(FILE PHOTO) A common slogan on a North Korean street reads, "Long live General Kim Jong Un, the Sun of the DPRK!” Photo taken in March 2013 in South Pyongan Province (ASIAPRESS)

In recent days, the process of erasing the phrase "reunification" has been in full swing in the North Korean military and society. In the process, even the teachings and words of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, which were considered absolutely sacred, are being removed, leading to confusion. (JEON Sung-jun / KANG Ji-won)

◆ Military appears to take lead in campaign to erase mention of unification

In his speech to the 10th session of the 14th Supreme People's Assembly on January 15, Kim Jong Un declared that "the terms 'reunification,' 'reconciliation,' and 'kinship' must be completely erased from the national history of the republic."

Following the speech, efforts to erase the terms "reunification" and "South Korea" are in full swing, according to reporting partners in the country. ASIAPRESS first received this information in late April from reporting partner "A," who lives in the city of Hyesan.

A said that soldiers have recently been coming to the city in large numbers to buy paint under the pretext of "cleaning up military bases". Although the soldiers are not allowed to move around the city due to a ban on contact between the military and civilians, they are accompanied by officers to buy paint.

"The purchase of paint is an all-military program, and although it is called 'cleaning up military bases', it is for the purpose of erasing or rewriting existing (pro-reunification) slogans by painting over them."

All this indicates that the military has been mobilized to erase slogans related to reunification.

◆ Predecessors’ achievements erased as campaign to Kim Jong-un shifts into high gear

Kim Jong-un visits the Workers' Party of Korea Cadre School on April 21. A portrait of Kim Jong-un hangs in the school's classroom alongside those of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. (Quoted from the Korean Central News Agency)

Most notably, the process of removing phrases related to reunification also ends up removing references to the legacy and achievements of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. Reporting partners are surprised by this change, as steles and slogans bearing the words of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are considered absolutely sacred in North Korea.

In a message sent to ASIAPRESS in early May, A said, "In Samjiyeon, there was a monument related to the reunification of the country at the Baekdu Mountain Secret Camp, but they removed the monument itself." He expressed his dismay that the government would heartlessly remove historical monuments bearing the words of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il to erase the traces of the country's efforts to achieve reunification.

At the same time, A said, lectures and classes are being held to promote the Kim Jong-un era to replace the achievements of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.

"All the slogans of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il have been replaced by Kim Jong-un, and there are meetings and talks on building a new socialism, Kim Jong-un-style socialism."

"Now, the lessons and achievements of the founding fathers are not even mentioned in studies or lectures," A continued, "but rather Kim Jong-un is touted as the greatest of the greats, surpassing Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, and we are told to take the lead in carrying out the revolution and work with pride and joy in living in the country of the Great Marshal."

◆ Hyundai taxis scrapped because of their markings

B, a resident of North Hamgyong Province, said in late May that he is no longer allowed to say the words "South Korea" or "reunification," and that efforts to erase traces of South Korea are in full swing in his neighborhood.

The authorities are particularly sensitive to anything that might indicate the presence of South Korea, such as South Korean products or trademarks, B said he heard from someone involved in logistics in the Rason area.

"He told me that all five Hyundai cars used as taxis in Najin were scrapped this year. After they declared (South Korea) an enemy state, they immediately tore the South Korean company plates off the cars and erased any Korean or English markings inside."

After the cars were taken out of service, they were stripped of all their accessories, starting with the tires, and then sold and finally scrapped. If this information is true, the cars likely entered North Korea before 2017, when UN sanctions against the country were in full effect.

◆ At the very least, North Koreans hope for exchanges with South Korea

Reporting partners in North Korea are confused by these changes.

"I'm not sure if they're trying to go to war or if they're afraid that South Korea will absorb us because they're doing well," said A. "We don't need to reunify, but it would be nice if we could normalize exchanges," noting that North Korea shares the same racial background as South Korea and is doing well economically.

The new era of isolation, closure, and confrontation that began with Kim Jong-un's regime denying and erasing the achievements of his predecessors seems to be causing confusion and backlash among North Koreans.

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

A map of North Korea (ASIAPRESS)