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Faster than a galloping horse!

Jean-François Fitou - 29 July 2016

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Chollima is a kind of legendary Pegasus which served as the emblem of the country’s reconstruction after the Korean War. The aim was to redouble efforts to equip the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) with adequate industrial infrastructure and rebuild the country’s big cities, starting with Pyongyang. This campaign was given the name of Chollima or “horse travelling 1,000 ri” a day, during which the objectives set were of course exceeded and time limits proved unnecessary, as over generous. A popular expression arose from that zeal to build at a gallop: “North Korean speed” or “Pyongyang speed” (most urban infrastructure works took place in the capital). As to the ri, it is the unit of measurement of distance used in North Korea (1 ri = 390 metres or 1,280 feet).

This campaign dating back to an age that was heroic (and viewed as so) has left North Koreans filled with a sense of pride in themselves and the feats performed at the time. Chollima is today a statue in central Pyongyang. It has also given its name to exemplary achievements illustrating North Korean enthusiasm when it comes to manufacturing quickly and effectively. Tractors and buses proudly bear the name of the legendary horse.

This is no secret: since Kim Jong-un came to power, great efforts have been made to revive the memories of the time of Kim Il-sung, and this has aroused a certain patriotic nostalgia. The decision to organize further mobilization campaigns to produce and build more, better and faster therefore hardly came as a surprise.
This year, the “battle of 70 days” ended in May. On 1 June, the “200-day battle” started and it is scheduled to end on 19 December, which is the anniversary of the death of Kim Jong-il. The biggest working site of these collective battles is now taking shape in Pyongyang with the construction of Ryomyong Street whose future skyscrapers will accommodate teachers and researchers, especially those from nearby Kim Il-sung University, which will celebrate the 70th anniversary of its foundation.

But at a time when everything is accelerating and being exaggerated, Chollima is now inadequate as the slogan for mobilization. The new North Korean economic speed campaign is called Mallima or “1,000 ri horse”. Mallima therefore stands for a speed ten times swifter than the wonderful creature of the past, which, in comparison, will be made to look like a likeable and peaceful old Rosinante.

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