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N. Korea parliament endorses obligatory 12-year education

North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament on Tuesday approved legislation to extend its compulsory education by one year to 12 years on Tuesday, the Korean Central News Agency reported.

There was no announcement on agricultural reforms and other economic measures widely expected to top the agenda of the meeting.

“The DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly unanimously endorsed a decree on universal 12-year compulsory education at the session,” the KCNA said, referring to the acronym of the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Young leader Kim Jong-un presided over the year’s second session of the parliament, which normally gathers once a year. He took the chairmanship of the powerful National Defense Commission at an April session.

The parliament added two members to its standing committee and appointed Kwak Pom-ki as chair of its budget committee, replacing Choe Hee-jong, minister of science and education.

Kwak is a former machine-building industry minister and held a deputy prime minister position for more than 11 years till June 2010. He was named in April the Workers’ Party’s chief secretary of South Hamgyeong Province.

With Kwak’s promotion, the young Kim is likely to push economic reform measures unveiled on June 28.

Kwak is one of the four technocrats who played a core role in an unsuccessful economic reform a decade ago along with Park Bong-ju, Ro Do-chul and Chon Sung-hun. All of them have been promoted or reinstated in recent months, the North’s official media showed.

In July 2002, the so-called Big Four tried to relax the rigid command economy by dissolving the rationing scheme, allowing street markets, raising wages and prices and adopting incentives and graded compensation. They were demoted or disappeared from sight after the ambitious program went bust in the mid-2000s.

In recent months, positive signs have been sprouting from the impoverished state. The Swiss-educated, 20-something leader’s recent public appearances and economic guidelines appear aimed at cementing his leadership. He took power in December following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il.

The moves also reflect his willingness to end the regime’s long-held tradition of secrecy and adopt a more market-oriented system, optimists say. In stark contrast, the late Kim only attended four parliamentary meetings since 2003.

At the latest session, legislators had been forecast to discuss measures such as giving more leeway for farmers to sell surplus yield, ramping up output and containing spiraling food prices.

By Shin Hyon-hee (
catch table
Korea Herald daum