Last year was a momentous one for the socialist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), which celebrated its 70th founding anniversary on 9 September and recorded a string of achievements.
The economy made good progress and, thanks to its brilliant and flexible diplomacy, a situation that had appeared to be on the brink of a catastrophic war was transformed into one where the prospects for peace and the reunification of the country became better than for many years.
Starting with high-level participation in the Winter Olympics held in south Korea, following an overture made by the DPRK’s supreme leader Comrade Kim Jong Un in his customary new year address for 2018, the north and south of Korea held three top-level summit meetings in the course of the year.
And an unprecedented summit was held between the leader of the DPRK and the president of the United States, Donald J Trump, in Singapore. Comrade Kim Jong Un also paid three very successful and friendly visits to the People’s Republic of China at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.
All this informed an inspiring new year message for 2019 by Comrade Kim Jong Un, where he stated:
“Thanks to our proactive and positive efforts, a peace-oriented current was created on the Korean peninsula and the international prestige of our republic continued to be raised, and in the midst of this we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the glorious DPRK in splendour with great dignity and self-confidence.”
He referred to the Workers’ Party of Korea’s (WPK) “new strategic line of concentrating all efforts on economic construction”, which was adopted at the party central committee’s third plenary meeting in April, as a result of the great victory achieved by the previous policy of simultaneous construction of the economy and national defence capability.
Based on this: “This year we are faced with the task of expanding the country’s capability of independent development to open up bright prospects for taking a step forward towards socialist construction.
“We have the strength and foundations to bring forward a brighter future of socialism by our own efforts, and we have also developed our own strategy and creative methods to this end … We should bring about a revolutionary upsurge on all fronts of socialist construction by regarding self-reliance as a treasured sword for prosperity, a spirit which has always been a banner of struggle and driving force for a leap forward in the whole course of the Korean revolution …
“Party and government organs and working people’s organisations should give top and absolute priority to the people’s interests whatever they plan and whatever they conduct; they should lend an ear to their sincere opinions, prioritise their wants and anything beneficial to them, and strive to translate them into reality without any conditions attached.
“Anywhere, anytime and under any circumstances, they should make selfless, devoted efforts for the good of the people, direct primary attention to their livelihood, and ensure that everybody benefits from the politics of affection and trust, the one of embracing and taking care of them all. They should intensify the struggle to eradicate both serious and trivial instances of abuse of power, bureaucratism and corruption, which would wreak havoc on the harmonious whole of the party and the masses and undermine the socialist system …
“It is none other than the masses of the people that constitute the motive force and are responsible for carrying out party policy, and they know actual conditions better than anybody else. Officials should always immerse themselves in the pulsating reality, seeing everything with their own eyes and conducting a comprehensive analysis of how matters stand; they should go deep among the masses, sharing board and lodging with them and motivating them to resolve bottlenecks if any.”
Advancing the cause of national reunification
Turning to the struggle to achieve national reunification, Comrade Kim Jong Un said:
“Last year was a stirring year which witnessed a dramatic change unprecedented in the history of national division spanning over 70 years.
“With a determination to usher in an era of national reconciliation, peace and prosperity by putting an end to the abnormal state on the Korean peninsula, which has suffered a constant war crisis, we took proactive and bold measures to effect a great turn in north-south relations from the outset of last year.
“It is unprecedented that three rounds of inter-Korean summit meetings and talks were held in one year amid great expectation and interest from peoples at home and abroad, and this clearly showed that north-south relations entered a completely new stage …
“While sportspersons of north and south displayed the wisdom and strength of the nation by jointly entering international competitions, artistes came and went to Pyongyang and Seoul to fire the enthusiasm for national reconciliation and reunification.
“We took the significant first step towards common prosperity of the nation by promoting cooperation projects in various fields including railways, road, forestry and public health, while resolutely overcoming manifold obstacles and difficulties …
“In the New Year 2019 we should make greater strides in our efforts to boost inter-Korean relations, achieve peace and prosperity and reunify the country on the basis of the priceless achievements we made last year …
“North and south, as they have agreed, should take practical measures proactively to remove military hostility on the whole of the Korean peninsula, including on the ground, in the air and at sea, as a follow-up to its ending in the areas of confrontation. [This is a reference to steps taken by the two sides to dismantle some military facilities on/near the military demarcation line (MDL) that separates the DPRK from the south Korean state.]
“Given that north and south committed themselves to advancing along the road of peace and prosperity, we maintain that the joint military exercises with foreign forces, which constitute the source of aggravating the situation on the Korean peninsula, should no longer be permitted, and the introduction of war equipment, including strategic assets from outside, should be completely suspended.
“It is also necessary to actively promote multiparty negotiations for replacing the current ceasefire on the Korean peninsula with a peace mechanism in close contact with the signatories to the armistice agreement so as to lay a lasting and substantial peace-keeping foundation …
“Inter-Korean cooperation and exchanges should be expanded and developed in an all-round way so that national reconciliation and unity can be consolidated and all our fellow countrymen can practically benefit from improved north-south relations.
“For the present, we are willing to resume the Kaesong Industrial Park and Mt Kumgang tourism without any precondition and in return for nothing, in consideration of the hard conditions for businesspersons from the south side who had advanced into the Kaesong Industrial Park and the desire of southern compatriots who are eager to visit the nation’s celebrated mountain …”
Strengthening friendships and standing up to enmity on the global stage
In light of the unceasing attempts by imperialism to undermine Korean socialism and bring down the DPRK, Comrade Kim Jong Un said: “We will never tolerate the interference and intervention of outside forces who stand in the way of national reconciliation, unity and reunification with the design of subordinating inter-Korean relations to their tastes and interests.”
Turning to external relations, for the first time in a new year address, Comrade Kim Jong Un also made explicit reference to the relations with the other socialist countries.
