July 03, 2018 13:01
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last week harangued factory workers in the border town of Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province in a rare outburst that belies the cuddly image he has lately been projecting to the world.
According to the North's official Korean Central News Agency on Monday, Kim told workers in a chemical fiber factory, "You are trying to start trial production by putting valuable equipment in a decrepit building that looks like a stable. The building has been repaired haphazardly, and everything is being done recklessly without relying on intelligent modernization methods and technical manuals."
Kim accused management at the collective enterprise of lacking any sense of responsibility. "The manager, party director and chief engineer are busy passing the blame on each other, and nobody can answer questions properly." Kim even said, "I've visited countless units, but I've never seen workers like this."
Kim also blamed his cabinet for the poor management of factories. "The cabinet and officials responsible at the Ministry of Chemical Industry have neglected modernizing the factory and failed to provide proper guidance and management," he said.
"It is obvious why the chemicals industry has failed to recover for years while only making excuses. I can only be very concerned about the cabinet's ability to lead economic projects when I see the state of the chemicals industry. This is extremely serious."
Kim continued to lambast workers at a textile factory in Sinuiju. "Workers are not interested in normalizing operations and merely complain about a lack of materials and funding," he said. "The laborers and working class of this factory have simply given up in the face of adversity and have gone into hibernation."
KCNA said the textile factory opened in 1959 at the orders of nation founder Kim Il-sung and added Kim Jong-un "was heartbroken to see the factory failing to live up to its proud tradition."
It is very rare for Kim to chastise workers openly, and whenever state media did report such instances, brutal punishment ensued.
One example was Kim's inspection of a turtle farm in May of 2015 which had been built at the orders of his father Kim Jong-il. "I am at a loss of words to see how this factory ended up in such a sorry state," he lamented at the time. The factory manager was executed by firing squad soon after, according to Thae Yong-ho, the former No. 2 man in the North Korean Embassy in London.
The latest outburst came at a time when expectations are high of more Chinese-North Korean joint economic projects. The fact that he chose to visit Sinuiju, a major hub of cross-border trade, suggests he is desperate to spur workers in the region.
North Pyongan Province is also home to Hwanggumpyong and Wihwa Island, where a joint economic zone between China and North Korea has been in the planning for years.
Kim may also be trying to pass the blame for the North's economic failure on the cabinet should prolonged sanctions take a deeper bite.
But he may simply have been dismayed at the sorry state of North Korean industry amid international sanctions. One source said, "This is the first time this year that Kim Jong-un made any on-site tour of factories in outlying provinces. He was probably shocked to see them idling."
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