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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

North Korea Issues 2003 New Year Joint Editorial


April 21, 2003

1. Overview

The Korean Workers' Party, Korean People's Army and the Kim Il-sung Socialist Youth League published in their newspapers a joint editorial on New Year's Day, 2003, under the headline, ¡°Exert and Show [the world] the Republic's Dignity and Supreme Power on the Strength of the Military-first Drive.¡± The joint editorial, released through nationwide radio and television, defined 2003 as the ¡°Year of Brave Offensive and Ambitious Reform for the Construction of a Strong and Prosperous Nation.¡±

The editorial, however, did not offer new policy goals in the area of national governance, but merely called for a complete implementation of the military-first policy, which is designed to deal with tensions around the republic and build a ¡°strong and prosperous¡± nation in the North.

2. Analysis of the Contents

a. Accomplishments in 2002

The joint editorial evaluated the year 2002 as a ¡°historically victorious year¡± during which ¡°the republic's dignity and power¡± were demonstrated visibly all across the ¡°areas of revolution, construction, and others.¡± These achievements were possible mainly because the republic successfully overcame U.S. schemes to ¡°isolate and stifle North Korea," further solidified its socialist structure, improved its economic management systems, and launched new measures for qualitative improvement of people's lives.

The joint editorial further observed that the North has seen ¡°great progress toward unifying the Korean Peninsula,¡± adding that a better atmosphere for unification was being created, and that the two Koreas would soon enjoy greater exchange, cooperation, and reconciliation between them. Thanks to its effective foreign policy, the editorial continued, the Korean Workers' Party also made an important contribution toward the nation's goal of transforming itself into a ¡°strong and prosperous nation.¡± The editorial also said that it was brave of the republic to confront the ¡°imperialist superpower¡± and show its leadership in global politics.

b. Tasks for the New Year

In describing the new year's major tasks for the republic, the North Korean newspapers first focused on the politics and military aspects, emphasizing the importance of adhering to the ¡°military-first¡± drive, the ¡°spirit of revolutionary soldiers,¡± and the anti-imperialist, independence stance, under the pretext of commemorating the 50th anniversary of War Victory (July 27, 1953) and the 55th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean regime (September 9, 1948).

For a complete implementation of the ¡°military-first¡± drive, the editorial urged, all members of the republic must be united in enhancing the republic's war capabilities and exhibiting strong resistance against the pressures of the United States (and other parts of the international community) in connection with the North Korean nuclear issue. The ¡°military drill-first¡± policy, doing away with ¡°fantasies about the enemy and peace,¡± and maintaining the highest degree of alertness were also important elements in further solidifying that unity, the editorial stressed.

The newspapers further said that the republic must carry out ¡°political projects¡± to better operate the republic's revolutionary army, and build a solid social and political unity among the government, armed forces and people.

In the field of economy, the newspapers made an uncharacteristic comment on the need for a concentration of resources on the ¡°defense industry,¡± indicating that the nation would provide economic and social support for the growth of the industry.

Notably, however, the newspapers offered no new economic policy goals. It only drew attention to the supply aspect of economic activities that would help the new economic guideline, known as the July 1 2002 Economic Management Improvement Measures, to take root. The editorial named electricity, coal, metal, railway, merchandize industry, agriculture, and science as priority areas that the republic needed to support for modernization.

To achieve a firmer social and cultural unity, the editorial advocated a vigilant posture against the inflow of ¡°imperialist ideas and their cultural influence¡± and urged the nation to adhere to socialist ideologies, morals and lifestyles. Also important, the editorial noted, would be to develop a new cultural paradigm befitting a ¡°strong and prosperous¡± nation, which would play a critical role in solidifying the bond and enhancing cooperation among the party, military and people. (The North recently intensified ideology-teaching courses so as to prevent a possible ¡°ideological confusion¡± among its citizens in the aftermath of the announcement of the July 1 2002 Economic Management Improvement Measures, or the so-called new economic policy guideline based on market economy.)

In the field of inter-Korean relations, the North Korean official newspapers were emphatic about the implementation of the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration (released on June 15, 2000), signaling North Korea's high expectations for improvement in inter-Korean relations. The Declaration, the papers added, would serve as a ¡°milestone¡± for the ultimate goal of national reunification of the Korean peninsula, as well as a line of distinction (¡°touchstone¡±) that would distinguish a person's ¡°patriotic¡± or ¡°treasonous¡± propensity.

As for an improvement in inter-Korean relations, the papers addressed the need to build ¡°cooperation between fellow Koreans¡± and rid the Korean peninsula of ¡°foreign influences.¡± It was, the editorial further observed, the two Koreas against the United States in a ¡°confrontational structure¡± that currently reigns on the Korean peninsula. That comment appears to have come from an attempt to drive a wedge between South Korea and the United States.

Interestingly, however, the newspapers had no comments concerning its usual demands to remove South Korea's designation of North Korea as the "primary enemy¡± and its National Security Law.

Also unusual was the absence of comments about foreign relations, although the papers briefly mentioned that tensions were running high due to the US ¡°threats¡± against the North. The growing uncertainties in international politics over the North Korean nuclear issue may have led to the largely subdued tone. The editorial also appeared somewhat restrained compared to the usually outright denouncements against the United States. They only repeated the familiar demands that the Untied States stop ¡°military pressures¡± against the North and withdraw its forces from South Korea.

c. Overall Assessment

Through the joint editorial of its official newspapers, the North made it clear that during 2003, the Year of Brave Offensive and Ambitious Reform, it would continually deal with challenges at home and abroad with resolute determination.

To achieve the goal, the North would step up efforts to carry out the ¡°military-first¡± drive, enhance its ¡°emergency management capabilities¡± and solidify the republic's internal political and social systems.

The editorial also indicated that the North would seek to bring about internal changes to improve the quality of life for the North Koreans. The announcement of the July 1, 2002 Economic Management Improvement Measures was part of North Korea's such effort. Despite the endeavor, the editorial implied, the North was not quite ready to present new visions or goals for an economic improvement, as it was still preoccupied with the task of solidifying its internal social, political, and military unity.

For now, the editorial observed, North Korea would continue to promote the ¡°military-first¡± drive, the ¡°spirit of revolutionary soldiers,¡± and the absolute unity among the Worker's Party, military and people as part of its effort to maintain cohesion as a nation. More endeavors to build a strong defense industry, defend its socialist beliefs and lifestyles, fight against ¡°imperialist ideals and their cultural influences¡± would be on the way.

Finally, the joint editorial made some predications, saying that North Korea would continue to maintain ¡°cooperative relations¡± with South Korea, an approach apparently aimed at bringing the North an advantage in dealing with ¡°crisis situations.¡± North Korea's enthusiasm for ¡°progress¡± in inter-Korean relations could be part of an attempt to drive a wedge between South Korea and the United States.

The joint editorial carried neither harsh condemnations against the United States nor comments on the North Korean nuclear issue, signaling that it was seeking dialogue with the United States and would respond to various actions of the international community.