Photo/IllutrationA participant from a North Korea military band holds a national flag while performing during the Spasskaya Tower international military music festival in Red Square in Moscow on Aug. 23. (AP Photo)

SEOUL--North Korea is undertaking a massive downsizing of its government work force apparently because of the negative effects of international sanctions on its economy.

A source knowledgeable about what is occurring in North Korea said about one-third of government workers would be let go over the course of a year.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gave the order to reduce the government payroll in August.

At the same time, the source said older government workers would be among the first to be let go while younger state employees would be given greater responsibility.

North Korean media has reported that Kim wants to import ideas from abroad that might help his nation develop and to do so would require more flexible management of the government structure.

A study conducted by South Korea’s Unification Ministry in 2018 described the North Korean government structure as composed of 44 organizations, including 32 ministries and eight committees.

In April 2018, Kim declared an end to the parallel courses of pursuing the development of nuclear weapons and rebuilding the economy. At that time, he said efforts would be concentrated on the economy.

But when he met with U.S. President Donald Trump in Hanoi in February 2019 to discuss the denuclearization of his nation, his calls for lifting economic sanctions as a precondition for such a move were rejected.

From April, Kim has been emphasizing a course of “self-rehabilitation” of the nation, an attempt to achieve economic growth in the face of U.N. sanctions.

Downsizing the government structure would be one way of cutting down the costs of operating the government.