NORTH KOREAN leader Kim Jong Un's promise to build ''socialist economic construction'' in his nuclear-armed but impoverished and isolated country could herald-

More Chinese-style economic reforms, according to analysts - but he will never explicitly say so.

Alongside the declaration Saturday that the North has completed the development of its nuclear arsenal and no more atomic or missile tests were needed -

Kim proclaimed that the ''new strategic line'' for the ruling Workers party would be ''socialist economic construction''.

The three words appeared a total of 56 times in the report by the official KCNA news agency on Kim's speech and the subsequent party decision.
It has a long way to go.

For a time after the Korean War the North was wealthier than the South, benefiting from a Japanese colonial decision to concentrate industrialization there as it had more -

Mineral resources and more hydroelectric power potential than the large agricultural southern end of the peninsula.

But the situation reversed as the North - long considered as one of the most state-controlled economies in the world - suffered from decades of economic mismangement, worsened-

When the demise of the Soviet union ended the financial support that had helped to plug the gaps.

Average incomes were less than one twentieth of those in the South in 2016, according to the most recent statistics available from Seoul.

Pyongyang itself does not publish figures even for the GDP growth.

The situation has been improving as Pyongyang quietly allows the market to play a greater role in its economy under Kim.

It recorded its fastest expansion in 17 years in 2016, according to Bank of Korea, the South's central bank - although that is threatened by recent UN Security Council sanctions imposed on sectors such as coal, fish and textiles over its weapon programmes. [Agencies]


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