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North Korea: Talk of reform shoots up rice prices

Rumors that Kim Jong Un will reform North Korea is causing rice prices to surge.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (L) looks at President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea Kim Yong-nam (R) during a military parade. There are unconfirmed rumors about Kim Jong Un's plans for his government. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

On its surface, it sounds like good news: there are rumors that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may veer from his late father Kim Jong Il and bring some reforms to the country. But talk of those reforms is causing rice prices to surge, making food even less affordable for North Koreans, a people that is known for being underfed, Reuters reported. "What's strikingly obvious is peoples' stunted growth, they're all very short for their age," a humanitarian worker told Reuters.

Sources told Reuters that some middlemen have been hoarding rice in hopes that Kim Jong Un will reform the broken North Korean economy, thereby creating business opportunities for those who hold the scarce commodity. 

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The military currently runs much of North Korea's foreign trade and uses the proceeds to pay for weapons, GlobalPost reported. Some officials have been speculating that Kim and his advisors would eventually take control of the trade, so that the money can go to developing the economy instead of just more weapons.

Ever since Kim made his first public speech promising his people that they soon wouldn't go hungry anymore, hopeful North Korean citizens have been discussing reform more often, GlobalPost reported. “Nowadays it is not just the cadres, it is the ordinary people as well who are arguing over reform and opening,” a source told the DailyNk. “This is definitely different to when the General [Kim Jong Il] was still with us, a time when we couldn’t even say the word ‘opening.’”

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/120727/north-korea-talk-reform-shoots-rice-prices