North Korea’s rubber-stamp legislature concluded its latest session April 9 in Pyongyang. In the one-day session, the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly approved the government activities report, this year’s budget and last year’s settlement of accounts, revision of the constitution and a number of personnel and organizational changes.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il failed to show up at the session. Although it was speculated that Mr. Kim Jong Un, the leader’s third son and heir apparent, would attend, he did not.

No clues emerged as to North Korea’s basic foreign policy. The assembly made no mention of the country’s diplomatic stance toward South Korea, the United States or Japan. It also continued its habit of keeping mum on other important issues. There was no mention of the redenomination of its currency, the won, on Nov. 30, 2009, an event that caused great confusion among North Korea’s people. No details were available as to the nature of the constitution revision. Although it was reported that industrial production in 2009 exceeded that of 2008 “greatly,” no figures were given.

This year’s budget projects that revenue will grow 6.3 percent and expenditure 8.3 percent from last year.

The expenditure breakdown shows defense accounting for 15.8 percent of the total budget, the same as last year. Spending on agriculture will increase by 9.4 percent (compared to a 6.9 percent rise last year), and spending on light industry rises by 10.1 percent (compared to 5.6 percent last year). These increases reflect North Korea’s policy of “improvement of people’s lives.”

But Premier Kim Yong Il made it clear that North Korea will stick to “the socialist principle in the economic guidance and control” and also pursue a policy of “improvement through self-reliance.” The legislature session introduced no law designed to increase foreign investment.

North Korea has a goal of becoming a “powerful and prosperous country” by 2012. One wonders how it can achieve that goal if it remains economically isolated and does not work to improve relations with the U.S., South Korea and Japan.

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