Kim Jong-un spent around four hours with President Putin during his time in Russia. Taken from a Rodong Sinmun article published on September 14.

Kim Jong-un completed his five-night, six-day visit to Russia and returned to North Korea in the early morning hours of September 19. A large event was held during Kim’s trip to Russia to “repay Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un for his hard work.” On September 18, the day before he returned home, ASIAPRESS heard from a reporting partner in Yanggang Province about the circumstances surrounding Kim’s visit to Russia. (Interviewer: KANG Ji-won)

◆ Young people mobilized to “lighten the load carried by the Supreme Leader”

―― What was the domestic situation like while Kim Jong-un was in Russia?

Perhaps because there were no international events happening for a long time due to COVID-19, the government has made a big deal about Kim’s visit to Russia.


―― What has the government said?

They’ve put out slogans saying that the people should recognize the Supreme Leader’s return from Russia as a high achievement, and events are being organized with the forced participation of young people and various organizations. The government is telling people to voluntarily take part in national construction projects and agricultural support activities. There are also petition events.


―― What are petition events?

I’ve heard that the Youth League (laborers who are part of the organization) will hold a “farm village volunteer” petition event tomorrow (September 19) at the Hyesan Steel Factory. The Youth League is asking young people to “volunteer their labor for difficult and challenging sectors to lighten, even just a little bit, the heavy load carried by the Supreme Leader on his shoulders.

But in August, the steel factory refused to honor applications by laborers who said they wanted to head to farming areas because their lives were so difficult. Now, they’re holding the petitions event.

※ Up until the outbreak of COVID-19, collective farms were considered the most poverty-stricken places to work in North Korea. The government calls the act of urban dwellers volunteering to work in collective farms “advancing into farm areas,” but there were few people who wanted to go. After the outbreak of the pandemic, urbanites faced a drastic decrease in their cash incomes, leading to skyrocketing numbers of people who couldn’t get by. That’s when people who wanted to volunteer to work at collective farms began to appear.

At another factory on September 16, party members were forced to conduct self-criticisms during their “life reviews” (struggle sessions) answering questions such as “How are we working?” and “Have we lived in accordance with the intentions of the Workers’ Party?”

※ Life Reviews: Meetings are held each week at workplaces, organizations and schools to review whether party members have lived their lives in accordance with orders of the Workers’ Party and leadership.

◆ People don’t expect much from Russia

―― Are people interested in an improvement of North Korea’s relations with Russia?

The government is saying that, going forward, it will expand and develop friendly relations with Russia and engage in cooperation across the fields of the economy, trade, and military. I don’t know about military (cooperation), but people are a bit interested in economic and trade-related cooperation. However, because the DPRK has relied largely on China for cooperation in these fields, not many people expect much from Russia.


―― There’s the possibility that North Korea and Russia talked about the issue of food aid.

People are interested in the question of food aid. They are hopeful that Russia can send flour but, again, because China has been the main supplier of flour up until now, people just have vague hopes that Russia could send some.

※ ASIAPRESS communicates with reporting partners through Chinese cell phones smuggled into North Korea.