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North abolishes laws on inter-Korean economic cooperation

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, center, speaks with officials during a tour of factories in Kimhwa County, Kangwon Province, on Wednesday, reported the state-media Korean Central TV. [YONHAP]
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, center, speaks with officials during a tour of factories in Kimhwa County, Kangwon Province, on Wednesday, reported the state-media Korean Central TV. [YONHAP]

North Korea abolished laws on inter-Korean economic cooperation at a plenary session of the Supreme People’s Assembly, reported its state media on Thursday.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the plenary meeting “discussed the issue of abolishing the law of the DPRK on north-south economic cooperation, the law on the special zone for international tour of Mt. Kumgang and regulations for its enforcement and agreements on north-south economic cooperation.”

The DPRK is the acronym of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The law on inter-Korean economic cooperation was enacted in 2005, the same year the two Koreas opened an inter-Korean economic cooperation office in Kaesong. Annual inter-Korean trade also exceeded $1 billion for the first time that year, growing to $1.8 billion by 2007, according to a government report.

The complex was shut down during the Park Geun-hye administration in 2016.

The law served as a rudimentary legal foundation for inter-Korean economic relations, as it outlined relevant rules and institutions to oversee cooperation and ways to resolve disputes.

This file photo dated July 24, 2007, shows North Korean workers at a textile factory of the Kaesong Industrial Complex. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]
This file photo dated July 24, 2007, shows North Korean workers at a textile factory of the Kaesong Industrial Complex. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

The North’s law enabling international tours and investments in the Mt. Kumgang tourism zone was also abolished during the plenary session.

Pyongyang’s latest announcement came amid escalated inter-Korean tensions in the wake of North Korea’s military provocations.

Seoul partially suspended the inter-Korean military agreement of 2018, in which the two Koreas had agreed to lower tensions along the border, after the North fired a spy satellite into space in November last year.

The North subsequently suspended the agreement altogether, and its leader, Kim Jong-un, called for naming South Korea as the regime’s primary enemy in its constitution this year.

Pyongyang has already fired four cruise missile salvos this year alone, with the latest on Feb. 2.

In recent months, the regime has focused on developing rural areas to address the national food shortage, with Kim reportedly berating high-level officials for their lack of commitment to the plan.

He reportedly gave a similar tongue-lashing on Wednesday while touring factories producing consumer goods and food in Kimhwa County, Kangwon Province.

During his visit to the factories 155 miles east of Pyongyang, Kim criticized officials for “mechanically” copying other production systems.

A Hwasal-2 cruise missile strikes a target on a rocky outcrop on the western coast of North Korea on Jan. 30 in this photo released by Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency. [YONHAP]
A Hwasal-2 cruise missile strikes a target on a rocky outcrop on the western coast of North Korea on Jan. 30 in this photo released by Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency. [YONHAP]

“He noted that each factory has shortcomings in the design and layout of the production process, but officials in charge of economic guidance have neither found them properly nor taken any measures as they have not a clear and established view of the shortcomings,” said the KCNA in its report Thursday.

“He said that the specific conditions of the relevant cities and counties including the detailed characteristics, economic potential, prospect for development and population should be fully taken into consideration,” the report said.

Earlier this year, Kim announced a plan to build modernized factories in 20 counties over the next decade to raise regional living standards.

In 2022, the country’s gross national income per capita was estimated at 1.43 million won ($1,076), less than 4 percent of South Korea’s.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]