The third session of the 13th Supreme
People’s Assembly on April 9th, which leader Kim Jung Eun did not attend, saw discussion of the improvement
of residents’ lives but failed to offer the specific plans and
economic policies necessary to achieve it.
According to the Chosun Central News Agency [KCNA], the state has increased overall government spending by 5.5% this year
to mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Chosun Workers’ Party.
National defense expenditures will remain at last year’s level–15.9%. Science
and technology will see a 5% bump in funding over previous years including
increased spending in a number of other sectors. Reforestation will increase
9.6% over last year, followed by an 8.7% increase for construction endeavors. Spending on physical
education, general education, culture, the industrial field including the light
industry, fisheries, agriculture, and healthcare is to raise by 6.9%,
6.3%, 6.2%, 5.1%, 6.8%, 4.2%, and 4.1% respectively.
No special policies for the betterment of
Crucial decisions regarding policies on
diplomatic and domestic issues — subjects of much public interest — were not
adopted at the session. The conference merely mentioned the reshuffling of
personnel and this year’s budget allocations compared to last year. No special
messages for diplomatic policies or strategies came up during the course of the
“By prioritizing agriculture, animal
husbandry, and marine products as our primary pillars, we will resolve livelihood issues,” Pak Pong Ju, North Korea’s Cabinet prime minister,
declared during the event, going on to underscore plans to increase production
Lee Soo Seok, a senior researcher at the
Institute for National Security Strategy, weighed in on the event, noting that
“it seems as though Kim Jong Eun is generally interested in bettering the lives
of the citizens.” He added, “The main thing to note is afforestation. By attempting to improve the environment, Kim Jong Eun appears to be trying to attract more foreign investment to add to his ‘achievements.'”
“The Supreme People’s Assembly broached the
betterment of citizens’ lives merely because it had to,” Cho Bong Hyun of IBK Economic Research Institute told Daily NK. “It seems like
Kim Jung Eun is not very proactive in economic affairs and lacks the ability to
Oh Kyung Seob of the Sejong
Institute said, “Kim needs to produce a progressive economic policy, but he
continues to be inactive when it comes to large-scale reforms.” He also pointed out that the young leader “needs a
groundbreaking alternative in order to attract foreign investment, but is
very wary about it due to fears of destabilizing the regime.”
Strengthening the munitions industry
There was little personnel reshuffling at
the session; one notable exception, however, was a replacement within the
National Defense Commission [NDC], the top ruling body of the nation comprising
10 members. The NDC seat formerly held by Pak To Chun, the Party secretary overseeing munitions, was
given to Kim Chun Sop, the Party secretary presiding over Jakang Province.
Kim is also presumed to have assumed Pak’s munitions position
during the “personnel issue discussions” that took place during the Chosun
Workers’ Party General Political Bureau Enlarged Meeting in February.
Pak To Chun has not appeared at any
official meetings after attending the fireworks celebration marking the birth
of Kim Jong Il on February 16th.
“It seems that Kim Jung Eun is pushing new
personnel to the foreground and moving Pak To Chun to the background, since he
is a prominent figure from the Kim Jong Il era,” Researcher Lee asserted. “Appointing the
Jakang Province Party Secretary as a National Defense member can be seen as an
bid to galvanize the munitions and defense science industries [because of their concentration in that region].”
*The contents of this article were broadcast to the North Korean people via Unification Media Group.