Women hold a meeting in a cornfield. They appear to be members of the women’s league mobilized for harvest work. Taken on the Chinese side across from Sakju County, North Pyongan Province, in late September 2023. (ASIAPRESS)

<Inside N. Korea>S.Korea is the enemy…Trends after Kim Jong Un’s “anti-unification policy” announcement (2) What is the confrontational policy aimed at doing? Asked people for their opinions and atmosphere inside

Late last year, Kim Jong-un declared that "South Korea is the enemy” and that unification with the South is no longer possible, essentially formalizing North Korea’s “anti-unification policy.” This was an abandonment of the North Korean regime's signature policy of peaceful and autonomous reunification of the Korean people. How is this change in course explained and propagandized in North Korea, and how have the people received it? We asked our reporting partners in North Korea about the situation and found that a massive propaganda campaign has been underway since the beginning of the new year. Meanwhile, bewilderment is spreading among the population.  (By KANG Ji-won /ISHIMARU Jiro)

◆ Propaganda about “enemy South Korea” began in the early days of this year

In his report to the Plenary Session of the Workers' Party Central Committee held from December 26 to 30 last year, Kim Jong Un described inter-Korean relations as "hostile bilateral relations, not kinship or homogeneous relations.” In a speech to the Supreme People's Assembly on January 15, he said, "I think the phrases 'sovereignty, peaceful reunification, and national unity' of the 'northern half' in the constitution should be deleted," which made clear his “two states” narrative. In North Korea, the first week of January reportedly saw an intensive campaign of propaganda and explanation about the plenary session’s results.

According to reports from reporting partners in the northern provinces of North Hamgyong, Yanggang, and North Pyongan, learning about the "anti-unification policy" policy is continuing in all workplaces, schools, and social organizations such as women's and youth associations, as well as in criticism sessions held every Saturday and on Friday afternoons.

In addition to study materials published by the central government, which are explained to each organization by the administration and party officials, North Koreans are asked to compete in question-and-answer presentations. Companies are also conducting lessons about the new policy in the “reading hours” held during mornings before work. A reporting partner in Hyesan told ASIAPRESS about the propaganda training methods in her women's association, saying:

"In the Women's League, we are forced to compete with presentations based on what we memorized in teams. We also have to write a resolution that reflects our ideas and spirit, and the chairperson of the Women's League and the cadres from the municipal party organization review, evaluate, and rank them. The winner of a particular week gets a commendation, so it’s a big deal. Those who didn't memorize it have to study at night. Everyone who can read is required to do it.

“In the Women's League's study group, we are told, 'No matter what the situation, we must be ready to stand up when the Party and the country demand it; we want peace, but we are ready to fight. We must have the right attitude towards the enemy."

North and South Korean leaders embrace at the second Panmunjom summit in May 2019. (Cheong Wa Dae)

◆ Confusion and surprise at announcement that “South Korea is the enemy”

The formalization of the "anti-unification policy" policy seems to have come as a surprise to people. ASIAPRESS asked another reporting partner in Yanggang Province in late January how the policy had been received.


-- Kim Jong-un said that the South and North are not the same people, they are enemies.
When President Moon Jae-in came here and went to Mount Paektu with Kim Jong-un (September 2018), it seemed like the two Koreas were going to be reunified soon, and there would be a lot of economic cooperation. That’s why I was a little surprised when (Kim) said that South Korea is an enemy, that they are not the same people anymore, and that they are not our partners in unification.

In the past, we were taught that we needed to liberate the people of South Korea, that the country is full of beggars and the oppressed, but in reality, they are living much better than us. What can we liberate now? -- I don't think there's any alternative (to the South) now.


A propaganda leaflet prepared by the North Koreans after relations with South Korea deteriorated. A cigarette butt was intentionally placed in the photo of President Moon Jae-in's face. The leaflets were not distributed. Published in the Rodong Sinmun in June 2020.

-- Kim Jong-un called South Korea the Republic of Korea. Why do you think that is?

He's been calling it South Chosun (Korea), not the Republic of Korea (the official name of the country), and I think it's because he doesn't think he's going to get any help from the South in the future.


-- Kim Jong-un has abandoned unification, denied that they are even his own people, and declared them to be something to be fought. Are there any related moves?
At this point, there's nothing special, except that he's asking them to prepare for war mobilization and to participate properly in drills.


-- How do the authorities explain the new policy?
In recent (late January) meetings, they often give lectures on the current situation and the imperialists' drive for global hegemony. What they emphasize many times is that we have been complacent because we have lowered our guard toward hostile countries. At the Women's League’s Saturday study on January 20, that’s what the head of the party propaganda department in Hyesan said.


-- Why are North Korea’s leaders in such a hurry to abandon the principle of national reunification, which their predecessors, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, have been calling for?
The official told us that because of the sanctions against the DPRK, we can't even implement our policies properly, which has led to challenges in North-South cooperation. He emphasized that our policies can only be achieved by defeating the United States. Until then, South Korea is the one to keep in check.

He went on to say, "Until now, we have been making efforts, always showing kindness and understanding (to South Korea), but our enemies have taken advantage of that and have been threatening us from the outside and constantly subverting us from the inside.” He also said “we were fooled by the enemy. We must not be fooled again.”

They also frequently lecture on decadent Korean culture and the weakness of the capitalist world. At the January 20 study session, we learned about the experiences of people who have returned to North Korea after defecting, discussing, and reading out individual (and collective) resolutions that claimed that the illusion of capitalism is a dangerous idea that harms them and their families. ( To 2 >> )

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

A map of North Korea (ASIAPRESS)

<Inside N. Korea>S.Korea is the enemy…Trends after Kim Jong Un’s “anti-unification policy” announcement (2) What is the confrontational policy aimed at doing? Asked people for their opinions and atmosphere inside