Friday, January 11, 2013

Hubs for Radical Change? North Korea’s SEZs under Kim Jong-un

Interesting report on the Special economic Zones in north Korea.  The author concludes with this important statement:

Developments in Rason remain most promising, but the past year has not demonstrated extra attention for this experiment under Kim Jong-un. Perhaps Kim is, as the German press recently reported, considering a different economic development model such as a Vietnamese “doi moi” or a Mongolian style economic reform, although there are no indicators at present he is moving in that direction, either.  However, as much as some would like to believe that this new leader is North Korea’s Deng Xiaoping, he has failed to fulfill the role of the country’s Great Reformer.
Hubs for Radical Change? North Korea’s SEZs under Kim Jong-un

Having emerged from the Department of War Studies at King’s College London with an M.A. and interned subsequently with the Global Policy Forum in New York, Sabine van Ameijden returns to SinoNK  with a well-documented overview of  North Korean SEZs. Her research  is especially apropos for analysts who are seeking to determine if the words Kim Jong-un uttered in his New Year’s speech — and at the Supreme People’s Assembly — about focusing on economics as the next step in the North Korea’s journey are, in fact, consonant. –Roger Cavazos, Coordinator

Hubs for Radical Change? North Korea’s SEZs under Kim Jong-un
by Sabine van Ameijden

Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s address sparked much excitement about a “radical policy change” in the world’s most isolated country, but we at SinoNK have not yet been convinced that the North Korean economic tides are turning under the leadership of “the Marshal.”  Christopher Green and Steven Denney have already pointed out the strategic fog swirling around Kim’s speech: there have previously been too many false economic dawns in North Korea as it is. Thus, when it comes to policy change, the simple proposition put forth in 2013 by the German Foreign Ministry is correct: The present moment is one where North Korean actions will speak louder than words.

The logical vehicles for any reforms in North Korea are the country’s special economic zones (SEZs). Reminiscent of of Deng Xiaoping’s strategy to open up the Chinese economy, these are experimental hubs for capitalist reform, yet, somehow, are too rarely sidelined in mainstream discussion about the prospects for economic change in North Korea. How significant are these special administered entities for national policy reform? Analysing movement (as a surrogate for notoriously unreliable trade figures) in North Korea’s SEZs can provide us with actual data, rather than raw speculation based only on rhetoric from Kim Jong-un and his subordinates, about Pyongyang’s commitment to address its basket case economy.

Hardscrabble Model: Rason | In the past year, developments in Rason (罗先/라선  -short for Rajin-Sonbong) have hinted towards the DPRK government’s willingness to economically reform without concomitant political reform. Rason, which relatively speaking is the most vibrant of the current SEZs,  has a unique location in the DPRK’s northeast, bordering Russia and blocking China’s Jilin province from the sea. The zone was established in 1991, but only came to the attention of mainstream Western media in 2009 when Chinese investment in infrastructure and business finally moved Rason forward in spite of the PRC’s expressed anger over North Korea’s second nuclear test.
(Continued at the link below)

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