North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un welcomed the new year with his annual speech during the meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea last night. He was celebrating the completion of ten years in power since the passing of his father, Kim Jong-il, in 2011. But unlike his previous annual speeches that have tended to be filled with fire, brimstone, and threats of nuclear destruction, something was markedly different this time. Reports from North Korean state media indicate that Kim seemed far more subdued and somber while delivering his remarks. There was no talk of new weapons systems being developed and he barely mentioned the United States at all. Instead, Kim spoke of domestic development programs, particularly in the more rural parts of the country. He talked about a tractor factory that will supposedly improve the country’s ability to produce food. The food situation is critical because many of Kim’s citizens are facing famine this winter. He called the challenges ahead a “great life and death struggle.” So does the tiny tyrant really plan to stop rattling his sabers and actually try to feed his people? (Reuters)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un capped off his 10th year in power with a speech that made more mention of tractor factories and school uniforms than nuclear weapons or the United States, according to summaries by state media on Saturday.
North Korea’s main goals for 2022 will be jump-starting economic development and improving people’s lives as it faces a “great life-and-death struggle,” Kim said in a speech on Friday at the end of the 4th Plenary Meeting of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), which began on Monday.
The meetings coincided with the 10-year anniversary of Kim effectively assuming leadership of the country after the death of his father in 2011.
While he didn’t dwell on the subject, Kim also made a reference to “inter-Korean relations” moving forward. The efforts to make peace with South Korea have been on the rocks ever since negotiations with Donald Trump fell apart in 2019 and 2020. But it’s possible that Kim may be preparing to go back to the table and cool down the tension on the border. Even if he did nothing else on the foreign policy front this year, that would represent some progress.
The tractor factory that Kim mentioned may also turn out to be a bit of a sore point. Analysts believe that the factory had been repurposed to build missile delivery systems in recent years. But now it sounds as if the diminutive despot has realized that they actually need to be producing some tractors so people can have a chance at growing and harvesting more crops.
As already noted, Kim’s biggest problem is the food issue, no doubt prompting his focus on domestic affairs. One Korean analyst told Reuters that the Supreme Leader has realized that unveiling new, expensive weapons systems, while his people are literally on the verge of starvation, “ might not be such a good idea this year.” (Ya think?)
That’s always been something of a mystery to me in terms of Kim Jong-un maintaining his grip on power. North Korea was already dealing with perennial food crises even before the pandemic lockdowns and blocked trade routes that he imposed made matters even worse. Also, great numbers of his citizens routinely “disappear” into forced labor camps, frequently never to be seen again. And all the while he’s been flushing vast amounts of the money his government manages to come up with into his nuclear weapons and ICBM programs. At some point, don’t you think that his own people would rebel against that? It’s rather amazing that some of the provincial warlords haven’t already taken a crack at removing him. Perhaps that message is finally sinking in for the inner circle in Pyongyang.
I’m not expecting Kim Jong-un to suddenly turn around and embrace peaceful diplomatic gestures or seriously move toward denuclearization. That would be too much of a reversal to hope for. But if he could just remove himself from the world stage for a while and focus on feeding his own nation, that would be a temporary step in the right direction. We’ve got enough on our plates to worry about at the moment with Russia and China without having to worry about this maniac deciding to play with his nuclear toys.