N.K. to hold meeting for exemplary workers on self-reliance at year-end

SEOUL-- North Korea plans to hold a conference of top performers who are leading efforts to overcome economic difficulties under a new slogan of boosting self-reliance at the end of this year, Pyongyang's state media said Thursday.

The central committee of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea decided to convene a meeting of "Mallima pace-setters" in Pyongyang at the end of 2017, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Mallima refers to an imaginary horse that can run extreme distances at a very high speed and the term is used in North Korea to highlight the country's push to get people to produce meaningful results in a speedy manner.

The move will help elevate the "fighting spirit of the Korean people working heroic myth of self-development on all fronts of building a socialist power in the spirit of Kangwon Province," the KCNA said.

The North's leader has called for practicing the spirit of the Kangwon Province as his own self-reliance motto in recent weeks.

Kangwon Province lies in the country's southeastern region where the coastal city of Wonsan, known as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's hometown, is located. In Wonsan, there is the Masikryong ski resort, a pet project of the leader, who is known to love skiing.

Kim first mentioned the spirit of the province in December when he visited a hydroelectric power station in Wonsan. He called those who joined the plant's construction "creators" of the spirit as they practice the principle of self-development.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects the Army-People Power Station in Wonsan, some 145 kilometers east of Pyongyang in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency on Dec. 13, 2016. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

The calls by the leader and the slogans may be a sign that the regime is preparing ordinary North Koreans to brace for another "Arduous March" of economic hardship as the country was slapped by tough international sanctions last year for its nuclear and missile tests, experts say.

The "Arduous March" refers to the drawn-out severe famine and economic difficulties that North Koreans suffered in the mid-to-late 1990s, during which an estimated 3 million North Koreans are believed to have died from hunger.

During the period, late former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il presented a self-development slogan called "Kanggye Spirit" which names after the city in North Korea's northern Jagang Province.

Kanggye was mentioned as an exemplary model for self-reliance as provincial residents withstood economic difficulties during the Arduous March period.

Seoul's unification ministry said that the North's creation of the new motto appears aimed at further exploiting its ordinary people in the face of the tough sanctions regime.

"It indicates that North Korea is feeling the pressure of sanctions," said a ministry official, asking not to be named.

He said that the move also aims to push people in other provinces into bolstering self-development by following in the footsteps in those living in Kangwon.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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