Asia-Pacific

Tuesday 29 July 2014

North Korea: Kim's aunt gets state board job following husband's execution

Eric Talmadge Pyongyang

Published 16/12/2013|23:31

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Kim Jong Un with his aunt Kim Kyong Hui, whose husband Jang Song Thaek was executed last week
Kim Jong Un with his aunt Kim Kyong Hui, whose husband Jang Song Thaek was executed last week
A man watches live news showing Kim Jong Un's uncle Jang Song Thaek being removed by military officers
A man watches live news showing Kim Jong Un's uncle Jang Song Thaek being removed by military officers
before and after airbrush pictures

A SENIOR North Korean official has said that the execution of leader Kim Jong Un's once-powerful uncle will not lead to changes in economic policies and vowed that the nation would push ahead with an ambitious plan to develop new economic zones to attract foreign investment.

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Jang Song Thaek's wife, Kim Kyong Hui, meanwhile, has been named to an ad-hoc state committee, the country's official media reported, an indication that Mr Jang's execution has not immediately diminished her influence.

The recent death of Mr Jang, considered to be North Korea's second most powerful man and a key architect of the country's economic policies, should not be taken as a sign that the North will change its economic course or its efforts to lure foreign investment, Yun Yong Sok, a senior official in the State Economic Development Committee, said in a press interview in Pyongyang.

"Even though Jang 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," Mr Yun said.

Mr Jang's sudden purge and execution for allegedly trying to overthrow the government has raised questions about how solid the North Korean regime is and whether it will be able to stay the course on policies aimed at raising the country's standard of living.

Last month, North Korea announced plans to create in each province special economic zones, which are like incubators for introducing capitalist methods into the North's tightly controlled, command economy.

The North also recently laid out new laws to facilitate foreign tourism and investment.

But even before Mr Jang's execution, it was unclear how far Pyongyang was willing to go.

The North has shown no willingness to abandon its nuclear weapons programme to get out from under international trade sanctions. That makes investment or financing from major international organisations difficult if not impossible. What will happen next in Pyongyang remains unclear, but North Korea watchers will be closely following the second anniversary of Kim Jong Il's death tomorrow for clues.

Of particular interest is whether Mr Jang's wife, Kim Kyong Hui, the younger sister of Kim Jong Il, will be present in official ceremonies. Ms Kim (67) has risen through the ranks in recent years.

Analysts said the dispatch suggested her political standing hasn't been affected by her husband's execution and that she may have even given her nephew the go-ahead to fire Mr Jang -- but not to have him executed.

Ms Kim and Mr Jang, who married in 1972, had a dysfunctional marriage in recent years, and their only daughter committed suicide in 2006.

Irish Independent

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