KPA officer Ri Yong-jun at Migok Cooperative Farm (Photo: Korean Central News Agency)

Kim Jong-il posing with the family of former KPA officer Ri Yong-jun at Migok Cooperative Farm (Photo: Korean Central News Agency)

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Kim Jong-il did not miss a beat after Wen Jiabao’s visit, although he took took a few days either for office work or rest.  One presumes the former.  The DPRK-PRC meetings produced a series of technical and commercical/industrial deals, in addition to revising border and environmental regulations, and these deals don’t implement themselves, particularly without the instructions and guidance of General-Secretary Kim or his direct subordinates.

He visited Migok Cooperative Farm, a favorite guidance location for General-Secretary Kim which he visited in December 2008, and two years prior to that in December 2006.  The Migok Cooperative farm primarily grows rice.  It is a functional food production facility (unlike other cooperative farms that contend with depleted land, climate issues such as lack of arable land or water supplies, cadre corruption, general worker dysfunction and a lack of material support from local, Provincial or the Central government) and so it is frequently trumpeted in the North Korean press, as well as being a place where official foreign delegations are taken for tours.  The Migok Cooperative Farm seems to draw its personnel from former KPA officers.  In his two previous announced visits and on this occasion the report mentions “ex-officers,” a distinction from KPA NCO’s, so this is not merely a matter of

Kim Jong-il inspects the audio-visual components of the guidance visit to the Migok Cooperative Farm (Photo: Korean Central TV)

Kim Jong-il inspects the audio-visual components of the guidance visit to the Migok Cooperative Farm (Photo: Korean Central TV)

the DPRK’s mandatory conscription policy.  It also subtly conveys that at least some of Migok’s farming personnel are drawn from North Korean citizens who already have a higher societal position, under whatever remains of the songbun system.   This was a typical farm visit for Kim Jong-il, “bird’s eye view” and so forth.  During his remarks (or are these more observational asides?) he alluded to the DPRK’s problems assuring its citizens’ basic needs.  Gone from this account is the triumphal diction of battle campaigns.  While the food and material plight, particularly of rural North Koreans, is mentioned in guidance tour reports, General-Secretary Kim held forth more substantively:   “He underscored the need for the whole country and all the people to keep directing all efforts to farming and thus make steady leaping progress in agricultural production as agriculture is the most important field for solving the people’s problem

Kim Jong-il talks (or guides) the Party Secretary while Jang Song-thaek (center) looks on (Photo: Korea Central TV)

of clothing, food and housing.”   During the trip, Kim Jong-il met a model family.  Former KPA officer Ri Yong-jun, his wife and two sons were selected for a chinwag with the Suryong.

General-Secretary Kim and his travel party motored on across Sariwon to the “newly-built” North Hwanghae Provincial Art Theater, a 900-seat concert hall completed in June of this year.  Kim Jong-il walked around the perimeter of the theater and toured its interior.  He and his travel party then took in a concert by the North Hwanghae Art Troupe.  The playlist highlighted in the KCNA report does not have any titles or songs with overt reference to either General-Secretary Kim or his father.  It should be noted that there were reports that local officials in Sariwon had difficulty completing the North Hwanghae Provincial Art Theater and that construction was not completed until direct intervention from Pyongyang that involved mobilizing a KPA construction unit.

The Sariwon Guidance Tour of October 2009 conforms to the light industrial theme that started late last week with General-Secretary Kim’s guidance tours around Pyongyang (save for two pep rally-cum-photo ops with KPA NCO’s at Kumsusan).  It is likely that Kim Jong-il and the Pyongyang hands in his entourage stayed at the Kim Family Compound outside Sariwon, either in advance or following the guidance tours.  The senior KWP cadres escorting General-Secretary Kim during his Sariwon swing were his usual trusted subordinates–Financial Planning Director Pak Nam-gi, Secretary of Party History Kim Ki-nam and KWP Administration Director Jang Song-thaek.  Secretary Kim and Director Jang shed their western-style suits in favor of the uniform black Zhongshan suit.  Kim Jong-il’s local escort was North Hwanghae KWP Secretary Choe Ryong-hae.  Mr. Choe is a full member on the KWP Central Committee and is a charter member of Jang Song-thaek’s patronage network and was the executive director of the Kim Il-sung Youth League until 1998 when he was dismissed for ill health (actually, embezzlement).  In KISYL, Mr. Choe helped foster support for Kim Jong-il during his transition to succession, and he has escorted General-Secretary Kim on his last half-dozen guidance tours in North Hwanghae Province.

Enjoying the performance at the North Hwanghae Provincial Art Theater

Enjoying the performance at the North Hwanghae Provincial Art Theater (Photo: Korean Central TV)

Kim Jong-il Provides Field Guidance to Migok Co-op Farm

Korean Central News Agency, 8 October 2009

Kim Jong-il Visits Newly-Built North Hwanghae Provincial Art Theater and Enjoys Art Performance

Korean Central News Agency, 8 October 2009

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This article was written on 11 Oct 2009, and is filled under Guidance Tours, Jang Song-thaek, Kim Jong-il, On the Spot Guidance.

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