Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
High ranking North Korean officials have relayed that, since last year, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has on several occasions provided direction on improvements for economic management methods and that some new measures are being implemented on an experimental basis.
In a May 10, 2013 interview with the Choson Sinbo, North Korean Cabinet secretariat Kim Ki Chol and National Planning Committee director Ri Yong Min relayed that “Kim Jung Un spoke on several occasions, both this year and last, about the time to fix economic management practices and delegated related responsibilities to students and laborers.” The officials added, “We are holding rounds of consultation and discussion together with research institutes and representatives of several economic sectors.”
The officials further stated that “Out of these consultations have emerged a number of promising economic proposals which we are putting into practice on an experimental basis. In the case that they show positive results, we plan to introduce them across the country. Most remain in the research stage.” These remarks indicate that North Korea is embarking on some kind of economic reform measures.
These statements seem to confirm that North Korea’s economic measures are being driven by the direct orders of Kim Jung Un, such as the ‘June 28 Measure’ (i.e., policy on agriculture). They also suggest that once measures clear the testing stage, they will be implemented on a national scale.
They also explained that while additional new economic control measures are being adopted, these measures at the same time deal with issues related to production planning, price adjustment, and currency circulation. They added that new laws would have to be created, and explained that measures were being expanded that allow for the expansion of authority in the interest of reinvigorating production at factories and industrial sites.
Mention of price adjustment and currency circulation suggests that North Korea’s new economic reforms may not be limited to farms, factories, and industrial sites; rather, it hints at the possibility that North Korea will embark on much larger scale reform extending to the financial sector.
They explained that some farms which carried out the national plan last year implemented land distribution, and contributed to the right of factories and industrial sites to sell and trade freely. They added that such steps reflected the demands of workers.
The officials were reserved in their comments in regard to the timing of any future announcements related to North Korean economic measures: “If successes are consistent we can advance the reforms on a wide scale; but, for now, we need to keep an eye on progress.”
The officials added that they were being retrained in management at the University of the People’s Economy and taking classes about farm management and management at Kim Bo Hyun College.
North Korea emphasized the construction of an economic powerhouse at the beginning of May, and it is currently heating up in the fields of industry and farming by encouraging an increase in production. In relation to this, the Korean Workers’ Party is mobilizing media sources including the Rodong Sinmun, the Korean Central News Agency, and Korean Central Broadcasting.
Particularly, these media sources are emphasizing that obtaining a nuclear deterrent is the greatest asset on the road to economic construction. They are also claiming that increase in production is one means for the achievement of the new economic line of pursuing simultaneously economic construction and building of a nuclear force.
Now that the annual US-ROK joint unit tactical military field training drills, i.e., ‘Foal Eagle’, have concluded (as of April 30) and tensions on the Korean peninsula have subsided somewhat, North Korea’s new economic line is being assessed as one which is aimed at enhancing the economic livelihoods of North Koreans.