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‘N.Korea Executes Top Finance Official over Reform’

Posted March. 19, 2010 08:32,   


North Korea is known to have executed by firing squad its top finance official Pak Nam Gi over the country`s failed currency reform last year.

Free North Korea Radio, run by North Korean defectors in Seoul, quoted yesterday a source in the North Korean port of Chongjin, North Hamkyong Province, as saying, “Rumors are spreading that Pak, who led the currency reform, was shot dead in early March to bear the blame for the policy’s failure.”

Daily NK, a Seoul-based Internet daily on the North, also quoted a source as saying, “At an open briefing on the currency reform in Pyongyang in late January, Pak was openly criticized as a traitor and arrested on the spot.”

Quoting a well-informed source on North Korea, Yonhap News Agency in Seoul said, “The North Korean government held Pak accountable for aggravated public sentiment stemming from the currency revaluation and its adverse effects on the country’s power transition. He was executed by a firing squad in Pyongyang on charges of anti-revolutionary activities.”

“Pak was harshly rebuked at a North Korea`s ruling Workers’ Party discussion attended by all high-ranking party officials in mid-January and arrested there by the State Security Department.”

South Korea has yet to confirm the rumors, however. A government official in Seoul said, “We are aware of several rumors on Pak. We’re in the process of verifying those rumors.”

One expert expressed doubt over Pak’s alleged execution, however. Jo Bong-hyeon, a researcher at the Economic Research Center of Industrial Bank of Korea in Seoul, said, “I heard that the North Korean government made public the scene of Pak’s arrest and his subsequent house arrest.”

“The North, however, probably did not execute him this quickly since Pak led the economy and managed the budget as one of the closest aides to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.”

If Pak was executed, this means the North is taking seriously public agitation stemming from the side effects of the anti-market currency reform.

North Korea has been suffering from high inflation, food shortages and social unrest stemming from the currency revaluation and measures to control its markets and foreign currency.

To assuage public anger, North Korean Premier Kim Yong Il last month apologized to thousands of village leaders gathered in Pyongyang.

zeitung@donga.com changkim@donga.com