At the beginning of 2017, AISAPRESS reporting partners have sent me New Year’s reports one after another. We exchanged congratulatory messages on the New Year: “Best of luck in the coming year.” However, they seemed to be feeling down.
Although people were given New Year’s Day off, farmers have been mobilized for “struggle to collect compost” since as early as the third of January. Also, people have started to study the Kim Jong-un’s “New Year Address for 2017”, the annual New Year’s speech. For North Koreans, New Year’s Day is the beginning of a gloomy year.
The New Year address contains a review of the previous year as well as visions of the coming year. However, they are not very meaningful. The address usually mentions “creating a new history of great prosperity”– self-praise, and presents a list of all the “greedy” goals as well. The overall contents of this year's New Year address are as follows:
- Successful Seventh Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea
- North Korea became a nation of nuclear and military power
- Economy was in good shape
- North Korea entered the final stage of preparation for the test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile
- North Korea should achieve the goal of five-year strategy for national economic development with its own power
Unconventionally, Kim Jong-un also showed an expression of regret in the address, which I will discuss later.
On the fourth and the fifth of January, A (a member of the Workers’ Party of Korea), a male reporting partner in North Hamgyong Province and B (a laborer), a female reporting partner in Ryanggang Province reported regarding the New Year address.
--Did you watch the Kim Jong-un’s New Year address on TV?
A: “In the first place, I could not turn on the TV due to the power shortage. I could not watch the speech on the New Year’s Day. I had to start work from the third of January. In my workplace, we had a meeting to study the contents of the speech and also held a kick-off meeting to implement the address thoroughly. In a rural area, people have been mobilized for collecting compost.”
--How did people react to the New Year address?
A: “Everyone is indifferent to the speech because nothing in his/her life has been improved so far, regardless of the annual speech. A person said that “Kim Jong-un aims to complete the development of ballistic missiles, but I don’t know how useful they are.”
After learning the contents of the speech, my coworkers made fun of the address. They said, “The speech only carries Kim Jong-un’s heart since he has nothing else to give (people) even on the New Year’s Day (meaning to say, the speech is just a formality).” However, we can only say and giggle like that among people close to us as we might be a target for surveillance by the state security agency if we were not careful about our saying.
Now, the New Year address for 2017 had an unusual “special feature.” At the later part of the speech, he made a self-criticism. The quote from the Korean Central News Agency is as follows:
Next page: At the later part of the speech, Kim Jong-un made a self-criticism...