Bringing to mind the old Korean saying that “even a rat hole occassionally sees the light of day,” Kim Jong Un could be preparing to open up his country’s economy. This appears to be the most positive development out of NK in our lifetimes.
Recall that the wishful thinking of Kim Dae Joong’s “Sunshine Policy” and nuclear oversight deals with the U.S. were just one way streets, used as yet one after another bargaining lever by an intractible regime. What makes this radically differerent this time is that it is a NK initiative, a first. And Park Gun Hae is likely just the right SK leader to deal with the situation in a mature, cautious and forward looking manner.
Spiegal Online reports that North Korea is enlisting German help to prepare it to open its economy.
Now, a German media report says he is moving quickly to fulfill at least the first pledge.
According to an article to be published on Saturday by the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the communist regime in Pyongyang is preparing to open up the country’s economy to foreign investors. Moreover, it has enlisted the assistance of German economists and lawyers to lay the groundwork for the move.
[One of the economists involved in the plan] told the paper that the country is primarily interested in modernizing its laws relating to foreign investment. Such a move would be revolutionionary for North Korea , which has long been largely cut off from the rest of the world by virtue of its heavy-handed regime. The country’s economy is in a shambles as a result. But since Kim Jong Un took over from his late father just over a year ago, there have been signs of change.
His New Year’s address was the most obvious indication that he is prepared to embark on a path different from the one followed by his father, Kim Jong Il. Indeed, even holding such an address was a departure; it marked the first such speech by a North Korean leader since Kim Il Sung held the last one in 1994.
Furthermore, Kim was surprisingly open about the poor economic situation in which his country finds itself. He pledged renewal, indicating that it would largely be dependent on continued technological advancement. He also highlighted last month’s rocket launch, saying it was a boost for “national self-esteem.”
North Korea watchers have long speculated about how the young Kim would stand with its military leadership, and the economist cited above notes that ”the military will not want to give up power. “
The question is whether the young Kim’s reform efforts, if serious, will be able to overcome military resistance. But it is significant and heartening that this question, once unthinkable, would be asked at all.
Still, Tom Coyner wisely advises caution:
It is intriguing, but it is premature to say that real change within the DPRK is at hand. Too often those outside who have reported that significant change within the DPRK is on the cusp have been disappointed. Sometimes blame for these failed forecasts may be laid at the feet of the North Koreans, but in almost all cases, the fault has been with westerners being too quick in trying to see something that does not actually exist. Habitually we try to view North Korea from our reference points and not from the often startling different reality that makes up the North Korean state.
But is this case different? The fact that this speculation stems from Germany rather than the normal sources of false rumors – S Korea, Japan and the US – may make the story by default to be a bit more credible. But as I normally warn, it is much too early to say. At best we may view this as a small “heads up” event as being worthy of putting on our radar screens. But that is all – at least for now.