North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Guidance From the North Country

(n.b. Kim Jong-il’s last appearance was around 22 October at a guidance tour of the 26 September and 22 October Pig Farms)

Kim Jong-il at the Youth Electric Complex's Libar (Photo: KCNA)Kim Jong-il and the guidance party did not take a break for the weekend, and carried the touring and concert-going  into early this week.  The first stop was a rather extensive trip to Huichon, one of the two (2) major cities in Jagang Province which is one of three (3) North Korean provinces bordering China.  It is not clear whether General-Secretary Kim’s Huichon appearance was one day of frenetic guidance activities or if this was a two-day tour.  His first guidance tour was to the Youth Electric Complex, a manufacturer of electronic appliances and parts.  There was little said or done on this part of the Huichon guidance tour.  General-Secretary Kim offered his praises and reiterated that “production growth [is] provided through technical advance.”  General-Secretary Kim last visited the Youth Electric Complex in June 1998, a momentous year that found him formally finalizing his own succession.  It is likely that one unit within the Youth Electric Complex is a producer for the DPRK’s military-defense industry (Jagang Province is more or less a Second Economic Committee company province), hence little was said about the Youth Electric Complex’s products, although he may have also been emphasizing conusmer goods.  Having dispensed with the factory tour, Kim Jong-il watched a concert by the Youth Electric Complex’s music group, “its traveling art squad,” before proceeding to posing for photographs with the employees and singers.

Kim Jong-il tours Huichon Silk Mill. (Photo: KCNA)General-Secretary Kim then visited the riverside Huichon Silk Mill which is currently in its 21st year of operation.  Like the Youth Electric Complex, the last time he conducted a guidance tour was in 1998, in October, about a month after the DPRK Constitution was amended to establish his supreme State power via the National Defense Commission.  During his guidance tour, General-Secretary Kim directly alluded to the late DPRK President Kim Il-sung’s remarks from the 1992 New Year’s Address and in a speech entitled “Let Us Realize the Country’s Reunification Through the United Effort of the Whole Nation”: “The mill should provide silk fabric works with larger quantities of quality silk to meet the Suryong’s lifelong desire that all the people should wear silks and live on rice and meat soup in tile-roofed houses.”  Kim Jong-il and the guidance travel party moved on to one of the General-Secretary’s areas of interest–computers and technology.  The final stop on the Huichon guidance tour was to the Huichon University of Technology.  One matter of note is that Huichon University of Technology is a reversion.  In 2003 it was merged a institution, briefly known as the Huichon University of Communications and around 2008 known as the Huichon University of Post and Telecommunications.  It is likely that prior to, or during, this guidance tour the institution’s name was changed.  It is also likely that the University links to the Youth Electric Complex with responsibilities for training some of its workforce.  (One can project their own computer hacking implications about these places here)

“The striking changes taking place in Jagang Province,” Kim Jong-il remarked, “are a vivid manifestation of our people’s steadfast will to build a great and prosperous nation with our effort and resources, at any cost.”  With that bit of cheerleading, General-Secretary Kim departed for North Pyongan Province to the Mount Myohyang state park.  The Mount Myohyang Recreation Ground is located in a verdant set of peaks and valleys with diverse wildlife and a millennium-old temple.  It is an area of North Pyongan Province open to tourist visits for this reason, and also because it is the location of the Kim-friendly International Friendship Exhibition.  I sincerely hope there were few tourists in the area at the time, owing to Kim Jong-il’s tight security requirements which would have involved closing down the entire area.  Kim Jong-il visited the International Friendship Exhibition on a guidance tour in 1979 when he was successor-designate, and again in 1996.  This is the first known account of his visiting the Recreation Ground.  According to the KCNA report, General-Secretary Kim “toured the long tourist course for hours.”  This is the area where he walked with his travel party.  This area of Mount Myohyang was recently “spruced up” by members “of a youth shock brigade.”  He took his normal “bird’s eye view” and commented, “What is most important in managing the recreation ground is to protect the natural environment. . .and take thoroughgoing measures to prevent the pollution of the mountains and streams.”

