North Korea’s cabinet to tighten control of economy

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North Korea’s cabinet will tighten its grip on the economy after the shock execution of leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle, whose control over key sectors weakened the country’s finances, a senior official said on Friday.

Jang Song-thaek, the once powerful uncle and political regent to the young leader, was executed on December 12 on charges of corruption and plotting a coup, but his growing influence over lucrative minerals business angered Kim Jong-un and other top officials.

Jang’s excessive intervention contributed to the North’s economic troubles, Kim Jong-ha, chief secretary of the secretariat of the cabinet said in an interview with the Choson Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan.

“The cabinet will fulfill its function properly as a control tower of the economy,” he said, adding that it was trying to regain control over projects and put them in order.

North Korea will also move to independently produce and reprocess coal and other natural resources for exports, the official said.

The impoverished but mineral-rich North has sought for years to bolster its crumbling economy by increasing exports of minerals.

It has sold mining rights to China investors who control much of its resources business.

Jang’s purge and execution sparked speculation that he had lost out in a power struggle with hardline army generals, but South Korea’s spy chief Nam Jae-joon told parliament on Monday that it had stemmed from his attempt to control lucrative state businesses especially related to coal.

Choson Sinbo backed Nam’s claim and quoted the cabinet official as saying that Jang had put state businesses under his control.

About 88 per cent of North Korea’s total foreign trade last year involved China, according to figures earlier this year from the South’s Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.

It said exports to China, mostly coal and iron ore, were worth US$2.4 billion in 2012.

South Korea estimates the total value of mineral deposits in the North at US$6.3 trillion dollars.

Source : Channel News Asia | January 3, 2014

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