o Kim Jong-un delivered his "New Year’s Speech" on television, assessing the year 2014 and presenting the policy directions for 2015. (The speech was delivered at the office building of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea from 9:36 a.m. to 10:05 a.m. and televised via the Korean Central News Agency, the Pyongyang Broadcasting Station, and the Korean Central Television.)
- While stressing the improvement in the people's standard of living, the speech focused particularly on an aggressive and specific position on policies towards South Korea.
* Kim Il-sung made his "New Year’s Speech" on television from 1946 to 1994. From 1995 to 2012, North Korea’s New Year's messages were issued in the form of a joint editorial carried by its three main newspapers representing the party, the military, and the youth league. Kim Jong-un has delivered his "New Year’s Speech" on television since 2013.
□ Assessment of the Year 2014
o The speech assessed that, "Last year was a year of brilliant triumph, in which the foundations for hastening the final victory on all fronts of building a thriving nation were consolidated firmly and the invincible might of the DPRK was demonstrated under the leadership of the Party."
- It presented the major achievements as follows: △ The purity and might of the revolutionary ranks were solidified; △ The fighting efficiency of the People's Army was increased remarkably and the national defense capability was built up; △ Great progress was made in the building of a socialist economic giant and civilized nation; △ A boost in production was created in different sectors, including the industries of agriculture, fisheries,
chemicals, and coal-mining.
□ Tasks by Each Sector for 2015
The slogan of struggle: "Let us all turn out in the general offensive to hasten the final victory in the revolutionary spirit of Mt. Baekdu!"
* Slogan for 2014: "Let us raise a fierce wind of making a fresh leap forward on all fronts of building a thriving country filled with confidence in victory!"
① Politics and Military
o The speech stressed the leadership of the Party and the unity of the entire people as the nation should celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Party as a revolutionary, auspicious event.
- It mentioned that △ The Party's monolithic leadership system should be strengthened, △ All Party organizations should maintain the implementation of the Party line and its policies, and △ The struggle should be based on "the spirit of the blizzards of Mt. Baekdu.”
- It emphasized education focused on the following five points while discussing "building a socialist political and ideological power."
* Promoting education in the following five points: The greatness of the leaders, Kim Jong-il's patriotism, faith, anti-imperialist and class consciousness, and morality
o In the military section, the speech mentioned the following: △ Strengthening the Party's monolithic command system and combat readiness; △ Providing soldiers with better living conditions by bringing about a radical transformation in its supply service.
- Regarding the defense industry, it mentioned that the industry should proactively "develop and perfect powerful cutting-edge military hardware."
* In 2014, it mentioned that the defense industry should "manufacture larger numbers of modern military hardware that are light, unmanned, intelligent, and high-precision."
② Economy and Society
o In the economy section, the speech first mentioned science and technology, urging improvement in the economy, national defense, and the people's standard of living through science and technology.
o The speech asked the North to bring about an upturn in improving the people's standard of living this year.
- It demanded that the nation should resolve the food problem of the people with agricultural production, animal husbandry, and fishing as the three main drivers.
- It stressed the supply of daily necessities (especially school items and children's food) to students and children by putting local light-industry factories on a normal track.
o Although it is worth taking note that the speech brought up external economic relations, it mentioned the leading sectors and major industries at the same levels of previous years.
- It mentioned that the North should foster external economic relations in a multilateral way and accelerate the projects for economic development zones, including the Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang international tourist zone.
- △ Resolving the electricity problem; △ Developing the metal, chemical, and rail transport sectors; △ Accelerating construction (power stations, factories, dwelling houses, etc.); △ Recovering forests
o With regard to improving economic guidance and management (“the economic management method of our style"), the speech mentioned that all the economic organizations and enterprises can conduct their business activities creatively on their own initiative. However, it stressed that this should be done as intended by the Party.
o The speech presented tasks by each sector while newly mentioning "the protection of national culture" in order to realize a socialist, civilized nation.
- It asked for the following: △ Strengthening education; △ Building a sports power; △ Inspiring the masses towards further efforts through masterpieces produced in the sector of art and literature; and △ Improving the public health system.
③ Contents regarding the South
o The speech presented the slogan "Let the whole nation join efforts to open up a broad avenue to independent reunification in this year of the 70th anniversary of national liberation" to the South.
- It presented the North's existing theoretical positions, including the principle of By Our Nation Itself, and cooperation between the South and the North, while defining the July 4 Joint Statement, the June 15 Joint Declaration, and the October 4 Declaration as "a charter for reunification."
