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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

North Korea Pushes Economic 'Miracles'

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea's government wants the country to focus on agriculture in the next few months and work vigorously to revitalize the economy, the official KCNA news agency said on Wednesday.

In a relatively rare report on an enlarged Cabinet meeting, KCNA said those present had urged the people to "effect fresh miracles and innovations" in the economy, which foreign analysts say barely functions despite tentative market-style reforms.

"It was specially stressed at the meeting that the second quarter is of weighty importance in carrying out the WPK's policy of bringing about radical turn in agriculture and all efforts should be concentrated on farming," the agency said. WPK stands for the Workers' Party of Korea -- the ruling communists.

Impoverished North Korea has already said agriculture is the prime focus this year. The latest comment underscored the importance of the planting season when Pyongyang typically needs fertilizer aid that is unlikely to be so easy to get this year because of tensions over its nuclear arms programs.

The North has requested 500,000 tons of fertilizer this year from South Korea, more than in previous years. But Seoul has not yet responded because the North has boycotted bilateral and nuclear talks.

More than one million people have died as a result of famine in isolated North Korea since the mid-1990s and the country relies on outside aid for medicine and food to feed about a quarter of its 22.5 million people.

"The meeting fixed it as an important economic strategy to step up the reconstruction and modernization of the national economy and called for a vigorous drive to carry it out," KCNA said. It did not give details.

It was also not clear when the meeting took place, but Premier Pak Pong Ju was among those present. South Korean analysts regard Pak as a powerful advocate of North Korean-style reform, which Pyongyang tends to refer to euphemistically as reconstruction or modernization.

"These enlarged plenary cabinet meetings have taken place in the past after important events where major policy decisions are adopted," said a South Korean Unification Ministry official by telephone.

"This meeting was probably to decide implementation measures for the decisions made at the Supreme People's Assembly last week. When an important national policy is adopted, the idea for the plenary cabinet meeting would be to disseminate it to various sectors," said the official, who asked not to be named.