N. Korean former premier relegated to company manager: sources


North Korea’s former Prime Minister Pak Pong-ju has been relegated to the chief administrative manager of the communist country’s largest chemical complex, informed sources said Friday.

In April, the North replaced Pak, who oversaw the country’s threadbare economy, with then Transport Minister Kim Yong-il. Pak is believed to have been in conflict with senior North Korean officials over the introduction of an incentive-based system.

Pak has since been working as the manager for the synthetic fiber complex in South Pyongan Province. The complex resumed operations in 2002. North Korea spent about US$10 billion to build the complex more than a decade ago, but it was hardly operated until recently.

“High-level North Korean economic officials staged a lobbying war not to be appointed prime minister as the premier has no real power and becomes the scapegoat for the North’s worsening economy,” a source said on condition of anonymity.

Saddled with a severe food shortage, North Korea said it will make all-out efforts to raise its people’s standard of living this year by concentrating on light industry and agriculture.

In a session of its parliament, North Korea said its major economic goal is “to improve the living standards of people on the basis of the existing foundations of agriculture and light industry.”

In a recent meeting with U.N. World Food Program officials, a North Korean vice agriculture minister acknowledged that the communist country has a shortfall of about 1 million tons of food and called for aid from the outside world.


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