중앙데일리

North claims it will ‘starve’ rather than yield dignity

Mar 22,2019
North Korea appears to preparing itself for a long-term standoff with the United States, as a lengthy editorial published in state media proclaimed the country would rather “starve or freeze to death” than give up its “national self-esteem.”

The 11,600 character essay published by the state-run Rodong Sinmun on Thursday, entitled “Our progress is resilient and adamant,” repeatedly stressed the country’s determination to stand up to “whatever hardships,” after months of stalemate in denuclearization negotiations with the United States and the collapse of the second U.S.-North Korea summit in Vietnam last month.

The editorial is just the latest in a series of messages in North Korea’s state media that trumpet the importance of self-reliance in the face of international sanctions that continue to restrict the country’s economy.

Quoting the North’s leader Kim Jong-un, the op-ed said the country’s official Juche ideology characterizes self-reliance as the “energy that is our life and essence” - and the key to surviving severe hardships in the past.

“National self-esteem is something we cannot trade even for the greatest riches, something we cannot discard even if we starve or freeze to death,” it said.

Self-reliance means believing in something that cannot be seen, and finding what can be done in an impossible situation, the editorial continued, which would ultimately become the basis of national strength. By contrast, the essay said, reliance on others could provide “temporary pleasure but make the people lazy and break down national power.”

The reference to past hardships suggests Pyongyang is doubling down on efforts to keep its people in check as economic forecasts for the country look increasingly grim, particularly with the U.S. Congress reportedly preparing to enforce a new round of sanctions.

According to Radio Free Asia, the North also conducted a nationwide air defense exercise earlier this month that reportedly raised alarm among average citizens of the possibility of an impending war.

Nonetheless, the tone of the editorial and other recent releases from the North was far less belligerent than before the country resumed dialogue with South Korea and the United States last year.

The Rodong Sinmun and other outlets have stressed in multiple reports that talks will continue, and even Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui’s forceful speech last week - in which she said the United States showed a “gangster-like” attitude - stopped short of completely ruling out future discussions.

Pyongyang’s response to the standstill in negotiations, meanwhile, has been to shore up relations with Russia. According to Russia’s Tass News Agency, Moscow’s former ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak and several other Russian senators visited Pyongyang on Sunday to discuss the denuclearization issue with top North Korean officials and commemorate the 70th anniversary of an economic and cultural cooperation agreement signed between the two countries in 1949.

A North Korean vice foreign minister was also in Moscow last week to talk to Russian Foreign Ministry officials.

These signs of cozying up with Moscow are fueling speculation that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may visit Russia soon in an attempt to enlist the Kremlin’s support toward breaking the international sanctions regime depressing its frail economy.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]


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