Co-pursuit of economy, military
Kim Il Sung’s parallel pursuit of economy and defense was a transition point in North Korea’s modern history. In 1962, he proposed the policy of “a gun in one hand, and a hammer and sickle in the other.” Park Chung Hee had been in power for one year then. Kim’s policy became official in 1966, and North Korea announced it spent 30 percent of its budget for the next five years. It is estimated that about 19 percent was used on defense before then.
In 1970, Kim Il Sung addressed in the fifth party convention that the defense expenses were too burdensome for the population of North Korea. He extended the first seven-year economic plan (1961-67) by three years. The consequences of excessive military spending were serious. South Korea’s economy surpassed that of North Korea.
In the last years of his life, Kim Il Sung came up with a new policy. He extended the third seven-year economic plan (1987-1993) by another three years and gave priority to agriculture, light industry and trade. Then-Prime Minister Kang Song-san said in a report that the North Korean economy lost the speed and balance of development, and the main cause was defense reinforcement due to war threats. Obsession with nuclear weapons also played a part.
Between nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, Kim Il Sung chose the former. South Korea’s nuclear energy became the foundation for industrialization, while North Korea’s nuclear program became the black hole for international sanctions. The final destination of the parallel pursuit was the Arduous March in the mid-1990s.
March 31 will be the third anniversary of Kim Jong-un’s succession of his grandfather’s legacy. He explained that it was an effective way to enhance defense capability without increasing defense spending. He means that North Korea can make up for the imbalance of conventional military strength between South and North Korea with asymmetrical strength in nuclear weapons.
This year’s nuclear test and long-range missile launch were inevitable outcomes. North Korea’s public mobilization movement, the “70 Days Campaign,” was predicted. In order to endure the international sanctions, people need to tighten their belts. What’s concerning is Pyongyang’s military adventurism. During Kim Il Sung’s parallel pursuit, the 1968 Blue House attack and capture of the USS Pueblo happened. The official in charge of South Korean affairs at the time was Heo Bong-hak. We need to be thoroughly prepared.
It is hard to predict the outcomes of international sanctions. The problem is the direction of the sanctions. While there are various views and theories, abandonment of the parallel pursuit policy would be desirable. It is hard to work with neighbors if we adhere to replacing the Pyongyang regime. And there will be no end to confrontation.
When North Korea learns that nuclear development has consequences, the international nonproliferation system can be maintained. It is foolish to confront the North’s nuclear weapons with nuclear development. When we adhere to a peaceful nuclear policy, other countries’ concern for reunification will diminish. North Korea cannot enjoy white rice and beef soup with nuclear weapons in one hand and missiles on the other. We need policy conviction and patience now.
The author is the Tokyo bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 15, Page 34
by OH YOUNG-HWAN