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North Koreans hold rally for new economic drive

North Koreans hold rally for new economic drive
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First Published: Mon, Jan 05 2009. 06 30 PM IST
Updated: Mon, Jan 05 2009. 06 30 PM IST
Seoul: North Korea Monday held a mass rally in the capital Pyongyang, vowing to launch a new drive to rebuild its economy, state media said Monday.
The rally drew about 100,000 people including top government and ruling party officials, according to the North’s state broadcasting stations monitored by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il was not among those named as attending the event.
South Korean and US officials have said the 66-year-old Kim suffered a stroke in mid-August. Seoul officials said he has made a good recovery, and both South Korean and US officials say he is still in control of the country.
A resolution, adopted during the mass rally, urged North Koreans to join an all-out campaign announced by the ruling party last week to rebuild the economy, Yonhap said.
In a New Year joint editorial setting policy goals for 2009, the North revived the “Chollima” campaign begun in 1956 after founding president Kim Il-Sung visited the Chollima Steel Complex at Kangson west of Pyongyang.
The editorial said the party had set a “far-reaching target to open the gate to a thriving nation” in 2012, the centenary of the birth of Kim Il-Sung who died in 1994.
It also highlighted comments by his son Kim Jong-Il during an inspection of the Chollima complex on December 24.
“The whole country and all the people, as in those years of bringing about a great Chollima upsurge after the war, should launch a general offensive dynamically,” Kim was quoted as saying.
Analysts said the impoverished nation was invoking the spirit of the Chollima campaign to exploit human resources.
In the mid to late-1990s the North suffered a famine which killed hundreds of thousands and it still relies on foreign aid to feed millions.
Outdated facilities, a crippling energy shortage and a prolonged nuclear standoff with the West have complicated efforts for economic revival.
In 2002 the regime introduced limited economic reforms but rolled them back three years later, apparently fearful of relaxing its grip.
Late last year the North clamped down on fast-growing free markets for fear they could loosen the regime’s grip, observers said.
The economy contracted for nine years in succession in the 1990s after the break-up of the Soviet Union and the loss of crucial aid.
From 1999 onwards the country managed seven years of growth, but gross domestic product shrank an estimated 1.1% in 2006 and 2.3% in 2007.
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First Published: Mon, Jan 05 2009. 06 30 PM IST
More Topics: Nkorea | Politics | Rally | Pyongyang | Kim Jong-Il |