Economy Less-Second Guys

It is still far from clear where the chips will fall after last week's dramatic ouster of Jang Song Taek. However, several men who were both associated with him, as well as with the 2002 reforms and with more recent economic tickerings such as the 6.28 policy from last year are still, at least for now, in the game. Pak Pong Ju, the Premier was on a high profile state funeral committee this week. (Second position, no less!) He is most closely associated with the reforms of 2002.

Ro Du Chol, Vice Premier and Chairman of State Planning Commission  is also on the list, despite rumors in the South Korean media that he was hiding out in China. If he wasn't hiding out, he has at least been to China, with Kim Jong Il in 2006. He is said to be pro-China model and has business links with China.

Kwak Bom Gi, a secretary of the Central Committee of the WPK, also appears on the funeral committee list and gave a speech at a "Great Construction Workshop" alongside Pak Pong Ju, the day Jang Song Taek was put to death. The KCNA report on the workshop suggest its technical content was somewhat less than its political content.

Pak and Ro also popped up at what KCNA awkwardly translated as the "National Memorial Service Held to Mark 2nd Anniversary of Demise of Kim Jong Il".

Over the weekend, a less prominent official, whose charge is the State Economic Development Committee, gave an interview to the AP, in which he stated, "Even though Jang Song Thaek's group caused great harm to our economy, there will be no change at all in the economic policy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea."

Meanwhile in Beijing, Jang associates such as the DPRK Ambassador to the PRC,  Ji Jae Ryong, appear to be doing well and maintaining a normal work schedule. Ri Chol/Ri Su Yong was at the expanded politburo meeting from which Jang was taken away but doesn't appear to have cropped up since then.

What cards they now hold remains to be seen, but these men are and have been key players in the DPRK's experiments with economic policy. Recent events will undoubtably harm North Korea's efforts to attract investment and grow its economy, but in keeping these men in their posts, Pyongyang is signaling that the Jang affair was a personal power issue, rather than a policy or institution-based conflict. It will be important to see if they remain in office, if the SEZ policy continues to develop and what line the internal propaganda will take regarding the economy in 2014.

Less than two weeks until the New Year's Editorial!