“All units of the national economy should launch a vigorous general offensive to boost production in hearty response to the party’s militant slogan,” Kim Jong-un said.
Indirectly admitting that North Korea’s economy was in deep trouble, Kim Jong-un said: “All economic undertakings for this year should be geared to effecting a radical increase in production and stabilizing and improving the people’s living standards.”
Two visiting Americans, former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson and Google chief executive officer Eric Schmidt experienced North Korea’s deprivation first-hand last week. Even when inside modern buildings, they and their North Korean hosts remained bundled up in heavy winter overcoats to ward off the lack of heating.
As his neighbors in China have insisted for themselves, Kim Jong-un demanded an end to corruption.
“To effect a radical change in this year’s campaign to build a thriving socialist country, officials should make a fundamental turnabout in their ideological viewpoint, work style and attitude,” he said.
Evans Revere, a retired senior US Department of State official and former second-in-charge of the US embassy in Seoul, said that the flurry of speculation that Kim Jong-un’s speech was a sign that North Korea would change tactics.
“Prepare to be disappointed,” Revere wrote. “Experience tells us that a healthy dose of skepticism is in order when we see hints of possible change in the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea]. We have been down this road many times before and we are best served by taking such pronouncements from Pyongyang with a large grain of salt.”
Richard Halloran is a commentator based in Hawaii.