North Korea has been trumpeting that it will become a "powerful and prosperous nation" by next year, the centenary of regime founder Kim Il-sung. But leader Kim Jong-il's death 14 days before the New Year leaves experts guessing whether the regime will stick to the pipe dream.
Becoming a "powerful and prosperous nation" had been among the regime's propaganda slogans since Kim Jong-il became chairman of the National Defense Commission in 1998. The slogan, along with the "military-first" policy, has become symbolic of the Kim Jong-il regime.
The North has never presented the details of the plan. But experts think there is a three-pronged blueprint including the hereditary transfer of power through three generations, acquisition of nuclear arms, and restoring the economy to at least the level of the mid- and late 1980s.
The economic goal is the hardest to achieve. Amid a dire food shortage, slogans of power and prosperity are bound to ring hollow. To save face given its extravagant promises, Pyongyang is asking for rice aid from the international community and private NGOs. The regime has also been carrying out frantic construction projects such as building 100,000 housing units in the capital, restarting works on the 105-story Ryugyong Hotel and putting up the Huicheon Power Plant in Jagang Province.
An official here said the regime urgently needs tangible results so they will try to repackage existing achievements. "This year's harvest was better than in previous years," he said. "The North has secured enough food to hand out rations until April 15, the birthday of Kim Il-sung, by purchasing or securing aid of over 300,000 tons of food from China."
Prof. Kim Yong-hyun of Dongguk University believes Pyongyang will stick to the slogan for the time being. Kim Jong-un will rule the country based on his father's wishes for a certain period of time, so he is likely to use the planned ceremonial events next April as a means to consolidate his power.
But if all else fails the regime could simply cancel the events using Kim Jong-il's death as an excuse, said Prof. Kim Keun-sik of Kyungnam University.