January 07, 2011 08:16
The North Korean regime wants to divert some of budget for the all-powerful military to the civilian sector and increase exports of mineral resources to China in its Quixotic quest to become "a powerful and prosperous nation" by 2012.
A senior member of the Workers Party who attended a meeting held in Chongjin, North Hamgyong Province on Monday was quoted by Radio Free Asia as saying, "This year, the party decided to divert some of the budget earmarked for the munitions industry to the people's economy to develop the light industry."
"People will undergo a sea change in their lives next year when we reach the goal to become an economic power," the U.S.-funded broadcaster quoted a senior party official from North Pyongan Province as saying. "There'll be big investments."
The North did not even reduce military spending even during the famine of the mid to late 1990s, when more than a million people starved to death, telling people to "tighten belts until the peninsula is reunited." The regime's annual military spending is estimated at about US$1.7 billion.
A South Korean security official said the North managed to overcome a food shortage early last year by releasing some rice from its military stockpiles, "but it may not be as easy this year."
Meanwhile, the regime has been increasing exports of mineral resources to China to earn hard currency.
"In 2009, Kim Jong-il banned exports of coal after receiving a report that factories weren't working due to coal shortage, but the regime sold $300 million worth of coal to China in 2010," a North Korean source said.
Coal accounted for 30 percent of the North's total exports to China of about $900 million last year.
A Chinese businessman dealing with the North said in early December last year, a delegation from Resources Development Corporation of the North's National Defense Commission agreed with the Chinese province of Liaoning on the development of 350 million yuan worth of graphite in the North. He added Chinese officials last November looked around Pyoksong, Yonchon and Haeju in Hwanghae Province, which have abundant graphite deposits.
The regime ordered officials to earn hard currency by selling coal from Pukchang, South Pyongan Province, and iron ore from Unyul, Hwanghae Province, to China, a member of a North Korean defectors organization said.
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com