WONSAN, North Korea – North Koreans are being mobilized en masse to boost production and demonstrate their loyalty to leader Kim Jong Un in a 70-day campaign aimed at wiping out "indolence and slackness."
To show their loyalty, workers are putting in extra hours to boost production in everything from coal mining to fisheries. Bright red flags and propaganda posters have gone up around the country to emphasize the importance of meeting or exceeding production targets.
"Our work has become more difficult than usual," said Nam Myong Hu, who supervises operations of a 5,000-ton refrigerator at the Sinpho Fishery station. "There is no distinction between the start and end time of work, and we sleep at the workplace."
North Korea has employed mass campaigns to boost production, often ahead of landmark events, many times before. They were common in other Communist and socialist countries before the fall of the Soviet Union.
Most outside economists doubt the long-term significance of such efforts. In the rush to meet or exceed quotas, quality can suffer, and pressure to show good results can lead to over-reporting actual outcomes. Short-term campaigns don't address larger, systemic economic issues that cause economic underperformance to begin with.
Because they do have political and ideological value, however, the campaigns are likely to remain a fact of life in North Korea.
This one was called in February to rally the nation ahead of a major ruling party congress scheduled for May. Kim is expected to use the congress to showcase his achievements and power — and potentially announce a roadmap for the country's future political and economic strategies.
The loyalty campaign comes as North Korea is under heavy pressure from the outside world over its recent nuclear test and rocket launch, both of which are banned under United Nations resolutions, and as the United States and South Korea are holding their largest-ever joint military exercises just south of the Demilitarized Zone.
The campaign, according to a recent editorial in the ruling party newspaper, is aimed at "combating indolence and slackness and making a clean sweep of outdated ideological hangovers such as flunkeyism, experientialism, self-protection and conservatism," while also emphasizing the country's "might of self-development."
Eric Talmadge reported from Tokyo.