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North Korea launching massive anti-corruption drive

All Headlines 18:56 February 09, 2008

SEOUL, Feb. 9 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is in the midst of a massive anti-corruption drive which has already resulted in the arrest of one of its top officials handling business with South Korea, informed sources in Seoul said Saturday.

The campaign, ordered by leader Kim Jong-il, was prompted by widespread allegations that some top party and administration officials took bribes as they pushed business projects with South Korean industrialists, said the sources well versed in North Korean affairs.

"The probe was launched as National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il said there was a lack of supervision over the United Front Department, although lots of suspicions were raised over the department's corruption," one source told Yonhap News Agency.

Kim, 65, rules North Korea in his capacity as head of the National Defense Commission which controls the communist country's 1.1-million-member military. The United Front Department is a key party organization that supervises inter-Korean affairs.

According to the sources in Seoul, the North Korean leader was enraged after getting a report that some party and government officials allegedly pocketed bribes and diverted food and other aid from South Korea to black markets.

"Even those who have eaten for free 1 gram of flour from South Korea should cough it up," one source in Seoul said, quoting its North Korean sources whom it did not identify.

Also under investigation is the National Economic Cooperation Council, a government body that handles business with South Korean entrepreneurs, the sources said.

The Council's chief, Jeong Woon-eop, remains under arrest pending investigation into allegations that he took "huge amounts" of bribes, said the sources, who wanted to remain anonymous.

With its economy in shambles, North Korea has been relying on outside aid help fee its 23 million people since the mid-1990s. South Korea has so far been one of the biggest donors for its communist neighbor.

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