UPDATE 2 (2015-12-14): Yonhap reports on the meeting:
North Korea held its third conference of financial and banking officials over the weekend, resuming the rare event after a 25-year hiatus in what could be an emerging sign that the country’s economy has climbed out of the level of subsistence and is gearing up for financial reform.
The Third National Conference of Financial and Banking Officials held on Sunday at the People’s Palace of Culture in Pyongyang was reported by the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and Korean Central TV, monitored in Seoul.
“The conference reviewed successes and experience gained by those in the field of finance and banking in the past,” the KCNA said in an English report carried on Sunday.
The meeting also discussed ways to ensure “the financial guarantee for building a thriving nation,” according to the state media.
In a letter sent to the conference, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un highlighted the important role of the financial sector for national development.
“To improve financial and banking work is an inevitable demand for hastening the building of a thriving nation,” Kim was quoted as saying in the letter. “Reliable financial resources are necessary to build the people’s paradise featured by strong national power and great prosperity.”
Kim also ordered “revolutionary measures for steady development” of the financial system, as well as “fluent circulation of currency.”
It was North Korea’s first meeting of its kind since the last second session was held in September 1990 under the leadership of late leader and North Korean founder Kim II-sung.
A host of Cabinet and party officials attended the conference, including Pak Pong-ju, premier of the Cabinet; defense chief Pak Yong-sik; Finance Minister Ki Kwang-ho; and central bank chief Kim Chon-gyun, according to the KCNA.
Under the Kim Jong-un regime, the reclusive country has gotten out of extreme poverty and seems to be gearing up for a radical reform of its financial sector, Cho Bong-hyun, researcher at the state-run Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK), said of the latest meeting.
“The plan intends to reform the banking system so as to make it a window for luring in foreign currency and boosting the circulation of money,” Cho noted.
The country is now in the process of mapping out a financial reform plan with guidance from China, and it may create a reform policy out of it and officially announce the policy possibly in the general party meeting set for May next year, he added.
UPDATE 1 (2015-12-13): According to KCNA:
There took place the third national conference of financial and banking officials at the People’s Palace of Culture on Sunday.
The conference reviewed successes and experience gained by those in the field of finance and banking in the past and discussed the tasks for reliably ensuring the financial guarantee for the building of a thriving nation and ways to do so.
Present at the conference were Pak Pong Ju, Pak Yong Sik, O Su Yong, Vice-Premiers of the Cabinet Ro Tu Chol, Ri Mu Yong and Ri Chol Man, Minister of Finance Ki Kwang Ho, President of the Central Bank Kim Chon Gyun, President of the Foreign Trade Bank of the DPRK Kim Song Ui, leading officials of commissions, ministries, national institutions, provinces, cities and counties and exemplary financial and banking officials and persons of merit.
Pak Pong Ju, member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the WPK and premier of the Cabinet, read out the letter of Marshal Kim Jong Un to the participants in the conference “Let Us Dynamically Accelerate the Building of a Thriving Nation by Bringing about a Turn in Financial and Banking Work”.
In the letter Kim Jong Un said the financial and banking work in the DPRK has steadily developed, financially guaranteeing the socialist construction and the people’s material and cultural life under the deep care and leadership of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il.
The President set forth the unique idea of finance and banking which embodied the principle of the Juche idea and established the advantageous Korean-style financial and banking management system for solving all the problems arising in the financial and banking work in line with the independent demand and interests of the popular masses, the letter said, and went on:
Kim Jong Il developed in depth the Juche-oriented idea and theory of finance and banking of the President to provide the guidelines for improving the financial and banking work and established the party’s leadership system on the work and took revolutionary measures for the steady development of the financial and banking system.
To improve the financial and banking work is an inevitable demand for hastening the building of a thriving nation. Reliable financial resources are necessary to build the people’s paradise featured by strong national power and great prosperity.
It is necessary to financially guarantee the party’s Songun revolutionary leadership and the building of a thriving socialist nation by consolidating the financial foundations of the country and ensuring fluent circulation of currency. This is the general task for the financial and banking field.
The financial and banking officials should always bear in mind the deep trust and expectation of the party and successfully fulfill their lofty duty before the country and people and bring about a fresh turn in the financial and banking work.
Ro Tu Chol, alternate member of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee and vice-premier of the Cabinet and chairman of the State Planning Commission, made a report.
He said that Kim Jong Un saw to it that the conference was held, and sent the letter to indicate the orientation and ways for improving the financial and banking work.
All the successes in the financial and banking work are a precious fruition of the undying efforts of the great leaders and the wise leadership of Kim Jong Un, the reporter noted.
He called for firmly establishing the monolithic leadership system of Kim Jong Un and orientating the financial and banking work to implementing the line and policy of the party.
Speeches were made at the conference.
ORIGINAL POST (2015-12-18): North Korea to Hold National Financial Bank Workers Assembly for the First Time in 25 years (Institute for Far Eastern Studies):
North Korea will host the “National Financial Bank Workers Assembly” for the first time in 25 years. This may be interpreted as the regime’s effort to pursue economic development through restructuring the financial system, as living conditions for the people and financial situation have improved since the start of the Kim Jong Un regime.
According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on December 10, “Participants at the third National Financial Bank Workers Assembly paid respect to comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun.” The news did not mention the date, place, or the size of this event.
However, it is customary for participants ahead of a big event to visit and pay respect to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il by visiting the palace.
The “National Financial Bank Workers Assembly” was last held in September 1990 during the Kim Il Sung era. It was never held during Kim Jong Il’s rule.
It is likely that North Korea is holding this assembly as the food security issue has improved relatively over the last 25 years, and it seems to reflect the regime’s intention to establish the official financial system.
The North Korean economy has demonstrated modest growth after Kim Jong Un’s decision to expand economic zones and acknowledge enterprise management autonomy, among other market-related measures.
In particular, with the emergence of the nouveau riche or ‘donju’ (meaning ‘masters of money’), financial transactions have been increasing, hence the need for new measures to bring about improvements in banking institutions.
For the upcoming 7th Party Congress in May 2016, tangible results in sectors of the economy must be made and this may be a contributing factor to hold the “National Financial Bank Workers Assembly,” as the regime may seek to construct large buildings and various infrastructures through the use of finances from banks.
North Korea has reportedly been promoting computerization of the financial system. The country has also sent more than 40 people from the Ministry of External Economic Affairs to Southeast Asia to receive training in microfinance.
The function of banks has weakened since the late 1990s’ “arduous march” period. But with the launch of the Kim Jong Un regime, the need for normalization of the financial system was proposed along with gradual improvement in the economy. However, it is uncertain to what degree banks will earn people’s confidence. Nevertheless, through this assembly, North Korea is likely to create a means to strengthen the role of official financial institutions.