N. Korea Stresses Economic Revival

Korea Times
Park Song-wu
1/1/2007

North Korea’s New Year joint newspaper editorial on Monday underlined that it will strive to modernize its economy.

The editorial also said Pyongyang will continue strengthening its defense power by focusing on “songun” or “military-first” policy that enabled it to conduct an underground nuclear test last October.

But the editorial, titled “Usher in a Great Heyday of Songun Korea Full of Confidence in Victory,” did not specifically mention Pyongyang’s nuclear plan or its relations with the United States.

As for ways to revive its economy suffering from sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council following the nuclear test, the editorial stressed the importance of agriculture.

“We should, as in the past, keep up farming as the great foundation of the country and make an epoch-making advance in solving the problem of food for the people,” it said.

In a reaction to the North’s emphasis on its economy, South Korea’s Ministry of Unification hoped to see Pyongyang try to improve soured inter-Korean relations to attract economic aid from the South.

“The editorial’s contents are not very much different from last year’s text, but it mentioned economic issues earlier than others,” a ministry official said, asking not to be named. “It seems that Pyongyang will pay more attention to its economy with an idea that it is now a nuclear power.”

The editorial also called for more production of consumer goods and the development of power, coal-mining, metal and rail transport industries to better the life of North Koreans.

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade interpreted the North’s failure to mention the future of its nuclear programs as an attempt to take advantage of the six-party talks that came to a halt again after a five-day meeting ended with no tangible results on Dec. 22.

“It is believed that North Korean leaders are taking a wait-and-see attitude because discussions about U.S. financial sanctions are set to resume sometime soon,” a ministry official said, requesting anonymity.

In September 2005, Washington blacklisted Banco Delta Asia in Macau as a “primary money laundering concern” because of suspicions that it was helping the North conduct illegal activities, including counterfeiting and money laundering.

As a result, the bank severed its relations with Pyongyang and froze $24 million in North Korean assets.

Regarding the presidential election to be held in South Korea in December, the North Korean editorial stressed the importance of cooperation between people in the two Koreas to get rid of conservatives in the South who used to back the United States.

The Pyongyang regime also called for loyalty to its leader Kim Jong-il, who will turn 65 this year.

The editorial was carried by the North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), several hours after Kim visited the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang where the embalmed body of his father is kept, Yonhap news agency reported.

Kim was accompanied by several top military leaders, including Vice Marshal Kim Yong-chun, who serves as chief of the army’s general staff, and Vice Marshal Kim Il-chol, a member of the National Defense Commission and minister of the People’s Armed Forces, the KCNA said in a separate report.

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