This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
North Korea is forcing citizens to attend propaganda lectures to promote the newly passed “Nuclear Forces Policy Act,” which authorizes leader Kim Jong Un to order a preemptive nuclear strike to counter threats, but people are griping that the lectures waste time while they struggle to make a living, sources in the country told RFA.
The rubber-stamp Supreme People’s Assembly approved the new law last week, after which Kim vowed in a speech to never give up nuclear weapons, moves that sparked deep concern from members of the international community who hope to find a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue.
The government organized a week of lectures to explain to the public how the law enhances North Korea’s defensive capabilities, and to highlight its passage as an example of Kim’s greatness, an official from Hyesan in the northern province of Ryanggang told RFA’s Korean Service Monday on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
“Today, an intensive lecture promoting the Nuclear Forces Policy Act was held for all residents. But the residents are responding to the lecture, in short, negatively,” said the source. “Lectures will be held every day this week in each institution, company, and region,” he said, adding that 100 percent of the population must attend all week.
“Today’s lecture emphasized that as long as Kim Jong Un breathes, we must have faith that victory will soon follow,” he said.
Shortly after the law was passed, citizens began speculating on why, so the authorities say the lectures are supposed to prevent rumors from spreading, according to the source.
“People have been talking about the new law, saying they passed it because closed-door talks with other countries to get financial aid without giving up nuclear weapons have failed,” the source said.
The source did not specify which closed-door talks the people were referring to, however, summits in 2018 and 2019 between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump failed to produce an agreement on sanctions relief for partial denuclearization. North Korea has additionally held summits with South Korea, China and Russia during the same time frame.
Citizens generally do not like hearing about the nuclear issue because they are more concerned with making ends meet while the economy is in dire circumstances, according to the source.
“The residents are very aware right now that the development and possession of nuclear weapons are not helping their lives at all, so they think the order to attend lectures about it is a waste of time,” the source said.
“They accuse the government of benign paranoid … making a fuss as if the U.S. is on the brink of attacking us,” he said.
In addition to the lectures that justify the new law, the citizens in the northeastern province of North Hamgyong must also study Kim Jong Un’s speech to the Supreme People’s Assembly last week, an official in the province’s Onsong county told RFA on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
Many residents did not react favorably to Kim’s promise to keep North Korea nuclear, he said.
“They are concerned about the negative consequences of the adoption of this new policy, saying that the country’s economy and residents’ lives have reached a tipping point,” the second source said..
The lectures will also focus on the country’s achievements in Kim Jong Un’s first 10 years as ruler, and its successes in the struggle to construct a socialist society, he said.
Warning from Seoul
In response to the North’s new nuclear law, South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense issued a stern warning Tuesday.
“Should North Korea attempt to use nuclear arms, it would face the overwhelming response from the South Korea-U.S. alliance, and its regime would enter a path of self-destruction,” ministry spokesperson Moon Hong-sik told a press briefing.