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Part of the "newly-built" tourist course at Mt. Myohyang (Photo: KCNA)

Kim Jong-il returned to Pyongyang and attended a Korean People’s Army concert at the Mansudae Art Theater on Sunday, part of the 33rd Art Festival of KPA “servicepersons,” an music festival initiated in the 1970’s by General-Secretary Kim.  This was not a staid hymn recital, according to the KCNA report, as the set list included “colorful numbers of various genres.”  He told the soldier-singers (as against “soldier-builders”), “All the servicepersons are not only firmly prepared as staunch fighters. . .but have grown to be creators of solider culture in the era of Songun as they are possessed of high level of morality and cultural attainment.”  The performance has neither film footage nor photographs, so it is not known whether “Footsteps” was performed.  One may find, however, General-Secretary Kim teasing Pyongyang watchers when he remarked: “The glorious history of our revolution which was started and has advanced with songs proves a great victory of the policy on music as it clearly testified to the might of art.”

This was General-Secretary Kim’s 5th visit to Huichon in the last twelve (12) months.  Two of those previous guidance tours found him attending to the construction of the Huichon Power Station.  It is highly likely that Kim Jong-il made another unpublicized visit to the gargantuan project on his swing through Huichon.  One project due by 2012 on which external observers fixate is the Ryugyong Hotel, but it is seemingly now a joint venture, and the Huichon Power Station is a 2012 project on which General-Secretary Kim and the Central Party are fixated.  I would not be surprised that if the Six Party Talks reopen, that the DPRK would seek some construction assistance in having the complex completed.  The project was a signature part of the 150 Day Campaign and is certainly part of the 100-Day Campaign.  Numerous reports, however, find it beset with a lack of construction material and an exhausted work force.  The KWP has mobilized Workers’ Organizations, and failing that, KPA units have been diverted from their normal duties and deployed for construction work.  These KPA units have had supply problems, too, and were raiding local villages and cooperative farms for food.  The Ministry of Public Security deployed several units to the Huichon Power Station to instill discipline over the KPA and prevent the aggressive interactions occurring with the local populations.  I doubt General-Secretary Kim made an appearance and rallied the KPA service members or attempted community fence mending.  What he could bring were the personnel in his travel party to reduce the possibility of these events happening again, a carrot and stick approach to be sure.

The guidance tour of the Mount Myohyang had undertones of the 150 Day Battle Campaign, as the new “flyovers” and other facilities to which the KCNA report refer were part of the construction.  References to the 150 Day Battle Campaign subtly reiterate the presently ongoing 100 Day Battle Campaign.  Themes of reunification–of the DPRK proposing another top-level North-South summit cage match–or at least meeting with South Korean executives were underscored during the Myohyang visit.  Samsung executives visited in 2000 and the late Hyundai chief Jong Ju-yong visited the International Friendship Exhibition in 1999.  Most recently, however, Hyundai CEO Hyun Jeong-eun met with General-Secretary Kim at his villa located near the Mount Myohyang.  One might take this in context with  Kim Il-sung’s “silk clothing” comment to which Kim Jong-il alluded in his visit to the Huichon Silk Mill which has been entered into KWP the current propaganda line as part of reunification.

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Kim Yang-gon is fourth from the left in this photo. (Photo: KCNA)

Kim Jong-il’s trip to Mount Myohyang was also his attempt to demonstrate that his health may not be as fragile as one is disposed to presume.  He may be heeding medical advice given to most people over the age of 65 to take more walks, as the stroll he took through Myohyang is about at least a mile.  Then again, the KCNA report says this promenade went on “for hours.”  But I am inclined to think the General-Secretary did not monopolize his time with tourist amenities.  This is a moment where cohort analysis may be relevant.  Joining Kim Jong-il was KWP Secretary for International Affairs Choe Thae-bok.  Also present, but not mentioned in the report, was foreign policy hand and United Front Director Kim Yang-gon.  Mr. Choe departed Pyongyang for Beijing earlier this week and met with China President Hu Jintao.  So perhaps on-the-spot-guidance was not merely to spruce up Mount Myohyang’s amenities, but deliver explicit instructions to Mr. Choe.

