Skip to main content

In first New Year speech, North Korea's Kim Jong Un calls for economic revamp

By Jethro Mullen and Tim Schwarz, CNN
January 2, 2013 -- Updated 1721 GMT (0121 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kim Jong Un wants a "radical" change in North Korea's economic development
  • His New Year's address is the first by a North Korean leader since 1994
  • He says "confrontation" needs to be removed from relationship with South Korea

(CNN) -- In his first New Year's address, the young North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told the nation to embark on "an all-out struggle" to overhaul its destitute economy, while striking a conciliatory tone on relations with the South.

Broadcast on state media, the speech Tuesday was a break from the approach of Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, who died more than a year ago and never made televised addresses during his 17 years in power.

Although Kim Jong Un has cultivated a much less austere public image than his father, he has still maintained the strong emphasis on advancing the reclusive state's military capabilities, and putting a renewed strain on ties with the United States and South Korea.

Person of the Year: Kim Jong Un?
North Korea hopes to launch more rockets
North Korea celebrates rocket launch
North Korea leader comes of age

In his speech, Kim celebrated North Korea's controversial launch last month of a long-range rocket that put a satellite in orbit. Condemned by the United Nations, the move was widely considered to be a test of ballistic missile technology.

Koreas in 2013: Watch the generational politics

The launch was "a great event which inspired all the service personnel and people with confidence in sure victory and courage and clearly showed that Korea does what it is determined to do," Kim said, according to a transcript of his speech published by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

He linked the launch of the rocket to his call to revamp the nation's poverty-stricken economy, which relies heavily on trade with its key ally, China.

"Let us bring about a radical turn in the building of an economic giant with the same spirit and mettle as were displayed in conquering space," Kim said, stressing the need to improve the standard of living of the country's malnourished population.

He didn't however provide details on what kind of measures would be introduced to increase industrial and agricultural output.

Turning to the tense relationship with South Korea, Kim said that removing "confrontation" between the two sides would be important in bringing about their reunification. He criticized the "hostile policy" of "anti-reunification forces" in the South.

His comments come less than two weeks after the election of a new South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, who has promised to pursue greater engagement with Pyongyang than her predecessor did. But her task has been made more complicated by the North's provocative rocket launch last month.

In a speech following her election victory, she said she intended to "open up a new era for the Korean peninsula with strong security and credible diplomacy."

2013: Asia's time?

The two countries are technically still at war, since no peace accord was reached after the all-out armed conflict they fought in the 1950s.

The leader of North Korea at the time of the Korea War was Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of Kim Jong Un. In making Tuesday's televised New Year's address, the younger Kim appears to have rekindled one of his grandfather's traditions.

The last time a North Korean leader made such a speech was in 1994 -- Kim Il Sung's last New Year's address before his death.

During Kim Jong Il's rule between 1994 and last year, the spoken address on January 1 was replaced by an editorial published by state-run newspapers.

The editorial was mandatory study for all citizens, recollecting the achievements of the past year and laying out the tasks for the year ahead, themes apparent in Kim Jong Un's speech Tuesday.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 2, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
As diplomats discuss a string of unsolved kidnappings of Japanese citizens by North Korea, the families of those abducted anxiously wait and hope.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
July 1, 2014 -- Updated 0313 GMT (1113 HKT)
North Korea says it plans to prosecute two American tourists that it detained earlier this year, accusing them of "perpetrating hostile acts."
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 2338 GMT (0738 HKT)
North Korea proposed that "all hostile military activities" with South Korea be halted, but it attached conditions that Seoul is likely to reject.
June 27, 2014 -- Updated 0023 GMT (0823 HKT)
North Korean state news is reporting the country test-launched "cutting-edge ultra precision tactical guided missiles."
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
James Franco won't be following Dennis Rodman into North Korea anytime soon.
June 13, 2014 -- Updated 1104 GMT (1904 HKT)
Don't you hate it when the weatherman gets it wrong? Apparently, so does Kim Jong Un.
June 5, 2014 -- Updated 2344 GMT (0744 HKT)
New signs show Russia and North Korea are developing a closer relationship.
May 22, 2014 -- Updated 0012 GMT (0812 HKT)
Photographer Eric Lafforgue visited North Korea and shares his inside look at the most isolated country in the world.
May 13, 2014 -- Updated 0125 GMT (0925 HKT)
Many North Koreans listen to illegal broadcasts on homemade radios, some are convinced to defect.
May 8, 2014 -- Updated 1926 GMT (0326 HKT)
Jang Jin-Sung, a North Korean defector and former regime insider, speaks with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
May 13, 2014 -- Updated 1406 GMT (2206 HKT)
iReporter Kenny Zhu visited North Korea in April and was able to take video footage and photos with his Google Glass during the trip.
April 29, 2014 -- Updated 1842 GMT (0242 HKT)
North Korea loves saber-rattling. Here's a look at all the firepower they have stockpiled.
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 0003 GMT (0803 HKT)
CNN's Elise Labott reports on the new baby pictures of Kim Jong Un released by North Korean state media.
April 2, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Experts warn that under Kim Jong Un's rule, Pyongyang has shown an even greater willingness to raise the stakes than before.
March 18, 2014 -- Updated 1314 GMT (2114 HKT)
China and North Korea criticize a U.N. report that found crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
March 17, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
Megumi Yokota was only 13 when she was abducted by a North Korean agent in the 1970s. What happened after that?
March 12, 2014 -- Updated 0430 GMT (1230 HKT)
Report: North Korea uses multiple techniques to defy sanctions, and shows no signs of abandoning its nuclear missile programs.
ADVERTISEMENT