Thursday, March 18, 2010

North Korea: 'Scapegoat' executed for bungled currency reform

FOCUS Information Agency - North Korea executed a former top finance official last week, holding him responsible for the country's currency reform fiasco that has caused massive inflation, worsened food shortages and dented leader Kim Jong-il's efforts to transfer power to a son, sources said Thursday.

Pak Nam-gi, who was reportedly sacked in January as chief of the planning and finance department of the ruling Workers' Party, was executed at a shooting range in Pyongyang, multiple sources familiar with information on North Korea told Yonhap News Agency.

"All the blame has been poured on Pak after the currency reform failure exacerbated public sentiment and had a bad effect" on leader Kim Jong-il's plan to hand power over to his third son Kim Jong-un, one source told Yonhap on condition of anonymity.

Pak, a 77-year-old technocrat, was charged with "deliberately ruining the national economy" as a "son of a big landowner," the sources said. But an overwhelming number of people believe the charge serves only to scapegoat Pak for the currency revaluation, which fueled already-bad inflation and dried up food and basic supplies for the public, the sources said.Pak, a graduate of engineering schools in the former Soviet Union and one of its satellite states, disappeared from North Korea's official media reports in January after having accompanied Kim Jong-il on a number of his field inspections.

Pak's execution is the latest in a series of punishments the North has reportedly meted out to its elite for failed economic reforms.

South Korean officials and analysts believe North Korean leader Kim has been pushing a series of bold economic drives in recent months to pave the ground for power transfer to his son, after the regime shored up its military self-confidence by conducting its second nuclear test in May last year.Pak visited South Korea in 2002 as head of a committee overseeing economic planning, leading a delegation of bureaucrats and inspecting South Korean industrial facilities.

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