A former top finance official in North Korea was executed over a currency reform that caused a number of problems in the secretive Communist nation, according to South Korea's official Yonhap news agency.
Pak Nam-gi was executed last week at a shooting range in Pyongyang, Yonhap reported Thursday, citing multiple sources. He was held responsible for "the country's currency reform fiasco that has caused massive inflation, worsened food shortages and dented leader Kim Jong Il's efforts to transfer power to a son," the news agency said.
Pak was chief of the planning and finance department of the ruling Workers' Party, Yonhap said. He was fired in January.
In December, North Korea revalued its currency, called the won, at a rate of 100 to 1, according to the U.S. State Department - the equivalent of lopping off two zeros, according to Time magazine.
In addition, according to the State Department, new laws were implemented including regulating consumption, tightening state control on the market and banning possession or use of foreign currencies. "The redenomination appears to have resulted in increased inflation and confiscation of wealth earned by private traders and others working outside state-controlled sectors of the economy," according to the department.
According to Time, the North Korean government gave citizens less than a week to exchange their old currency notes for new ones, and limited the amount they could exchange to 100,000 won, or less than $40 at black-market exchange rates, declaring that any amount above that would be worthless.
Following an outcry, the magazine reported in December, the limit was raised to 150,000 won in cash and 500,000 won in bank notes.
But, Time said, the reform stripped those who run small private food markets from the cash they need to run their businesses. Those private
markets developed across North Korea since a famine there a decade ago, the magazine said, and enable "an increasing number of North Koreans to feed themselves and earn a basic living by trading."
North Korea watchers in South Korea believe the change was implemented because of "a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots" in North Korea, and also to allow the Communist regime to regain control.
"Small traders and black markets existed outside of government control, and by definition at some point the regime was not going to tolerate that," Time magazine quoted analysts as saying.
A 2005 human rights report from the State Department said the North Korean regime had executed several "political prisoners, opponents of the regime, some repatriated defectors and others, including military officers suspected of espionage or plotting against Kim Jong Il" in recent years.
In April 2004, the government enacted a new code that provided for execution for only the "serious" or "grave" cases of four "anti-state" or
"anti-nation" crimes, the report said. Those crimes included participating in a coup aimed at overthrowing the government; acts of terrorism "for an anti-state purpose"; treason, which included defection or giving state secrets; and "suppressing the People's Movement for national liberation."