EU: On the Bench in Pyongyang

17 02 2009

sdc14217By Axel Berkofsky for ISN Security Watch

Brussels has stayed out of the North Korea nuclear game, letting the members of the six-party talks call all the shots in what some say is a lack of motivation and others a smart waiting game, Axel Berkofsky writes for ISN Security Watch.

…Rogue missiles and megaphone diplomacy aside, Brussels continues to implement what little is left of its economic engagement projects with North Korea. It’s not much, but it’s still more than most (except China) are willing to invest into the ailing North Korean economy. However, there are serious doubts that Pyongyang is at all interested in implementing any of the structural reforms the EU and its member-states are promoting through small-scale training and capacity-building projects, mainly in finance, trade and management.

In fact, North Korea’s economic reform process has essentially been suspended at best and scrapped for good at worst, says Leonid Petrov, research associate at the School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. “In 2004, North Korean government officials and the army were told that market liberalism was a temporary phenomenon and would not be tolerated in the future. The economic policy of partial liberalization started in July 2002 was gradually abandoned and old patterns of central economic planning, public distribution system, and strictly controlled market activity were being reintroduced,” he told ISN Security Watch.

And recent personnel changes are making things even worse, he added. “In 2007, [North Korean President] Kim Jong-il’s brother in law, Chang Sun-taek, was promoted to the newly created post of first vice-director of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party. He visited the border area with China to ‘clean up’ smuggling and speculation, and issued an order to tighten regulations authorizing the maintenance of free markets in the country”…

Read the full text here…


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