N. Korea tightens discipline as economic crisis deepens

A group of North Korean youth climbed to Paektusan, a mountain shared between North Korea and China to show solidarity, the Korean Central News Agency reported on Sunday.  (KCNA-Yonhap)

A group of North Korean youth climbed to Paektusan, a mountain shared between North Korea and China to show solidarity, the Korean Central News Agency reported on Sunday. (KCNA-Yonhap)

North Korea is stepping up its propaganda campaign to drum up support for the country’s pursuit of a “socialist utopia,” a self-sufficient economy that its leader Kim Jong-un says will be delivered despite international sanctions on its nuclear weapons program.

The remote country has faced increased sanctions from the United Nations and the United States since January 2016, when it tested nuclear weapons. In 2017 and 2018, the economy did 3.5 and 4.1 percent, respectively. The COVID-19 pandemic added to the woes, leading to negative growth in 2020 and 2021, respectively at 4.5 percent and 0.1 percent, according to the Bank of Korea’s latest survey.

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In an attempt to boost morale among North Koreans at a time of economic crisis, Pyongyang on Sunday announced that a group of young North Koreans had climbed and walked Paektusan – a mountain on the North Korea-China border that is considered sacred. The mountain is a major part of Pyongyang’s campaign to purge the Kim family and rally North Koreans behind the “innocent leader”. Former ruler Kim Jong-il was born there, according to government legend.

“The council also observed the actions of Kim Jong-il, the supreme leader, who devoted his whole life to developing the revolutionary ideas of Kim Il-sung who lead the country,” the state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper said. , referring to Kim Jong-un’s father and grandfather, respectively. Kim Il-sung was the founding leader of North Korea.

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The visit “reinvigorated the faith” North Koreans had in bringing a place built on socialist ideals, the state newspaper said, describing the event as a “rite of passage” pushing the country forward.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s unprecedented nuclear weapons program this year alone has prompted international action to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions. This week, nuclear representatives from South Korea, the US and Japan will meet in Jakarta, Indonesia, to discuss concrete steps. The tripartite agreement brings Seoul and Tokyo closer than ever, as they seek to resolve their long-standing disputes – the most recent of which is over the payment of Koreans forced to work for Japanese companies during World War II.

The trilateral alliance is also keen to crack down on cybercrime in North Korea. Last week, South Korean officials warned businesses not to unwittingly hire North Korean IT workers who hide information and use remote access to circumvent international sanctions and raise money, which is used to fund the remote country’s nuclear and weapons programs. .

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Such IT workers have become a key part of North Korea’s long-running campaign to reduce its economic isolation by using foreign capital from foreign workers, according to the advisory. Details about how the North Koreans got their jobs and whether the companies that employed them were actually destroyed have not been made public. In May, the US issued another advisory, saying that North Korean fraudsters pretend to be from South Korea, Japan or other Asian countries.

By Choi Si-young ([email protected])


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