He began by stating: “Last year, our party and the government of our republic exerted responsible efforts to safeguard the peace and security of the world and expand and strengthen friendship with different countries.
“The three rounds of our visit to the People’s Republic of China and the Cuban delegation’s visit to our country were remarkable events in boosting strategic communication and traditional ties of friendship and cooperation among the socialist countries.” (Reference is made here to the DPRK visit by Cuban president Comrade Miguel Díaz-Canel in early November, as part of an extensive international tour that also saw him make official visits to Russia, China, Vietnam and Laos, as well as stopovers in France and Britain.)
Turning to the relations with the United States and their prospects, he stated:
“The historic, first-ever DPRK-US summit meeting and talks brought about a dramatic turn in the bilateral relationship which was the most hostile on the earth, and made a great contribution to ensuring the peace and security of the Korean peninsula and the region.
“It is the invariable stand of our party and the government of our republic and my firm will to establish a new bilateral relationship that meets the demands of the new era, as clarified in the 12 June DPRK-US joint statement, to build a lasting and durable peace regime and to advance towards complete denuclearisation.
“Accordingly, we declared at home and abroad that we would no longer make and test nuclear weapons nor use and proliferate them, and we have taken various practical measures to this end.
“If the US responds to our proactive efforts with trustworthy measures and corresponding practical actions, bilateral relations will develop wonderfully at a fast pace, through the process of taking more definite and epochal measures.
“We have no intention to be obsessed with or keep up the unsavoury past relationship between the two countries, but are ready to fix it as early as possible and to work to forge a new relationship in line with the aspirations of the two peoples and the requirements of the developing times.
“As evidenced by the reality of north-south relations that made rapid progress last year, nothing is impossible to a willing heart, and dialogue partners will reach the destinations that are beneficial to each other without fail if they put forward fair proposals on the principle of recognising and respecting each other, by broadmindedly abandoning their dogged insistence and conducting negotiations with a proper stance and the will to settle issues.
“I want to believe that our relations with the United States will bear good fruit this year, as inter-Korean relations have made a great turn, by the efforts of the two sides.
“I am of the opinion that, while meeting and holding talks beneficial to both sides with the US president in June last year, we exchanged constructive views and reached a consensus of understanding for a shortcut to removing each other’s apprehensions and resolving the entangled problems.
“I am ready to meet the US president again anytime, and will make strong efforts to obtain results that will be welcomed by the international community.
“But if the United States does not keep the promise it made in the eyes of the world, and if, out of miscalculation of our people’s patience, it attempts unilaterally to enforce something upon us and persists in imposing sanctions and pressure against our republic, we may be compelled to find a new way of defending the sovereignty of our country and the supreme interests of our state, and for achieving peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.”
Guarding gains and advancing further
“The stabilised situation on the Korean peninsula and in the region is not something that has been created with ease, and the countries that are truly desirous of peace have the common responsibility jealously to guard the current situation,” continued Comrade Kim Jong Un. “The neighbouring countries and international community must support our sincere stand and efforts for promoting the positive development of the situation on the Korean peninsula and fight against all practices and challenges that wreck peace and run counter to justice.
“Our party and the government of our republic will continue to bolster unity and cooperation with the socialist countries and develop relations with all countries that are friendly to us under the ideals of independence, peace and friendship.”
In conclusion, Comrade Kim Jong Un stated: “We are beginning the journey of the new year as we brace ourselves once again with the resolve to work devotedly for our country, our motherland, and the happier laughter of future generations.
“What we are convinced of once again as we proudly review the past year, when we made rapid progress while paving our way by our own efforts, and with belief in our own strength in the face of harsh economic blockade and sanctions, is the truth that our state is fully capable of dynamically advancing along the road of socialist development of our own style by dint of our people’s great strength and efforts, without any external assistance or any other’s help …
“Let us all work energetically and with one mind and will for the prosperity and development of the genuine people’s country, the socialist motherland.”
In the few weeks since this speech was delivered, the DPRK has already shown ample evidence of its determination to advance along the lines indicated in Comrade Kim Jong Un’s message.
From 7-10 January, Comrade Kim Jong Un made his fourth visit to China in less than a year. According to a report of the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA):
“Kim Jong Un said that his visit would also offer an occasion in strikingly demonstrating to the world the invariability and invincibility of the DPRK-China friendship.
“The DPRK-China friendship was forged and developed by the leaders of the elder generations of the two countries and is now further brilliantly developing under the special situation, he said, stressing that the WPK and the DPRK government will as ever act in unity with the Chinese side and make fresh efforts continuously to develop the friendly relations by inheriting the tradition of close cooperation between the two parties and the two countries.” (Supreme leader Kim Jong Un visits China, KCNA, 10 January 2019)
His new year message also drew a positive response from the US president. Donald Trump tweeted: “I also look forward to meeting with Chairman Kim who realises so well that north Korea possesses great economic potential!”
Following this, a high-level DPRK delegation led by Kim Yong Chol, a vice-chairman of the WPK central committee, visited the White House for talks with Trump, returning with a personal letter from the US president to his DPRK counterpart.
According to KCNA, on receiving a report-back from Kim Yong Chol, Kim Jong Un “spoke highly of President Trump for expressing his unusual determination and will for the settlement of the issue, with a great interest in the second DPRK-US summit.
“Kim Jong Un said that we will believe in the positive way of thinking of President Trump, wait with patience and in good faith and, together with the US, advance step by step toward the goal to be reached by the two countries.” (Supreme leader Kim Jong Un meets delegation to second DPRK-US high-level talks, KCNA, 24 January 2019)
It has now been agreed that Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump will meet for the second time on 27-28 February in Vietnam.
This will be entirely appropriate. After all, the US lost the Vietnam war.