Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the first deputy director of North Korea’s Propaganda and Agitation Department, is reportedly overseeing a review of the country’s public bonds program.
North Korea issued bonds for the first time in 17 years last month and is reportedly trying different ways to sell them to the country’s wealthy entrepreneurial class, the donju, along with various businesses.
According to a source in North Korea Daily NK spoke with yesterday, the younger Kim is focusing her review on how agencies managing the sale of the bonds are conducting their work.
Kim is providing reports to her brother and Kim Jong Un appears to be reviewing reports from local officials and those prepared by his sister about the status of the public bonds program.
The younger Kim dispatched investigators earlier this month to Cabinet-affiliated agency offices managing the sale of public bonds, businesses and local markets throughout the country. The investigators hid their true identities, which suggests that Kim ordered them to conduct a thorough investigation into the bonds program.
The source pointed out, however, that Kim is not considered the “head” of the bonds program; rather, she is just managing the review process.
This is likely because North Korea has a history of severely punishing, even executing, officials who fail to properly manage government programs and policies.
For example, North Korea executed Park Nam Gi, the director of the North Korean communist party’s planning and finance department, along with many others after the failure of the 2009 currency reform.
That reform effort led to a massive fall in the value of the North Korean won and skyrocketing commodity prices.
In short, an individual other than Kim has likely been designated as the “working-level” manager of the program, the source told Daily NK.
SOME WAY TO GO
North Korea’s Cabinet also conducted its first “financial review” of the public bonds program and the conclusions of the review were reported directly to Kim Yo Jong, the source reported.
According to the source, the financial review found that the bonds program has only brought in around 8% of the foreign currency the program originally wanted to collect.
Given that North Korea issued the bonds only one month ago, the country’s leadership appears intent to see what happens during the third and fourth quarters of this year, the source said.
“I know that the financial review said that some donju, business managers, and Japanese-Koreans and Chinese living abroad have been supportive of the public bonds measure,” the source noted. “The [financial review] report suggested that more public bonds can be [sold] if the government gives them awards honoring them as patriots.”
Some high-level North Korean officials, however, have reportedly expressed a more negative outlook about the bonds program.
“High-level officials with knowledge of the situation are saying that there are very few donju who are willing to purchase the bonds,” the source said.
“Some are even saying that the state needs to pull back on some of the country’s ongoing construction projects because any attempt to force people to buy the bonds will lead to discontent and unrest in the country,” he added.
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