In a further sign that in spite of its putative isolation the DPRK (North Korea) has mastered the skilful art of perception management through diplomatic means, an official newspaper has published an editorial which praises Donald Trump’s post-Singapore summit attitude towards Pyongyang while lambasting some of Trump’s most hated domestic opponents. The article published in the Rodong newspaper names the Democratic Party, some elements of Trump’s own Republican party and media outlets including CNN and the New York Times as sources of false information and ill-will directed at the current Korean peace process.
In particular, the article discusses reports that ran in CNN and the New York Times which suggested that Pyongyang is hiding a new “secret nuclear facility”. While not using the infamous phrase “fake news” to deride such reports, the implication is clear. In naming the enemies of peace as the same institutions and sets of individuals within the United States that Trump has called the “enemy of the people”, Pyongyang is making a direct appeal to Trump to hold fast against his domestic opponents who continue to argue for the imposition of further sanctions throughout the de-nuclearisation process which the editorial assures is continuing in good faith from the DPRK side.
Crucially, the publication of the article coincides with a short video that the US President Tweeted in which he defends his record of meeting foreign leaders in order to discuss new peace and cooperation measures. In the video he spoke primarily of the DPRK Chairman Kim Jong-un while also mentioning the Russian President whom he met this summer in Finland.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 18, 2018
The article in question further serves as a kind of encourage designed to aid Trump in his own private battles with anti-peace process officials in Washington and the open anti-peace process stance of much of the American liberal mainstream media. This is the case because the DPRK is clearly enjoying the new reality of being in an advantageous position of being simultaneously courted by elements of the three global superpowers who are all keen to work on developing the country’s largely closed economy. While those mentioned in the Rodong article are indeed attempting to retard American enthusiasm in respect of new economic cooperation measures with the powers of the Korean peninsula, when it comes to the wider world, the proverbial peace horse has long bolted from the stables and will simply not be shoved back inside.
On the contrary, next month will see visits to Pyongyang from both South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Chinese Preisdent Xi Jinping. Likewise, Russian authorities are working to arrange Kim Jong-un’s first meeting with President Vladimir Putin who last visited Pyongyang during his first full year in power – the year 2000.
Meanwhile, just months after the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, a joint North/South Korean team has marched under a unity flag at the opening of the current Asian Games in Indonesia. Furthermore, with both Russia and China openly rejecting a new round of US sanctions on the DPRK and with both of the DPRK’s neighbours to the north appearing to seek the expansion of economic openness into the DPRK as an integral part of the peace process, the US position of caution regarding rapid economic engagement with Pyongyang is now out of step with the broader international consensus that includes all of the DPRK’s neighbours including and perhaps most importantly South Korea.
While Donald Trump has recently defended his record with the DPRK and while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continues to speak in a spirit of optimism regarding the ongoing peace process, for Pyongyang, an increasingly confident nation that is already looking to a post-peace process future of economic revitalisation, present matters are focused on helping to encourage optimism within the US while also expressing outrage at the factions in the American elite who continue to undermine the peace process both openly and covertly. In this sense, the DPRK is appealing to Trump on both a holistic and personal level – both an emotional and pragmatic level. If anything this is a further sign that a good personal relationship was developed between the two leaders during the course of June’s Singapore summit.
Because of this, it can be said that the DPRK is continuing its masterful use of diplomacy in order to shape world opinion in its favour when at this time last year the UN Security Council was unanimous in its condemnation of continued missile and nuclear tests in the country. Today, the few sources that are sceptical of the current peace process are genreally confined to some of Donald Trump’s domestic opponents and the increasingly small South Korean far-right. This shift is itself symptomatic of Kim Jong-un’s desire to modernise the economy as was made clear during his latest proclamation that he seeks to fully automate DPRK industry using cutting edge artificial intelligence technology.
Under the leadership of Kim Jong-un, the DPRK’s generally under-reported economic expansion, infrastructural boom and improvements to social infrastructure have made it clear that the country’s young leader has pursued reformist measures in the domestic sphere even before embarking on an historic peace process with South Korea and the United States. In spite of sanctions, the DPRK economy has widely expanded in recent years and the medium term goal of lifting sanctions in-line with the peace process has lead to Kim thinking about the next steps that should be taken to improve the material condition of the people.
One of the biggest breakthroughs in industry in the last decade has been the increased automation of factories through the use of robotics informed by artificial intelligence (AI). China is fast becoming a pioneer in both as the Made in China 2025 drive along with President Xi Jinping’s desire to pivot the country’s industrial base towards AI and away from manual labour looks to open up new avenues of entrepreneurialism as part of the wider Created in China project.
Crucially, unlike in neo-liberal economic systems where an increase in robotics tends to lead to unemployment in otherwise well paid industrial workforces, under the Chinese market-socialist model, the profits generated by the human hand or by a robotic hand will ultimately be re-invested into the same sources, namely public infrastructure, housing, education, health, culture and further industrial research and development.
In this respect, the Chinese model is well-equipped not only to effectively manage the coming AI/robotics revolution in industry but it is able to rapidly take advantage of this by opening up new opportunities for a workforce whose future vocations will be aided by the profits generated by machines. As Kim Jong-un has already introduced some rudimentary economic reforms which hint at an early stage pivot towards a Juche version of the Chinese Market Socialist model, it is only natural that Kim should look to the robotics/AI revolution as a means of modernising the DPRK’s industrial infrastructure and in so doing, pave the way for a radically different economic future for his nation.
During a recent tour of a factory in Sinuiju near the Chinese border, Kim Jong-un stated,
“It is important to completely eliminate manual labour and modernise production processes”
The clear implication behind this statement is that Kim looks to emulate China’s forward looking automated drive and duplicated it in his own nation. Seeing as the DPRK has a much smaller population than China, it is now conceivable that over the next decade, the DPRK’s industrial economy could become among the most highly automated in the world.
Without having to gradually modernise the country’s industrial infrastructure, the leadership in Pyongyang can instead set an agenda for a wholesale change in the country’s industrial development, one which aims at fully automating all existing and future factories based on the latest, most sustainable technologies. As a revitalised partnership with China looks set to expand as the current peace process continues, there is every possibility that the use of Chinese technology combined with home-grown research could help to make the DPRK a future economic pioneer – thus representing a radical departure from the current state of affairs where North Korean industry tends to lack the technological innovations present in South Korea, China and Japan.
The transformation of the DPRK’s economy will certainly not happen overnight, but by indicating a forward looking policy of modernisation through total automation, the DPRK can in the medium term, reap the benefits of being catapulted into the economic future through bypassing the stages of industrial development in which it has been left behind in the last several decades. By taking a proverbial great leap forward in respect of automation and artificial intelligence, the DPRK may soon be at the cusp of a new industrial revolution that will not only equal but potentially surpass that of nations which are today at the forefront of industrial technology and innovation.