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N.K. leader increased economy-related activities since party congress

All News 09:01 June 10, 2016

SEOUL, June 10 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has focused on economy-related public activities since the conclusion of a rare party congress in early May, Seoul officials said Friday.

The North's leader has conducted so-called field guidance on 13 occasions since the ruling party's congress ended on May 9, according to Seoul's unification ministry and the North's media.

His inspections mainly focused on economy-related areas including visits to a tree nursery and saltern, as the North's leader has stressed the need to boost its fragile economy on the principle of self-reliance.

On the other hand, Kim has not conducted inspections of military or defense installations since early May, noticeably different from April when he visited military units and raised tensions on the divided peninsula.

Since the U.N. Security Council slapped tougher sanctions against the North in March, North Korea had ratcheted up its bellicose rhetoric against Seoul and Washington in an apparent show of defiance against the sanctions.

"North Korea appears to focus on the economic sector to stabilize its regime in the short term and defy the international sanctions regime," said Chang Yong-seok, a researcher at Seoul National University's Institute for Peace and Unification Studies.

He said that as North Korea has no intention to give up its nuclear and missile programs, the country will continue to secretly develop them.

At the party congress, the North's young leader called his country a "responsible" nuclear state, saying that he will "permanently" defend the pursuit of his signature policy of developing nuclear weapons and boosting the country's moribund economy.

Since the party gathering, Jo Yong-won, a senior official of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), has accompanied the country's leader on his inspections most often, followed by Choe Ryong-hae, a vice chairman of the party's central committee.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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