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N.K. shifting military’s economic control to cabinet

Control of North Korea’s economic projects is being shifted from the military to the cabinet, as the communist country gears up for far-reaching economic reform, a Seoul official said Tuesday.

“There has been specific progress (related to the shift),” the Unification Ministry official said on condition of anonymity at a press meeting, referring to the North’s reported moves to strip the military of its grip on leading economic projects in the communist country.

“There have been signs related to it. The military is being restrained regarding economic projects,” the official said.

The alleged shift is in line with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s remarks in April, stressing the importance of funneling control over economic projects to the cabinet.

The remarks were widely interpreted to indicate Kim’s intention to transfer power away from the military deemed too rigid and conservative to lead economic projects and reformist efforts.

The North is reportedly leading a far-reaching economic reform called “June 28 new economy management system,” which includes ditching its rationing system.

The ongoing transfer of economic projects is also believed to be part of the reformist efforts aimed at shoring up its sickly economy under the new regime.

The official noted that the new reform plan does not seem to be well completed and the North “is still in the process of reviewing it and may take time” to implement it.

Scant domestic resources like finances as well as an unfavorable international atmosphere are major roadblocks to Kim’s reformist efforts, the official also indicated.

The new leader, meanwhile, made more public appearances during the first eight months of 2012, compared with his father, the late leader Kim Jong-il, the official added.

He appeared at a total of 113 public events during the January-August period, compared with 88 public appearances by his father during the same period last year.

The junior Kim took over power after Kim Jong-il died suddenly last December.

Due to a spring-time dry spell and recent heavy rainfalls, the North may see its autumn crop harvest plunge by 600,000 tons this year, the official also said in the press meeting.

Given the estimate based on data from international organizations and experts, the country may experience a crop shortage of about 800,000 to 1 million tons during the financial year spanning from the coming November to October of next year, the official noted, heralding a worsening food situation in the country.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that the North needs 540,000 to 560,000 tons of crops annually to feed its people.

The official added that the death toll in the North from recent floods has reached 233 and 594 others are missing or sustained injuries.

The death toll based on North Korean reports and U.N. data is much larger than the 70 people who were injured, killed or went missing during last year’s floods, he said. 

(Yonhap News)