Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific header image 2

North Korean – Kangsŏng taekuk kŏnsŏl

May 26th, 2011 · No Comments · Independence, Korean (North), State, Territorial Integrity


kangsŏng taekuk kŏnsŏl

‘Building of the powerful state’

Relates to state

The concept first emerged in 1998, and now is announced to be the main policy goal for 2007-2008. There is reference to this strategy being accomplished by 2012, the year of the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung.

For all its popularity the concept suffers from a certain logical inconsistency. According to the North Korean political discourse, the socialist DPRK already is a powerful state where people live 부럼 없이” purŏm ŏpsi – that is, ‘envying nobody in the world’and this is a major life accomplishment of the “great leader number one”, Kim Il Sung. At the same time, the same discourse depicts the building of the powerful state as still a goal set by the “great leader number two”, Kim Jong Il, and it is said that this goal has yet to be accomplished by the North Korean people – as one of the tactics employed to protect the country in the case of threat. Characteristically, the subject of the dire economic problems which have been experienced in recent decades has never been raised in the context of the “powerful state”.

Pyongyang propagandists solve this dilemma quite simply: they omit mentioning any economic dimensions of the ‘powerful state’, be it an accomplishment or a goal, so it remains unclear what has been done, or what has to be done in the North Korean economy in real financial terms. Instead, it is constantly stressed that the ‘powerful state’ has to be built ‘relying on North Korea’s own strengths’, thus repeating the old juch’e truism. In accordance with the long-term practice of the socialist countries – where they used to present as ‘battles’ any mundane chores (the annual ‘battle for harvest’ is one of the typical expression of the Soviet-North Korean political parlor) the building of the powerful state is presented as ‘battle’ – ‘battle’ which will demand new sacrifices from the North Korean people. That is why, although initially the motto raised hopes that the DPRK would choose Chinese or South Korean courses of economic reforms, foreign experts now agreed that kangsŏn taekuk kŏnsŏl is not supported by any realistic economic program: it is barely more than another general political campaign with no concrete goal.



조국 땅 우 에 국력이 강하고 모든 것이 흥하며 인민들이 세상에 부럽 없이 잘 사는 사회주의 강성대국을 건설하는 것은 위대한 수령님의 한평생의 뜻이고 위업이였다. 선군 혁명의 불길 속에서 다져진 강력한 정치 군사적 위력에 의거하여 우리 경제와 인민 생활을 높은 수준에 올려 세움으로써 2012년에 기어이 강성대국의 대문을 활짝 열어 놓으려는 것이 우리 당의 결심이고 의지이다.[1]

The building of the powerful socialist state with mighty national potential, with everything thriving, with people who live without envying anyone in the world, was the aim of the whole life of the Great Leader [Kim Il Sung] and his great achievement.  Our Party [now] has determination and will to raise our economy and the lives of our people to a high level, to open wide the gates of the powerful state until 2012. It will be done under the auspices of mighty political and military powers which have hardened in the flame of the military-first revolution.”

The authors of the passage above found a curious way to evade the usual inconsistency of the ‘building of powerful state’ concept which leaves doubts if the powerful state is an accomplished achievement or still an aim. Here, Kim Il Sung’s government has triumphantly ‘achieved’ the ‘powerful state’, and Kim Jong Il’s government just have to ‘open wide the gates’ of the same ‘powerful state’. Also note the association of the intent to ‘raise the economy’ with the completely non economic concept of the ‘military first revolution’—the association which made many foreign observers not to take seriously economic declarations of the North Korean regime.


오늘 우리 군대와 인민은 위대한 당의 선군 령도 따라 사회주의강성대국건설을 위한 혁명적 진군을 힘있게 다그쳐나가고 있다.[2]

“Under the military-first leadership of our Party, our army and people are actively conducting a revolutionary march for the building of the socialist powerful state.”

Here, again, the building of the ‘powerful state’ is depicted as a ‘revolutionary march’ not some coherent economic strategy.


우리가 건설하는 사회주의 강성대국은 우리 인민의 힘과 기술, 우리의 자원에 의거하여 일떠서는 자력갱생의 강성대국이다.[3]

The powerful socialist state which we are constructing now is the powerful state which rejuvenates our own efforts, which are based upon the strength and technology of our people, upon our own resources.”

Note the incorporation of the old juch’e truism (reliance on our own strength) in the supposedly new concept of the “powerful state”.


강성대국 건설을 위한 우리의 투쟁 목표와 과업은 비상히 높고 방대하여 우리 앞에는 의연히 많은 시련과 난관이 가로 놓여 있다.[4]

“The goals and ambitions of our struggle for the building of the powerful state are extremely huge and enormous, and a lot of ordeals and obstacles lie in front of us.”

Once again, the people of North Korea are summoned to tighten their belts and make sacrifices, now for the sake of another promise of future happiness, the ‘building of the powerful state’.



[1] “Konghwakuk ch’angkŏn 60tolŭl majŭn olhaerŭl chokuk ch’ŏngsae arosaegyŏjil yŏksajŏk chŏnghwanŭi haero pinnaeija” [Let Us Celebrate This Year of the 60th Anniversary of the Founding of the DPRK as a Pivotal Historical Year which will be Inscribed in the History of Our Country”]. Nodong Sinmun, 2008, the 1st of January, 1.


[2] “Uri siktaero saranagaja”, I kuho rŭl tŏuk ch’ŏljŏhi kuhyŏnhaja”[ Let us more consistently promote a slogan “Let us survive our way”], Nodong sinmun,2008, 7th of May, 1.

[3] “Uri siktaero saranagaja”, I kuho rŭl tŏuk ch’ŏljŏhi kuhyŏnhaja”[ Let us more consistently promote a slogan “Let us survive our way”], Nodong sinmun,2008, 7th of May, 1.


[4] “Uri siktaero saranagaja”, I kuho rŭl tŏuk ch’ŏljŏhi kuhyŏnhaja”[ Let us more consistently promote a slogan “Let us survive our way”], Nodong sinmun,2008, 7th of May, 1.



No Comments so far ↓

There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment