Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
KCNA reports that Kim Jong-il conducted a guidance tour of Rason. This is General-Secretary Kim’s first known guidance tour of the Rason area. Rason is a portmanteau of North Hamgyong’s Rajin City and Sonbong County, which the central authorities declared, alternately, an “Economic and Trade Zone” (a/k/a FTZ). Rason’s administrative status has been switched as a city under North Hamgyong Province to a provincial-level municipality (like Pyongyang or Sinuiju); the report’s usage (and that of other stories in the North Korean press) indicates Rason is now directly-administered. With an invitation in the air and internal security apparatus officials jetting to Beijing, Kim Jong-il’s presence in Rason may indicate new business deals to be completed if he visits China.
General-Secretary Kim was joined by his new guidance tour quartet of KWP Secretary Kim Ki-nam, KWP Financial Planning Director Pak Nam-gi and power couple Kim Kyong-hui and Jang Song-thaek, as well as North Hamgyong KWP Provincial boss Hong Sok-hyong. He was also escroted by Rason KWP Committee Chief Secretary Kim Hyo’n-chu and Rason Municipal People’s Committee Chair Kim Su-yo’l. Rason was established as a special zone in December 1991, making this a kind of 18th anniversary trip. A more auspicious 18th anniversary (commemorated on 24 December) this year is General-Secretary Kim’s appointment as KPA Supreme Commander.