For the permanent succession watchers, two relevant major ideological modes were advanced during Kim Jong-il’s appearances.  The first mode is an emphasis on youth.  The Huichon trip found him at the Youth Electric Complex, and after the silk textile mill, to the University of Technology where he “highly estimated the achievements made by its teaching staff in training of scientific and technical personnel and scientific research.”  At Mount Myohyang Kim Jong-il “expressed great satisfaction over the fact the youth shock brigade members” renovated the state park.  Further in the report General-Secretary Kim adduces the “spruced up” park to to the same youth workers “who contributed to the happiness of the people and the country’s prosperity with all their wisdom and and enthusiasm  will be handed down together with the history of the building of a thriving nation.”  As mentioned earlier, Kim Jong-il visited Mount Myohyang in 1979, which was the year before the Sixth Party Congress elected him to several positions in the upper-echelon of the Korean Workers’ Party, and it should also be noted that the late DPRK President Kim Il-sung passed away at his summer home near Mount Myohyang.  The references to Kim Il-sung in Huichon and a guidance tour of a place where he expired may portent to some that a Fourth General of Paektu may coming around the mountain.  Go back to Kim Jong-il’s 1979 trip to Myohyang–though introduced in the early 1960’s, the 1970’s were the hey day of Three Revolutions method of guidance management, the second ideological mode relevant to a succession this week. All three (there you go!)  appearances this week highlight the Three Revolutions.   There was ideology as evidenced by Kim Jong-il’s direct reference to kangsong taeguk during the Myohyang guidance tour: “This is the stirring reality of the prospering country approaching close to the gate of a thriving nation.”  The KPA concert alluded to songun chongch’i, as well as fulfilling a second component of Three Revolutions–cultural.  General-Secretary Kim’s remarks at the concert refer to the KPA’s “cultural attainment” as well as “creators of solider culture.”  Culture was also on offer during the guidance  trip through Huichon, where the employees the Youth Electric Complex entertained his travel party and him.  And Huichon takes us to the final, and third component of the Three Revolutions–the technical and technology.  At all three (3) locations in Huichon, Kim Jong-il emphasized technology and technical innovation, including the silk mill.

The Three Revolutions were based around young KWP cadres who were turned loose on (and annoyed) factory managers and cooperative farm chiefs.  But Three Revolutions were attributed as Kim Jong-il’s signature ideological accomplishment, and one official rationale for his succeeding Kim Il-sung.  Calling up General-Secretary Kim’s own ideological accomplishments creates an excellent trajectory on which the hagiographers at the Propaganda and Agitation Department can launch the next succession campaign.  And Kim Jong-il’s travel parties this week were populated by old Three Revolutions hands.  In Huichon, General-Secretary Kim put the Pork Farm band back together and was joined by NDC Member and Second Econonomic Committee Vice Chair Ju Kyu-chang, as well as OGD Deputy Directors, Ri Je-gang and Ri Jae-il.  Ri Je-gang was identified as one of Kim Jong-un’s KWP-based succession tutors, as was previously identified (along with Ri Jae-il) as colluding with General-Secretary Kim’s late wife Ko Yong-hui to advance Jong-un as a candidate in hereditary succession.  It should also be noted that Ri Je-gang was involved in the Three Revolutions movement in the 1970’s from his OGD perch.  But  the band did not make it to Mt. Myohyang, and it is likely that if Kim Jong-un did in fact visit the IX Army Corps, OGD’s two Mr. Ri’s escorted him there, possibly with Ju Kyu-chang (although I suspect Mr. Ju gets out of such errands because he truly has more important tasks to manage).  At Mount Myohyang and the KPA 33rd Art Festival concert, General-Secretary Kim counted KPA Generals and NDC bosses Ri Myong-su and Hyon Chol-hae.  At the KPA concert, NDC Vice Chair and VMAR Kim Yong-chun joined the General-Secretary along with MPAF propaganda boss Col. Gen. Han Tong-gun, Military Security Command boss Gen. Kim Won-hong, GPB Deputy Director Gen. Kim Jong-gak and Chief of the General Staff Ri Yong-ho.  KWP Secretary Kim Ki-nam (another three Revolutions hand) was present at all three (3) appearances (whom I have previously failed to note has a close, personal relationship with General-Secretary Kim) as well as Financial Planning Director (and former DPRK Gosplan chief) Pak Nam-gi.  And, as is standard form in Kim Jong-il’s guidance entourage, was former Three Revolutions and Youth Labor chief, Jang Song-thaek.

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