Slave to the Blog: Winds of Change Edition
We have been struck by a handful of recent stories that suggest the regime’s trepidation about the country’s growing porousness to outside information.
Earlier in the month, Kim Jong Un visited the Ministry of State Security. According to the KCNA, he “underscored the need to intensify the struggle to decisively foil the ideological and cultural poisoning and psychological warfare of the enemies, while following their moves with vigilance, and make sustained energetic endeavors to put the work for state security on an ultra-modern and IT basis.” This plea puts a different spin on all that IT investment the regime is encouraging.
According to the DailyNK, Young Leader’s comments were followed by an editorial in the Rodong Shinmun—the party paper—arguing “that the imperialists see the young as the main target of their cultural and ideological invasion scheme.” “The ‘fragrant wind’ being stubbornly pushed upon us is like a drug for the young…If the new generations being raised today are swayed by the bourgeois wind of liberalism then they will become ethically corrupted by decadence.” As we argued in an earlier post on the girl band Moranbong Troupe, this balancing act is internal as much as external. As the regime seeks to modernize its image, it is hard to avoid looking like your adversaries.
The idea that this may indeed be a campaign comes from another DailyNK story about a campaign in work units to warn about contact with foreigners. The story is particularly interesting because it is by no means confined to Westerners; “The lecture material even said, ‘Chinese people bring things like processed ham to eat, but that doesn’t suit our race and will upset our stomachs and lead to ill health.’” Our friend B.R. Myers—who has long stressed the racialist underpinnings of North Korean ideology—would love it.
In the “not satire” category, a reporter at Joongang (via the Daily Mail) has speculated that first lady Ri Sol-ju—if not pregnant—may have fallen out of favor with senior military and party officials for failing to sport her Kim Il Sung-Kim Jong Il badge; the intrepid reporter apparently went back through every bit of video footage and stills released by the North Korean media and found that—lo and behold—she had not in fact sported the appropriate pin since she made her first public appearance. We are typically dubious about such theories, but this is North Korea.
Finally, we are entering yet another balloon cycle of planned release and not-so-veiled threat. Business Week reports that the government has contingency plans to evacuate those living near the launch if North Korean troop movements are sited. According to activists, there have been five balloon launches since the ascent of Kim Jong Un. But there were also plenty of uneventful live-fire drills along the NLL before the Yeongpyeong-do shelling as well.
To avoid ending on such a down note, it is worth noting a real "winds of change" story from which North Korea might learn something. Starting next year, Cuba will eliminate exit visas. Once the policy takes effect, the regime will also no longer require a letter of invitation; they will only need to present passport and visas. A likely explanation: unwanted dissidents may leave while those who choose to return will probably include traders who will add value by bringing back foreign goods. From Raul's mouth to Kim Jong Un's ears.