North Korean Central Party's Propaganda and Agitation Department has sprung into action after discovering images of leader Kim Jong Un and his predecessors or the so-called "No. 1 publications" being treated as scrap.
The propaganda authorities recently found the photographs of the leadership from recycled publications in scrap and will now be conducting an investigation and take strict action against local officials for the lack of respect.
The inspections will be in a bid to impart "ideological education" in regional offices of the ruling Korean Workers' Party and enforcing respect for the Kims. However, as officials scramble for visits, several residents have dismissed the inspections as just another opportunity for the inspectors to collect bribes as enforcing respect for the Kims is mostly a means of control by fear.
Another Way of Propaganda
The inspection has been ordered because people are allowing books and newspapers containing the No.1 publications, or artwork by Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un, to be sold as scrap and damaging their value, which is strictly against the rules in North Korea. The inspections will be conducted under the supervision of the Central Party's Propaganda and Agitation Department.
The so called propaganda exercise is being termed as "Ideological Inspections" by the Central Party. "The purpose of this inspection is to further strengthen the ideological education of local government officials and residents through the process of censuring and criticizing the effectiveness of the local government agencies' ideological education projects," said an official of North Hamgyong province to RFA, requesting anonymity for security reasons.
The inspections are aimed at finding out the role of local governments in ensuring that people don't disrespect the No.1 publications of the country and will be held responsible if they are found to have failed in doing so. The authorities have also ordered strict punishment of such acts like selling portraits and images of their leaders in scrap, because they "go against the party and compromise its authority and that of its leaders," the official said.
No One to be Spared
Kim Jong Un took over the reins of the country in 2011 following the death of his father Kim Jong Il. The Kim family, the only rulers the country has known since it was founded in 1948, has been the focus of government-enforced worship for decades.
Disrespecting the portraits of the family is no less than a criminal offence in North Korea and hence this move by the country's propaganda machinery. The inspection orders have been sent out to officials, workers and members of the Kimilsungist-Kimjongilist Youth League, a youth group modeled after the Soviet Komsomol, "to thoroughly manage No. 1 publications and also to educate and control the people so that they don't sell them as scrap paper."
The authorities will check each provincial party committee on how the No. 1 publications are distributed to lower-level organizations. The officials are nervous because the authorities mentioned punishing responsible officials for the damaged publications. In fact, officials in North Hamgyong, where the portraits were reportedly fund to be sold as scrap, are now struggling to rectify everything possible ahead of the inspections. The inspection goes beyond just printed material and also includes old videos of the leaders that have deteriorated in quality over time.
However, there is another objective to the inspections. Residents of the neighboring Ryanggang province believe that the inspections are aimed mainly at stoking fear and only offer more opportunities for officials to collect bribes. That said, this is the first time the Central Party has ordered an inspection on damage to No.1 Publications, so not only local party officials, but also local residents are equally worried.