Executive Intelligence Review


Korean Expert Says Kim Jong-un Is Committed To Economic Growth and Cooperation with South

Jan. 3, 2018 (EIRNS)—In an interview with Radio Sputnik’s “Loud & Clear with Brian Becker,” Hyun Lee, a member of the U.S.-based Solidarity Committee for Democracy and Peace in Korea, commented that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Year speech signaled that North Korea wants to concentrate on economic development and cooperation with South Korea, which international media effectively ignored focusing only on Kim’s statement that he was willing to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump.

“The most striking thing is that the U.S. media is focusing exclusively on what Kim Jong-un said about the nuclear talks with the U.S. But when you look at the actual speech, that part was just maybe one to two paragraphs of the entire speech. The majority of the speech was about building a self-reliant economy and continuing to improve North-South relations. He, Kim Jong-un, proposed two slogans to the people of North Korea, which is like the banner that will guide the entire society this year. One of them was, ‘Let us open a new road of advance for socialist construction under the uplifted banner of self-reliance.’ The second one was, ‘Let us usher in a heyday of peace, prosperity and reunification of the Korean Peninsula by thoroughly implementing the historic North-South declarations,’ ”

said Lee.

“It’s clear from Kim Jong-un’s speech that the economy and Korean relations will be priorities for North Korea this year,” Lee stated.

His speech contrasts with the New York Times claim that the “essential message” of Kim’s address was that “If U.S. Keeps Sanctions, North Korea Will Keep Nuclear Program.” Lee disputed the Times assertion, saying that,

“just a little historical background: Former leader Kim Jong-Il was facing a world where the Soviet Union had collapsed. There was no more socialist trading bloc. The country was facing an economic crisis, especially in light of intensified U.S. sanctions as well. And so, at that time, North Korea felt that building up its defense was the number-one priority. For North Korea, when they said ‘military first,’ it was building up national defense as a priority, but it also meant that the army played a very significant role in the construction of its economy. So it was the military in North Korea that rebuilt factories, built the dams, irrigated canals for agriculture. So ‘military first’ has a deeper meaning than just ‘defense first,’ ”

said Lee.

“And then we come to last year’s New Year speech by the new leader, Kim Jong-un. North Korea was feeling confident that it had completed some very successful nuclear and missile test launches. They determined their nuclear weapons program was successful enough as a deterrent for their country against mainly U.S. nuclear threats. Having completed their nuclear weapons program, North Korea felt they were confident to shift their national focus to building their economy,”

Lee told Radio Sputnik.

“This is something not necessarily new. Since the economic crisis of the mid-1990s to early 2000s, they have been pursuing what’s called the ‘byungjin’ line, which is two parallel tracts: [one] pursuing its nuclear weapons program for deterrence, and then also [one] pursuing a self-reliant economic development model. Now, I think they’re signaling that they’re ready to go full speed ahead in focusing on their economy,”

said Lee.

Lee is an Editorial Advisory Board member of the “Zoom in Korea” blog. An English translation of Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s speech is available on its website.