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North Korea Turns Attention to Economy
Lee Jong-Heon, United Press International
December 7, 2006

Article from World Peace Herald

North Korea has decided that a nuclear test blast in October resolved immediate threats to its national security and is now focused on reviving its battered economy, a major South Korean newspaper reported Wednesday.

The policy shift, reported in what the newspaper described as a North Korean document that it had obtained, appeared to be part of efforts to address public discontent over economic troubles made worse by the country's decades-long drive to develop nuclear weapons.

The document was also said to have described the possession of a nuclear arsenal as "a matter of life or death" and to repeat Pyongyang's position that it would not give up its nuclear program without significant benefits.

"As the nuclear test (on Oct. 9) has removed threats to (the country's) survival, all of its efforts will be made to achieve economic development," the newspaper Dong-A Ilbo quoted the document as saying.

The 16-page document, titled "The successful nuclear test in our country is a historic incident in its 5,000 years-long history and world politics," was authored by the North's ruling Korean Workers' Party, headed by reclusive leader Kim Jong Il.

The daily said it had obtained the document from an unidentified source who recently traveled to the North where he received it from a senior Party official.

The Party document said North Korea has "poured a huge amount of manpower, material and intelligent resources" into developing nuclear weapons, according to the daily. But the "successful" nuclear test had allowed North Korea to shift its first priority to economy from security, it said.

With nuclear bombs in hand, North Korea could sharply reduce its spending on conventional weapons for economic development, according to the document.

The nuclear test had opened the way for North Korea to become "a powerful and prosperous country," the document said. The phrase was first introduced in 1998 by Kim Jong Il, who inherited power from his father and national founder, Kim Il Sung.

When he kicked off the nation-rebuilding campaign, Kim declared an end to the years-long "painful march under trial" campaign launched after his father's abrupt death in 1994 and subsequent economic crisis and famine and subsequent sharp rise in refugees leaving the country.

In a move to use the nuclear test to promote the personality cult of the Kims, the North's state media, while reporting on the nuclear weapons development, praised Kim Jong Il as the "sun of the 21st century" who transformed the country into a "a powerful and prosperous country."

The North's new campaign for economic development comes amid concerns that North Korea would suffer another painful period in the wake of its nuclear test, which led to U.N.-backed economic sanctions on the impoverished country.

South Korea and other donors have suspended food and economic aid to the North following its nuclear test, leading many analysts to warn the North could face its worst winter since the widespread famines of the mid-1990s that are thought to have killed hundreds of thousands.

North Koreans interviewed recently by United Press International at the North's Mt. Kumgang resort said they were ready to endure the U.N. sanctions.

"We have already endured economic sanctions for a decade. We are ready to overcome another 'painful march under trials,'" said a North Korean official who oversees the inter-Korean tour program at Mt. Kumgang.

But according to sources, a growing number of North Koreans are complaining about the nuclear test which they believe has caused the country's economic conditions to deteriorate.

In particular, complaints mounted when Pyongyang closed local markets across the country to mobilize citizens for public rallies designed to call attention to the country's nuclear capabilities, the sources said.

Under a 2002 economic reform package, North Koreans are allowed to trade vegetables, meats and other foodstuff in local markets. Since the North's public food rationing have been irregular, many people suffering severe food shortage have come to rely on these markets for their survival. They purchase much of their food and basic commodity needs in these markets, according to sources.

But the Workers' Party document defended Kim Jong Il's pursuit of nuclear weapons at the expense of the economy, saying he "devoted all of his efforts to building a self-defense capability," despite the economic woes, to cope with a perceived U.S. nuclear threat.

The document said North Korea decided to test a nuclear weapon to protect its interests and security in the face of U.S. threats.

"For the past several decades, the U.S. imperialists have mounted threats to stage a nuclear war and intensified pressure of sanctions, encroaching on our state's paramount interests and security," the document said.

The document also said North Korea would not give up its nuclear weapons. "The path to acquiring nuclear weapons was a matter of life or death that required a firm determination to endure severe bashing by the major nuclear powers and their followers," it said.

Article from World Peace Herald

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