updated 3/18/2010 12:43:40 AM ET 2010-03-18T04:43:40

North Korea has executed a former senior official after holding him responsible for the country's botched currency reform, a news report said Thursday.

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In November, North Korea redenominated its currency as part of efforts to lower inflation and reassert control over the country's nascent market economy. However, the measure reportedly worsened the country's food situation by forcing the closure of markets and sparked anger among many North Koreans left with piles of worthless bills.

Pak Nam Gi, the ruling Workers' Party finance and planning department chief who spearheaded the currency reform, was executed by a firing squad in Pyongyang last week, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported, citing unidentified sources.

Pak was accused of ruining the nation's economy in a blunder that also damaged public opinion and had a negative impact on leader Kim Jong Il's plan to hand power over to his youngest son, Yonhap said.

Citing its sources, Yonhap said many North Koreans believe the government used Pak as a scapegoat for the failed currency reform.

North Korea has since reopened hundreds of markets, but the prices of the few goods available have continued to rise, according to Lee Seung-yong, an official of Good Friends, a Buddhist-affiliated group that sends food and other aid to the North.

South Korea's Unification Ministry and National Intelligence Service — its main spy agency — said they could not confirm Pak's reported execution.

Pak was last mentioned by the North's official Korean Central News Agency in January when he accompanied Kim on an inspection trip. Kim sacked Pak following arguments within the country's leadership over who should take responsibility for the currency fiasco, South Korean media reported last month.

North Korea is regarded as having one of the world's worst human rights records with public executions, camps for political prisoners and torture.

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