North official spreading reform gospel in Japan

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North official spreading reform gospel in Japan

TOKYO -- North Korea's vice minister for foreign trade told a group of Japanese business leaders about Pyeongyang's economic reforms during an unofficial visit to Tokyo.

"A new financial system is a key element of the economic reforms," Kim Yong-sul said during a closed-door meeting with about 40 Japanese entrepreneurs and economists Monday.

Mr. Kim spoke of the North's plan to start a trust bank and said Pyeongyang's economic changes are based on "utilitarianism."

"Changes in pricing policies were made with consideration to supply and demand, while still striving to maintain the state's control over the economy," he said.

A member of Chongryon, the pro- Pyeongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, in the audience said that the recent economic reforms has corrected the disparity in price between black market goods and those sold at state stores.

"Previously factories and farms used the black market to sell their products because they could get so much more than in the state stores," said another member of the audience who asked not to be identified. "But with the pricing changes, products are making their way into the state stores."

North Korean officials who accompanied Mr. Kim said that the reclusive country would not follow the Russian model of transition to capitalism. The deputy minister said that the North has embarked upon a new path entirely separate from socialism.

"Economic reform is a strange phrase in North Korea," said Mr. Kim. "The reforms may have flaws, but we will try to solve the problems." But he said Pyeongyang is determined to see the changes through.

Mr. Kim arrived in Tokyo on Aug. 24 and explained the changes in the North Korean economy to gatherings of Chongryon members.

During his visit to Japan he urged Japanese investors to invest in the North and said Pyeongyang would like to study Japanese business models in the near future. He returned to the North on Tuesday.

by Oh Day-young

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