중앙데일리

Kims want to ‘renovate’ Pyongyang for people

But analysts say the motivation is to strengthen military, conscript more men

Feb 09,2011
North Korea’s leadership wants “renovations” of its capital city of Pyongyang, a South Korean government source said yesterday, and much of the so-called renovations will reflect the rising power of the military.

The source said that leader Kim Jong-il and heir-apparent Kim Jong-un had given orders to hand the Ministry of Capital City Construction Development over to the military.

The source also said military men took over key positions in the ministry.

The modernization of the capital is a long-term project that began in 2001. The Ministry of Capital City Construction Development was included in the cabinet in that year.

In 2006, Kim Jong-il’s brother-in-law Jang Song-thaek, often called the second-most powerful man in North Korea, took charge of the ministry.

It is unclear, however, whether Jang will continue to head the ministry after the military takes over.

The change is being seen as part of North Korea’s often stated goal of becoming a “strong and prosperous country” by 2012.

That will also include improving Pyongyang and the economy as a whole, with the military controlling much of the activity.

Temporary youth brigades were mobilized last September to help with construction throughout the country. They were assigned to military brigades as regular soldiers.

North Korea analysts have said that the change in the ministry was for “mobilization and stronger control.”

“North Korea has recently stopped calling laborers and farmers the ‘leaders of the revolution,’ and said the soldiers are,” said Jung Chang-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Kookmin University in Seoul.

“Assigning civilian groups to the military means that the leadership aims to mobilize the people and gain effective control to create a strong and prosperous country by next year,” Jung added.

Kim Jong-il said in October 1996, during a speech honoring the 50th anniversary of Kim Il Sung University: “Only the military can be trusted.”

Kim’s reliance on the military and the mobilization of civilians into the military reflects his songun, or “military-first,” ideology.

The moves also aim to solidify Kim Jong-un as the next leader of North Korea, with his name on the orders along with his father’s. If the projects improve people’s lives, the positive results can be attributed to Kim Jong-un, said Lee Jo-won, professor of political science at Chung-Ang University in Seoul.


By Jeong Yong-soo [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]



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