Kim Jong-il Turns Attention to Economy

      August 16, 2010 08:54

      North Korean leader Kim Jong-il seems to be putting the priority on his impoverished country's economy as it groans under international sanctions and foreign currency supplies dry up, analysis of his so-called on-the-spot guidance tours reported in the North Korean media suggests.    

      Kim made a total of 77 of these trips in the first half of this year, the same as in the corresponding period last year, and 33 of them had to do with business, according to the Unification Ministry analysis. The number was 27 last year. He also made 21 trips to military installations, down from 27 last year.

      The senior official who accompanied Kim Jong-il most was his sister Kim Kyong-hui, the head of the Workers Party's light industry department, with 56 times. She was followed by her husband Jang Song-taek, vice chairman of the National Defense Commission (45 times); Kim Ki-nam, secretary of the party's Central Committee (40 times); and party secretary Choe Thae-bok.    

      Kim Kyong-hui was not among the top 10 aides last year. A South Korea security official said her role "appears to have expanded as Kim Jong-il concentrates on the economy."

      The North Korean media report Stakhanovite success stories every day. Korean Central Broadcasting claimed power production during the first half of the year increased more than 1.2 times over the same period last year, while the official Korean Central News Agency said several factories are producing above target.

      "North Korea's frequent references to the economy paradoxically indicate its economic woes," said Prof. Kim Young-soo of Chungang University. "But Kim Jong-il insists on self-reliance in dealing with them."  A Unification Ministry official speculated a food shortage in the North due to cold weather and unrest in the aftermath of the botched currency reform last year seem to have prompted false propaganda in an attempt to mitigate public grievances.

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