North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gave a 27-minute new year address on January 1, 2017. He praised the country’s achievements in 2016, including the successful seventh congress of the Worker’s Party and progress made in the development of its economy as well as nuclear weapons as deterrence. He listed implementation of the five-year economic plan produced by the seventh party congress as a key priority in 2017. He also urged Koreans in the North, South and overseas to step up efforts for peaceful and self-reliant reunification, and rebuffed the possibility of denuclearization without a fundamental shift in U.S. policy.
The following is a brief summary of his address.
Kim began with a review of North Korea’s accomplishments in 2016. Top on his list were the historic seventh congress of the country’s Worker’s Party and the “70-day campaign” that had mobilized the entire country to boost production ahead of the party congress.
The campaign had considerably increased the country’s energy output as well as production in mining, lumber, farming, fishing, construction, shipbuilding and the clothing industry. It also led to the completion of the Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station No. 3, built entirely by the country’s youth.
Kim also lauded achievements in strengthening the nation’s defense capabilities, including the test of what was claimed to be a hydrogen bomb in January 2016, and said the country was in its final stage of preparations for the test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. He praised the country’s scientists and engineers for the successful launch of the satellite Kwangmyeongseong 4 (launched in February 2016) as well as automation of the country’s production system. Lastly, he applauded the successful relief and recovery operations in North Hamgyeong province, hit by devastating floods in the fall of 2016.
Looking forward to 2017, Kim declared, “Self-reliance and the construction of a powerful socialist nation are our only path.” Stressing the importance of the five-year economic plan, he offered a new national slogan– “Through the great power of self-reliance, let us press the victorious advance of socialism!”
Kim then listed key priorities for every sector of the country’s economy, including– emphasis on developing and relying on domestic raw materials and fuel as the basis of production (thereby decreasing reliance on foreign imports); modernizing factories and developing scientific agricultural methods; and increasing production at the February 8 Vinalon Complex (the manufacturing plant for vinalon, an artificial textile invented in North Korea and used in many of the country’s clothing).
On North-South relations, Kim reiterated the principle of self-reliant national reunification resolved at the seventh Worker’s Party congress last year. He referred to the mass protests against Park Geun-hye in South Korea as “an explosion of resentment and anger against the conservative government, which has made fascist autocratic rule, anti-people policies, subservience to greater powers at the expense of its own people and national division the norm.”
2017, Kim noted, is the 45th anniversary of the historic July 4 North-South Joint Statement (the 1972 agreement in which both sides agreed to pursue self-reliant and peaceful reunification), as well as the 10th anniversary of the October 4 joint declaration (Declaration on the Advancement of South-North Korean Relations, Peace and Prosperity, signed in 2007 by the late President Roh Moo-hyun and the late Chairman Kim Jong-il.) As such, he said, 2017 should be the year they “open a great path for self-reliant reunification.” He called for improving North-South relations and urged all Koreans in the North, South and overseas to step up the movement for reunification.
Kim also had sharp words for the United States. He called for “an end to aggression and interference by the United States and other foreign powers that wish to control the Asia Pacific region by riding on South Korea.”
Ostensibly directed at the incoming administration in the United States, Kim also made clear that there will be no denuclearization without a fundamental shift in U.S. policy– “As long as the United States and its cronies continue their nuclear threat and intimidation against us and refuse to stop their so-called routine war exercise ruckus just outside our doors, we will continue to strengthen our self-reliant defense and preemptive strike capabilities centered on nuclear force.”
Below is the full video coverage of Kim’s 2017 New Year address–
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