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(LEAD) N. Korea combines 2 units managing leader's coffers into one: Seoul

All News 14:42 September 29, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more info from para 7)

SEOUL, Sept. 29 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is presumed to have combined the ruling party's two units handling its leader Kim Jong-un's governing funds into one, a Seoul government official said Thursday.

North Korea is projected to have kept intact Office 39 of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) as the special unit managing state coffers while eliminating Office 38, according to an official at Seoul's unification ministry.

Office 38 is known to raise money within the country to run North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's private coffers, while Office 39 is believed to manage hard currency earned from overseas.

"The integration seems to have been made years before North Korea was slapped by the latest U.N. sanctions," said the official, without revealing the specific timing.

Office 39 is also called the leader's "personal safe" for its role in raising and managing secret funds and procuring luxury goods.

Pyongyang has long pressed its workers forced to toil overseas and diplomats to repatriate earned hard currency to the regime, a move aimed at bankrolling its nuclear and missile programs.

"The integration appears to be aimed at effectively managing the leader's governing funds and averting the brunt of international sanctions," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies.

Seoul said North Korea's three key security-related ministries are presumed to be controlled by a newly created state apparatus named the State Affairs Commission (SAC), but more information is needed for confirmation.

The three ministries are the Ministry of State Security, North Korea's intelligence agency, the Ministry of the People's Armed Forces, the North's defense ministry, and the Ministry of People's Security, which is the North's police agency.

They were previously placed under the wing of the SAC's predecessor, the National Defense Commission (NDC), before the country decided to set up the new organ at a key parliamentary meeting in late June.

The North's leader held the first party congress in 36 years in May, followed up by the parliamentary gathering in the following month to reaffirm his one-man rule.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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