* The slogan presented to the South was not included in the speeches in 2013 and 2014. "The behests of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il for national reunification," which was mentioned from 2012 to 2014, was not mentioned this year.
o The speech mentioned that the South and the North should hold "dialogue, negotiations, and exchanges, and make contact" for the first time in four years since 2011, arguing for "bringing about a great turn in inter-Korean relations."
- It mentioned "high-level contacts," "sectoral talks," and "highest-level talks" and expressed the North's will to exert every effort to make substantial progress in inter-Korean relations.
- Yet, it attached such conditions as "If the South Korean authorities are sincere in their stance towards improving inter-Korean relations through dialogue" and "If the environment and conditions are met."
o It urged the South Korean government △ To discontinue joint military exercises with the U.S. forces. In addition, the South should △ Neither seek the reunification of systems △ Nor insult the other side's system, △ Nor engage in impure solicitation to do harm to their fellow countrymen, travelling here and there.
- In particular, it blasted the South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises as "nuclear war drills" and threatened that the North will "resolutely react against and mete out punishment for any acts of provocation and war moves."
* Last year, it said that the North "fulfilled sincerity" while presenting "important proposals to improve inter-Korean relations and achieve national reunification," passing the buck for the worsening inter-Korean relations to the South.
④ Foreign Relations
o The speech stressed that the North will expand and develop foreign relations in a multilateral and positive way and develop good neighborly relations with all the countries that respect its national sovereignty and are friendly to it.
o It demanded that the U.S. should desist from pursuing its "hostile policy towards the DPRK" and boldly make a policy switch while also criticizing Washington concerning human rights issues.
- It stuck to "military-first (Songun) politics and the simultaneous pursuit of economic growth and nuclear development (Byungjin)" and emphasized the build-up of a self-defensive nuclear deterrent.
* "Realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" was not mentioned.
3. Features and Assessment
① The speech asked the South to make policy shifts while mentioning forward-looking and specific measures regarding inter-Korean talks.
* It presented the slogan of struggle, "Let the whole nation join efforts to open up a broad avenue to independent reunification in this year of the 70th anniversary of national liberation!"
o The speech mentioned "highest-level talks" along with high-level contacts and sectoral talks while expressing the will to briskly hold "dialogue, negotiations, and exchanges and make contact."
o However, the speech presented the North's existing positions one by one, for example, that the South should discontinue the South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises, stop insulting the other side's system, and refrain from attempting to achieve reunification by absorbing the North.
* It refrained from making provocative remarks, such as "war maniacs," which were used in previous years.
② Although the Era of Kim Jong-un has opened in earnest, the speech did not present a new policy vision.
o This year, in an atypical manner, the speech put the tasks concerning politics, ideology, and military before economic tasks.
o Although the speech stressed cutting-edge advances in science and technology; the three main thrusts of agricultural production, animal husbandry, and fishing; and fostering external economic relations in a multilateral way, the North followed the same specific contents as in the past.
o In terms of economic management, the speech simply mentioned and did not present a new policy direction.
* Although it stressed that enterprises can conduct their business activities creatively on their own initiative, it asked that this should be done "as intended by the Party." It is expected that political logic, rather than economic logic, will be strengthened in economic management.
③ The speech encouraged the North to achieve tangible results in all sectors while highlighting the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Party.
o The speech predicted that the North will be able to take a leap forward in the areas of politics, the economy, and society on this occasion.
- It encouraged the North to "bring about a transformation in improving the people's standard of living in this meaningful year" and complete a number of construction projects.
* △“A new milestone in improving the Party's leadership ability and fighting efficiency”, △“A new shift in military buildup”, △“A boost in building a socialist economic giant and civilized nation"
o It is expected that the North will be encouraged to complete various types of economic construction projects by the deadline of October 10 (the day of the founding of the Party) this year.
* ‘Creating the Korean speed’, ‘the venue of grand October celebrations,’ and ‘general offensive,’ etc.
④ It is worth taking note that the speech mentioned a variety of ills of the regime and stressed giving more effort to overcome them.
o The speech encouraged the North to put light-industry factories on a normal track and eliminate the "proclivity to import." This exposed problems occurring in the industrial sector as some forms of a market economy have emerged in the North in recent years.
o The speech asked those in the leadership ranks to eliminate "defeatism, self-preservation, and expediency" and the sector of art and literature to do away with "stagnation."
o The speech mentioned that the North should conduct ideological work, including "enhancing the fighting efficiency of the Party," as well as education on the five points. It can be assessed that this implies the possibility of strengthening internal control in the future.