January 1, 2006｜Korean Peninsula
Song Su Il
Assistant, Faculty of Political Science and Economics, Korea University
At the beginning of the year, a joint editorial was published by three newspapers (Rodong Sinmun (Labor Daily), Josoninmingun (Korean People’s Army Daily) and Chongnyonjonwi (newspaper of the Central Committee of the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League)), as is the annual custom. Since 1995, after the death of Kim Il Sung, this has come to be the focus of attention, replacing his new year address as a statement indicating the direction of domestic and international policy in the new year. Japanese newspapers reported this year’s joint editorial under such titles as “Curbs on US Criticism” and “Goal is to Keep Present Administration in Power”, but I would like to compare it with recent joint editorials and focus on three other points.
Firstly, the change can be seen from the title. Compared with the titles of joint editorials over the last five years, this year’s title, “With great ambition and belief, let us soar even higher”, is simple, but distinctive. Starting with the words “ambition”, “belief” and “soar” in the title, the text of the editorial also contains a stream of expressions hitherto unseen, such as “the triumphant flowering and flourishing of military-first Korea” and “the absolute heyday of socialism”. The overview of last year, which marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the fatherland and the foundation of the Party, was expressed in highly confident terms, and it was filled with the determination to make this year “a year of general offensive”. It appears that the “ambition” mentioned in the title anticipates a new future of unification and prosperity, “belief” refers to pride in the foundations that have been built up amid the vicissitudes of the last ten years, and “soaring” incorporates the meaning of shifting to new development this year, based on these foundations.
Secondly, there is the fact that “military-first” continues to be emphasized again this year. One might think that this is no change from previous years, but does there not seem to be a qualitative change in “military-first” here? If the “military-first politics” promoted by the DPRK until now incorporated the meaning of “protection”, as in overcoming the various trials that have occurred domestically and overseas and protecting socialism, this year’s “military-first” seems to contain the meaning “attacking”, in terms of plunging into a new stage, based on the foundations built up over the last ten years since “military-first politics” were first initiated in 1995. Naturally, this does not mean attacking other countries in a military sense, but rather demonstrating the “military-first” edge built up so far in all fields, as represented in the expression “a year of general offensive”.
Thirdly, there is the fact that the share of references to the US in the external affairs section has decreased, while references to relations with the South have increased, with some concrete matters being mentioned. Moreover, there is nothing about the Six-Party Talks, the focus of attention on the part of the international community, or DPRK-Japan relations. Through last year’s statement on the country’s nuclear capacity, released on 11th February by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the joint statement on the fourth round of the Six-Party Talks released on 11th September, the DPRK has achieved great success in drawing a line under some matters concerning its external relations, and it is aware that it is entering a new stage this year. The fact that references to relations with the South increased this year is evidence that the DPRK has gained confidence in North-South relations, which have been progressing since last year under the slogan “one people together”; these references are imbued with the determination actively to promote North-South relations this year. One point that is particularly deserving of attention is the section in which the DPRK calls upon the South to “form an anti-conservative alliance”. This wording was intended as a warning to the majority Grand National Party (Hannara) ahead of the presidential election coming up in 2007, while also seeking to avoid causing a setback in the conciliatory mood between North and South that has been sustained by the Kim and Roh administrations. It is likely that the aim of this expression was to check support for the neoconservative (= new right) movement on the part of the populace.
At the beginning of the year, it was reported that Kim Jong Il was visiting China. From the very outset of the year, the DPRK government is putting into practice “a year of general offensive”, which was spelled out in detail in the joint editorial. In addition to setting forth the intentions of the DPRK government, this editorial presages this year’s turbulent Korean Peninsula situation, including such issues as the recommencement of the fifth round of the Six-Party Talks, North-South relations, DPRK-US relations, and DPRK-Japan relations.