Asia

North Korean execution 'will not alter trade goals'

  • 15 December 2013
  • From the section Asia
Kim Jong-un
Kim Jong-un has been pictured touring a new ski resort as the country pledged to continue encouraging investment and tourism despite executing a key trade official

North Korea's execution of senior figure Chang Song-thaek will not alter its economic goals, an official said.

Mr Chang, uncle of leader Kim Jong-un, had been building trade with China before his removal led to speculation a drive to attract foreign cash will end.

Foreign investment is seen as crucial to North Korea's fragile economy.

Kim Kyong-hui, Mr Chang's wife and Mr Kim's aunt, was meanwhile named on a state committee - signalling she remains safe within the ruling dynasty.

Mr Chang had been one of North Korea's most powerful officials and a key architect of the country's economic policies.

His execution last week and the recall of a North Korea business team from China, prompted concerns that his associates were being purged as part of a campaign by Kim Jong-un to consolidate his power.

It also led to fears for the stability of the nuclear-armed state.

But Yun Yong Sok, a senior member of the state economic development committee, told the Associated Press news agency that North Korea's trade goals were unaffected.

"Even though Chang Song-thaek's group caused great harm to our economy, there will be no change at all in the economic policy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," he said. "It's just the same as before."

North Korea last month announced plans to create provincial economic zones offering incentives for foreign tourism and investment.

However, analysts say attracting trade could be tricky unless the country shows willingness to abandon a nuclear weapons programme that has led to international sanctions.

Meanwhile, the naming of Mr Chang's widow to a state funeral committee for an official who died on Friday is seen as a sign that she remains in favour despite the purge of her late husband.

BBC Asia analyst Charles Scanlon says her position, as daughter of North Korea's founding leader Kim Il-sung and younger sister of his successor Kim Jong-il, appears to indicate she is unassailable.

He said it would also lead to speculation that she had a hand in her husband's public downfall.

Kim Kyong-hui, who is a secretary in the workers' party and a four-star general in the people's army, has had a high public profile in recent years, appearing frequently at the side of her brother and then her nephew.

But she has not been seen much in recent months, leading to rumours that she has been ill and depressed.

Kim Jong-un
Kim Jong-un inspects a ski equipment shop in the Masik-Ryong resort
Kim Jong-un
North Korea needs to attract foreign cash to prop up its fragile economy

The latest developments came as North Korea released images of Kim Jong-un touring the Masik-Ryong ski resort, near Wonson.

The resort is believed to be a pet project of the leader, who reportedly skied in Switzerland when he attended school there.

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