SEOUL - North Korea will phase out private markets and restore its state-controlled system, a North Korean government economist said in an interview broadcast late Thursday amid signs that the North was retreating from years of free market experiments.
The comment by Ri Ki Song, a professor at the Academy of Social Sciences, came as South Korean officials said that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, may visit China soon.
Mr. Kim has visited Beijing only four times since he took power after the death of his father, Kim Il-sung, in 1994.
Mr. Kim’s possible visit to China, North Korea’s patron, raised hopes that North Korea was ready to return to six-nation talks including China aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program in return for economic and political rewards. But it also triggered fears that Mr. Kim might obtain Chinese investment or aid, which could weaken the impact of United Nations sanctions.
“Markets will be removed in the future, by reducing their numbers step by step, while continuously expanding the planned supply through state-run commercial networks,” Mr. Ri said in an interview with APTN in Pyongyang. “Now, markets are used as a subsidiary means to offer convenience in peoples’ daily lives.”
South Korean media have recently reported isolated yet unusual outbursts of public protest in the wake of the crackdown on private markets. Mr. Ri denied those reports.
Mr. Ri’s comment appeared to provide official confirmation that the North Korean government intended to crack down on free markets. To read full New York Times story — Go Here Now.
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