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2009/05/07 10:51 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 53 (May 7, 2009)

   *** TOPIC OF THE WEEK

N. Korea Launches New National Campaign to Reinvigorate Economy

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has launched a national campaign urging residents to intensify efforts over the next five months to help spur the socialist country towards its goal of becoming a "powerful and prosperous" nation by 2012.
The campaign, called the "150-day Battle," harkens back to earlier drives of the 1970s and 1980s and aims to draw on the nation's 24 million residents to help rebuild the North's frail infrastructure and raise living standards by the target year.

   North Korea watchers say the campaign is also designed to consolidate internal unity while sending an affirmative message to North Koreans, many of whom subsist in dire economic straits.

   The North's official Rodong Sinmun, organ of the ruling Workers' Party, announced the campaign in a May 4 editorial that said the party "ardently appealed" to the nation to carry out the "150-day battle" with strenuous efforts.

   It called on citizens to ensure that this year would be recorded as one marking the establishment of a thriving North Korea amid the "raging flames of the great revolutionary surge."

   Posters reportedly appeared throughout the country encouraging the population to faithfully carry out the campaign following its announcement.

   No mention was made of when the campaign would officially begin, though it is presumed to have started with May Day celebrations marking the 119th anniversary of Labor Day on May 1. The paper made special note of the occasion, highlighted by leader Kim Jong-il's "unprecedented" appearance at a mass performance alongside workers from the country's metal industry.

   Experts also point out that the five-month long campaign will expire on Oct. 10, the founding anniversary of the North's Workers' Party.

   North Korean news outlets reported that Kim enjoyed a performance given by the State Merited Chorus together with workers from the country's metal industry and related enterprises. A fireworks display was also held on the banks of Pothong River, while a banquet was given in Pyongyang attended by some 15,000 workers from local steel and mining companies.

   The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that performers sang "enthusiastically" of the progress made by the Korean revolution and clearly demonstrated the "firm faith and will of the army and people" to fulfill the cause of Juche, or self-reliance, and that of building a Kangsong Taeguk, or great, prosperous and powerful nation.

   The reports also noted the performers' committment to the state's military-first or Songun politics and said that Kim made repeated salutes to the cheering crowds, expressing his conviction that they would play a "vanguard role" in the state's drive to rebuild its moribund economy.

   "The success or failure for opening the door onto a Kangsong Taeguk depends on our struggle over the coming three years," declared an editorial in Rodong Sinmun dated May 4. North Korea's target year for reviving the nation's economy, 2012, marks the centennial anniversary of the birth of Kim's late father and the country's founder, Kim Il-sung.

   The report recalled the 70-day battle and 100-day battle campaigns of the 1970s, when the Workers' Party experienced its "heyday," exhorting North Koreans to make a "heroic struggle" in their efforts to strengthen the nation. It also made note of the 200-day battle in the 1980s, marking the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK/ North Korea).

   Workers in the metal, electrical, coal and mechanical industries, as well as agriculture and construction divisions were encouraged to develop their respective fields through innovations that would allow the country to make a "great leap." Upholding self-reliance and developing technology were emphasized as the basis for winning the final victory in the 150-day battle, while a technological revolution was pinpointed as key to modernizing the economy.

   The state initiated similar campaigns in order to draw attention to national tasks set forward or to highlight certain economic achievements in order to bolster public opinion. A 70-day battle was launched in 1974 to advance a six-year economic development plan that ended in 1976.

   A 100-day battle was launched three times in 1971, 1978 and 1980, while a 200-day campaign was announced ahead of the government's 40th founding anniversary in 1988 to speed up its economic construction. That year saw the Soviet Union and East European block beginning to collapse.

   A report dated March 30 in Rodong Sinmun specifically called on citizens to support their leader's drive to boost the economy amid concerns over his deteriorating health. "This year is a pivotal year that will become a watershed in achieving our party's grand plan."

   North Korea's economic campaign was also emphasized in this year's joint editorial published on Jan. 1 by three major newspapers. "A radical turn should be brought about in the efforts to improve the standard of people's living," the editorial said, reviving a post-war reconstruction movement first launched in 1956 by Kim Il-sung in the aftermath of the 1950-53 Korean War.

   The Chollima movement in the 1950s was modeled after a similar movement in China and named for a mythic winged horse in Korean legend.

   But North Korea is now intend to draw on the efforts of the nation's population to help rebuild the North's frail infrastructure, including modernization of the steel industry, the backbone of North Korea's industrial development.

  (END)