North Korea names new head of public finance

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 09-24-1
9/24/2009

North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly Standing Committee has removed Kim Whan-su from his position as head of public finance, naming Pak Su-kil as the new financial chief and giving him the title Deputy Prime Minister. This news was carried by (North) Korea Central Broadcasting on September 18.

This brings the number of North Korean deputy prime ministers to five, and the inclusion of the prime minister of public finance is meant to further strengthen public finance capacity. This is but one more indication of the importance North Korean authorities have placed on economic reform policies and the establishment of a Strong and Prosperous Nation by 2012. The other four deputy prime ministers are Kwak Bum-ki, Pak Myung-sun, Rho Du-chul, and Oh Su-yong.

This latest reshuffle was ordered through a Standing Committee ordinance. With the approval of the cabinet prime minister and at times when the SPA is not in session, the Standing Committee has the power to appoint cabinet members, department heads, committee chairs and deputy prime ministers.

The head of public finance is responsible for the national budget, but the national budget is limited to the ‘people’s economy’, and does not include the ‘second economy’ run for and by the military. It is the military budget that actually makes up the majority of the nation’s financial dealings. Therefore, despite the naming of the new vice prime minister, it is expected to be difficult to see any substantial change in the implementation of the national budget.

It is not yet known what led to the removal of former financial chief Kim Whan-su. It is possible that his dismissal resulted from poor returns on the nation-wide ‘150-day Battle’, which was brought to a conclusion on September 17. The naming of the new chief and empowering him as a deputy prime minister may be an attempt to squeeze more production out the ‘100-day Battle’ which is expected to commence soon.

The reports on the appointment made no mention of Pak Su-kil’s personal situation, but it is likely that this is the same Pak that has been repeatedly appointed by the SPA as the committee chairman of the North Hamgyong Province People’s Committee. Chairman Pak is known to have risen to the provincial chair position from his former role as chairman of a county administrative economy committee.

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