N.Korean Official Secretly Courts Chinese Investments

A senior North Korean economic official recently paid a secret visit to China to attract investment. The trip by Kim Ki-sok, chairman of the State Commission for Economic Development, was the first visit to China by a high-ranking North Korean official since the execution last year of eminence grise Jang Song-taek, who spearheaded business relations with China.

The North launched the commission in October last year in order to develop 14 special economic zones.

A source in Beijing said Kim visited Beijing, Shenzen, Singapore and Malaysia last week. He met with businesspeople interested in developing North Korea’s special economic zones.

Kim also met with Chinese officials who had experience in developing special economic zones, the source said. In Singapore, Kim discussed the development of a tourism zone in Wonsan.

But he apparently returned empty-handed.

Diplomatic sources in Beijing say North Korea is poised to push for more economic exchanges with China after elections for its rubber-stamp parliament on March 9. It will form a new team to handle the initiative now that Jang and his associates have been purged.

Prime Minister Pak Pong-ju or Ri Su-yong, a deputy department chief in the Workers Party who used to manage the coffers for former leader Kim Jong-il, may pay an official visit to China, according to sources.

One source said North Korea's recent peaceable gestures like the resumption of reunions of families separated by the Korean War will help it shake off the impact of Jang's execution.

englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 26, 2014 12:31 KST