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North Korea: Witness to Transformation

Stephan Haggard on “Korean Kontext”

by | August 13th, 2014 | 07:40 am

Stephan Haggard was recently featured on an episode of KEI’s Korean Kontext, a podcast series that focuses on experts, artists and opinion makers that shape the U.S.-Korea policy world.

The interview discusses possible reform paths for North Korea, including both domestic reforms of the agricultural and state-owned enterprise sector and the current push to induce foreign investment into special economic zones. A key issue is how–and if–these two components of the reform process–the internal and external–will connect. To date, it appears that the regime has prioritized the external over the internal after a timid pilot reform effort in 2012; nonetheless, the regime has allowed the ongoing process of marketization to continue. Given this focus, discussions about the external sector are likely to dominate the reform debate, such as whether Rason can become a reform node and what role external actors–South Korea, Russia and China–will play in the process. The discussion is clearly germane to the ongoing efforts by the Park administration to get the Trustpolitik process going.

You can listen to the full interview here.

Comments (1)

Extremely helpful and systematic, the Kaesong Q & A especially so.

On Rason, among other points, Haggard clarifies a kind of culture clash (or a kind of willful misperception) that continues to occur where North Korea seems to think that passing laws will be sufficient to attract investors; here, the whole history of expropriation, debt default, etc. can just be wished away. But the agreements can be changed or ignored at the drop of a hat (or the execution of a corrupt official) — not much to heighten investor confidence there.

As if right on cue, as stated at the 4th Rason Int’l Trade Fair this week, ‘Speakers noted that the DPRK is dynamically pushing ahead with economic construction and has already laid an institutional and legal groundwork for developing and revitalizing the zone.’ http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2014/201408/news18/20140818-14ee.html Hasn’t this been true since about 1991?)

Finally, Haggard’s insistence that there are varying definitions and degrees of ‘reform’ in North Korea is really quite important; there is no single metric and we need to be open to various signals, modes of interpretation, etc.

Adam Cathcart August 19, 2014 | 5:49 am


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