North Korea Steps Up Ideological Campaign Amid Tensions

nk-military-rally-dec-2013.jpg North Korean troops march in a memorial rally for Kim Jong Un's father Kim Jong Il outside the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang, Dec. 16, 2013.

Authorities in North Korea have ramped up an ideological education campaign aimed at strengthening leader Kim Jong Un’s grip on power amid tensions following the execution of his powerful uncle, who had allegedly admitted to attempts to overthrow the young Kim, sources in the country said.

The campaign uses tributes to Kim’s father Kim Jong Il on the second anniversary of his death to promote allegiance to the family dynasty as the young leader removes most of the old guard close to his father—including uncle Jang Song Thaek—and brings in his own inner group.

Jang, widely regarded as the de facto number two in the hard-line communist state, was sentenced to death by a military tribunal for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government. The state news agency KCNA called him “despicable human scum” and “worse than a dog” in a dispatch announcing his death.

Kim Jong Un stepped up the ideological education campaign in recent weeks, combining memorials held for his father, who died of a heart attack on Dec. 17, 2011, with efforts to bolster North Korea’s ruling ideology, the “Ten Principles for the Establishment of a Monolithic Ideological System,” according to the sources.

Massive rally

On Monday, tens of thousands of soldiers pledged allegiance to Kim Jong Un at a massive rally held in tribute to his father, and more memorial activities for Kim Jong Il are expected on Tuesday.

Sources said that in the run-up to the anniversary, workers and students have been required to study the “Ten Principles” as well as attend regular silent tributes to Kim Jong Il.  

“Ideological education to consolidate the monolithic leadership of the Korean Workers’ Party is being implemented at every working group,” a source in Yanggang province told RFA’s Korean Service.  

“[Even] workers at factories that need to be running are taken off the job to study the ‘Ten Principles,’” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

All workers are required to attend tributes held at statues and mosaics of Kim Jong Il on their way to and from work, and children from preschool through high school hold silent prayers once a day at lunchtime, he said.

Students can be sent home if they fail to memorize and recite the “Ten Principles” correctly, the source said.

Foundation for idolization

The tenets were first announced in 1974 by Kim Jong Il in the process of his anointment as his father Kim Il Sung’s successor. They form the foundation for idolization of the Kim dynasty.  

Following Kim Jong Il’s death, the junior Kim updated the principles in a bid to legitimize the hereditary succession.

The ideological education drive promoting the tenets has been strictly enforced, with those who arrive late or who are seen to not be paying enough attention during the study sessions targeted for criticism, another source in Yanggang province said.

For many, the rigid promotion of the ideological education campaign has created a tense atmosphere in their workplaces, with people warning each other not to crack jokes and greeting each other with a reminder to mind their language, the source said.

Attendance at the silent memorials for Kim Jong Il before and after work was also strictly monitored, he said.

“When people go to the statues of Kim Jong Il, there is a roll call for 100 percent attendance,” the source said.

“After going to work, we also need to check staff frequently. After leaving the office, we can’t go out freely because of the tightened security.”  

Anniversary meeting

According to South Korean officials who monitor developments in the North, top officials in Pyongyang could hold a meeting on Tuesday to mark the second anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s death, the South's Yonhap News Agency reported.

Kim Jong Un paid his respects to his father late Monday with a visit to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, the family mausoleum in Pyongyang where Kim Jong Il’s and Kim Il Sung’s embalmed bodies lie in rest.

Tens of thousands of soldiers gathered at the square next to the mausoleum on Monday for a mass rally in tribute to Kim Jong Il, North Korean state media reported.

During the rally, the soldiers swore an oath to protect Kim Jong Un with their lives, according to the captions on photos released by KCNA, reports said.

The rally was the latest public display of military support for Kim, the commander of the country’s 1.1 million-strong military, since Jang’s execution on Thursday.

The execution came after Jang was stripped of all posts, expelled from the ruling Workers' Party, and accused of mismanagement of the state financial system, womanizing, and alcohol abuse.

Reported by Sung Hui Moon for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Doeun Han. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

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