Speaks of Peace with South
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday called for improving the economy and living standards of his impoverished nation with the same urgency that scientists showed in successfully testing a long-range rocket recently.
Kim's first New Year's speech, delivered on state TV, was peppered with rhetoric, with calls for boosting the military's capabilities and making the science and technology sector world class. But other passages in the speech were also an acknowledgement of the poor state of the country's economy that has long lagged behind the rest of the region.
North Korea has little arable land, is prone to natural disasters and struggles to grow enough food for its 24 million people.
The annual New Year's Day message lays out North Korea's policy goals for the year. But Kim gave no indication whether he plans to introduce economic reforms or allow free enterprise, except to say the economy should be underpinned by science and technology...
Kim made no mention of nuclear weapons, but indicated that military will continue to be boosted...
The speech itself was a signal that Kim will continue with a leadership style more in line with his gregarious grandfather, national founder Kim Il Sung who routinely addressed his people on New Year's Day, than with his father, Kim Jong Il, who avoided making public speeches. He never gave a TV address during his 17-year-rule, and his New Year's messages were published as joint editorials in the nation's three major newspapers...
Kim, who took power after his father's death on Dec. 17, 2011, has asserted control over the government and the military by dismissing its powerful chief Ri Yong Ho. Some other officials who were viewed as more moderate, including Kim's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, were elevated.
South Korean president-elect Park Geun-hye has said she will make efforts in her five-year term to boost aid and engage North Korea.
"If Kim Jong Un is going to engineer a shift from `military-first' to `It's the economy, stupid,' he is going to need Seoul's encouragement, and he doesn't have five years to wait," John Delury, an analyst at Seoul's Yonsei University, wrote recently.
He said it's up to South Korea "to unclench its fist first, so that the leader of the weaker state can outstretch his hand."
Kim's speech avoided harsh criticism of the United States, its wartime enemy. North Korea has used past New Year's editorials to accuse the U.S. of plotting war.
READ FULL SOURCE ARTICLE: 01/01/2013
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