My First Message to the People of the DPRK

|Korean Peninsula

I would like to introduce my encounters with the people of the DPRK since 1998. Out of consideration for the situations of the people I met, I will avoid mentioning specific dates and places.

When I first met DPRK representatives, I put forward the following three proposals:

  1. If we take the diligence of DPRK people into consideration, there is a good possibility that the DPRK will develop faster than the ROK. As one who has devoted myself to the economic development of the ROK since 1959, I would like to share my experience with the DPRK, not only the successful experiences, but also the failures. In one sense, examples of failures may be more important for the DPRK.
  2. To this end, the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) is ready to support the establishment of a business school in the Rajin and Sonbong area, in which subjects will focus on ways to advance economic development, such as policies, systems and ways running businesses, focusing in particular on the nurturing of export industry.
  3. In connection with this, the FKI will invite a delegation from the DPRK to visit. I would like the DPRK to welcome a delegation from the ROK in return.

In December 2000, the DPRK announced to the FKI that it would send a delegation to the ROK. Consequently, the federation has drawn up a concrete schedule for the DPRK group, however, the plan has not been realized yet.

With the participation of more than one hundred people from 22 countries, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) held a major conference in 1998 in Geneva, which focused on the topic of Agricultural Recovery and Environment Protection (AREP).

The UNDP secretariat conducted individual briefings on the draft paper for the representatives of the ROK and the DPRK on the day prior to the conference. In the conclusion of the draft paper, the UNDP secretariat’s opinion differed somewhat from mine.

The conclusion was as follows;

1) The goal in 2002 is to enable the DPRK’s to become self-reliant in terms of food.
2) The key issue is how the DPRK will gain foreign currency to deal with its imports after 2002. Consequently, in the next meeting, measures to promote exports and matters of introducing foreign currencies to the DPRK, including in the energy sector, will form the main focus of discussions.

The UNDP secretariat said that they were particularly hoping for the ROK’s cooperation at the next meeting, since the import drive policies of the ROK would be of great help.

However, I objected to the conclusion of the first section of the draft paper, that which dealt with “aiming for self-reliance in terms of food” in the DPRK. I said, “In the light of the agricultural and natural conditions in the DPRK, aiming for self-reliance does not sound realistic to me. Even in the ROK, where agricultural conditions are better than in the DPRK, the self-sufficiency rate in food is about 60%; the remaining 40% is animal feed, such as soybeans and corn, which is imported using the foreign currency gained by exporting industrial products. I believe that the DPRK should promote industrialization centering on exports as soon as possible and make up for its food shortages.”

I also added, “Since specialists abroad and NGO representatives respect the DPRK’s policy of autonomy and independence so much, they encourage the DPRK to stand on its own two feet even with regard to matters in which the country cannot afford to. We have to “seek the truth based solely on facts” as Deng Xiaoping did in China. We should be clear about the things that the DPRK is incapable of engaging in and expectations that are unreasonable, otherwise, we may mislead that country.”

In response, UNDP representatives were about to raise their voices and argue as one, but I interrupted. “I am saying this based on my long experience in the ROK. Your theory is an armchair conclusion. I believe that the quickest route to unification is to push for a commercial nation with the ROK and the DPRK working side by side.”

I hope that discussions at future meetings on improving food problems by means of promoting the export industry make real progress.

[Translated by ERINA]