30 March 2007

Dear Leader Travel Diary

On the side, I maintain the "Where is Kim Jong Il?" Kim Jong Il tracker. Why? Who knows. But anyway, here is a review of first quarter visits. The 2007 tracker page has details.

The first quarter is almost up, and Kim Jong Il’s inspection tours this quarter have been a typical mix of economic, social and military locations, though military inspections were a bit low this quarter compared to previous first quarters. Kim made four inspections of military sites in the first three months of 2007, including one connected to a tank division.

Number of military sites inspected by Kim Jong Il in the first quarter of previous years:

4 times in the first quarter of 2007

12 times in the first quarter of 2006

3 times in the first quarter of 2005

14 times in the first quarter of 2004

6 times in the first quarter of 2003

6 times in the first quarter of 2002

2 times in the first quarter of 2001

4 times in the first quarter of 2000

7 times in the first quarter of 1999

10 times in the first quarter of 1998

Kim’s main focus this quarter was in the energy and economic realms. Even as the six party talks started and stalled and started and stalled, and as U.S. and South Korean military exercises ramped up, Kim stuck to the economic activities (something he does quite a bit these last few years). There is a major push on internal economic issues, and the six party talks coupled with the Kaesong development are ultimately designed to help spur the DPRK domestic economy. During the quarter, he visited:

the Huichon Machine-Tool Factory

the Youth Electrical Complex in Huichon

the Huichon Ceramic Factory

the newly built Thaechon Youth Power Station No. 4

the Chongjin University of Mining and Metallurgy

the newly built Orangchon Power Station No. 1

the construction site of the Orangchon Dam

the Jangyonho Fish Farm

the Chongjin Primary Seasoning Factory

the newly built Army-People Power Station in Chongjin

the Pakchon Silk Mill in North Phyongan Province

And, as usual, Kim spared time for cultural activities, including:

an art performance given by the Merited State Chorus of the KPA

a visit to the statue of President Kim Il Sung in Ranam District, Chongjin

a visit to the Malum Revolutionary Site in Chongjin

a visit to a room for the preservation and education in slogan-bearing trees in Chongjin

field guidance to Chongjin University of Mining and Metallurgy

the art performance "The Blue Sky over My Country" (Part Dawn.)

a concert given on works created by People's Artiste Jang Ryong Sik

Finally, Kim paid a visit to the Chinese Embassy to mark the Lunar New Year. Much was made of this visit in the press, but in fact it is not all that unusual for Kim to visit the embassy or meet with the Chinese in the first quarter. While in other countries a head of state visit to an embassy is a major deal, in North Korea, so long as it is the Chinese embassy, it is not entirely out of the ordinary. Despite the mixed feelings between DPRK and PRC, North Korea remains heavily reliant upon Chinese goods, services and good will. And the visit to the embassy was a way for North Korea to symbolically show it understood that dependency.

Other key first quarter meetings between Kim and China included:

On March 6, 2000, Kim visited the Chinese embassy.

On January 15-20, 2001, Kim visited China.

On February 10, 2002, Kim met with the incoming Chinese Ambassador (Wu Donghe).

On April 19-21, 2004, Kim visited China (technically in the second quarter)

On January 10-18, 2006, Kim visited China.

And on March 4, 2007, Kim visited the Chinese embassy in Pyongyang.

In addition to these, Kim had several meetings with various Chinese officials visiting North Korea.

So what does all this tell us? Not much. But sometimes watching Kim’s travels can reveal national economic or strategic priorities, and the focus on economic and cultural issues over military ones suggests that DPRK is not feeling any particular pressure after the nuclear test or amid the six party talks. Pyongyang is feeling confident.

No comments: