A television documentary broadcast on Friday quoted Kim Jong-un as saying, during a provincial tour last month, that the country needed to “absolutely guarantee the quality of our artillery and shells to ensure a rapid pre-emptive attack on our enemies.”
Some commentators examining the outcome of meetings in Pyongyang last week — of the ruling Workers’ Party and of the rubber-stamp legislature — concluded that Kim and his leadership were more concerned with economic than military issues.
Internet site 38 North, which specializes in North Korean affairs, cited the reappointment of reformer Pak Pong-ju as prime minister, the limited titles given to top military and security officials, and the naming of a woman to a senior party post.
“These personnel appointments make a great deal of sense in the context of Pyongyang’s declarations ... that its economic policy will be modified by introducing systemic reforms while also continuing the development of nuclear weapons,” 38 North commentator Michael Madden wrote.
“[They] appear to be important steps in moving key economic development products and production away from the control of the military to the party and government,” he added.
North Korea has not shut down the one symbol of joint cooperation, the Kaesong industrial complex, just inside its border. However, last week it prevented South Koreans from entering the complex and about 100 of them who have since remained were due to return home yesterday, leaving another 500 there.
The barrage of North Korean threats has created jitters in South Korea’s financial markets, with a top official warning a policy meeting on Friday of long-term effects.
Shares slid on Friday, but analysts said much of the decline was linked to the Bank of Japan’s monetary easing policies and one analyst said further major falls were unlikely.
“In a sense, for now the yen is of greater concern than the North Korea risk,” said Ko Seung-hee, a market analyst at SK Securities. “There is a sense that the KOSPI will not fall sharply or drop below the 1,900 level unless big news about North Korea breaks out.”