• /
  • /
  • /
  • Emerging from the Politics of Kim Il Sung and Beginning the Reform and Open Policy in the DPRK – Positive Influences on Economic Cooperation in Northeast Asia –

Emerging from the Politics of Kim Il Sung and Beginning the Reform and Open Policy in the DPRK – Positive Influences on Economic Cooperation in Northeast Asia –

|China

The leader of the DPRK, Kim Jong Il, informally visited China from January 15th to 20th of this year to see Shanghai, a city which developed drastically in the decade of the 1990’s. He highly praised the economic development of Shanghai and indicated his view towards employing the “Korean style of reform and open policy”. This is a very important development, along with his previous visit to China last May and inter-Korean summit meeting last June, which will have a great influence on the future of Northeast Asia.

When Kim Il Sung died in 1994, Kim Jong Il entered a mourning period of three years, and tried to maintain the established order of politics based on instructions left by Kim Il Sung. He placed priority on the policy line of military affairs at a time of severe economic crisis and complicated international circumstances. However, it became clearer at the summit held last year that Kim Jong Il had aimed at emerging from the politics of Kim Il Sung since late 1999. When Kim Jong Il visited China, he expressed his clear intention to change his policy line from placing priority on military affairs to on the economy, or at least to both areas in parallel. That is, his attitude has changed greatly from criticizing the reform and open policy of China (until two years ago) to evaluating the policy (during his visit last May), then deciding to introduce the policy (as a result of his visit to China in January). It means that the Korean style of reform and open policy will start under the present political structure of Kim Jong Il.

We have to pay attention to the fact that Kim Jong Il aims at changing his policy line with a well-considered plan. From Kim Jong Il’s remarks in the “Rodong Shinmun” newspaper in the DPRK on January 4th, it appears that new expressions for the reformation of the national economy, such as “refashioning the old economy”, have emerged. This means that the measures to change policy line, with public opinion in mind, were prepared within the DPRK administration in the latter half of last year.

For the last ten years or more, all countries of the world have hoped that the DPRK would employ the open and reform policy line as in China, which is now being realized. The majority of people were skeptical about changes in the DPRK’s policy line, claiming that it was fundamentally impossible, because the reform and open policy would destroy the existing structure. However, when we consider the development of the past one and a half years, it seems that the DPRK has worked to undertake large-scale change and has developed a bright foresight.

For the last ten years or more, all countries of the world have hoped that the DPRK would employ the open and reform policy line as in China, which is now being realized. The majority of people were skeptical about changes in the DPRK’s policy line, claiming that it was fundamentally impossible, because the reform and open policy would destroy the existing structure. However, when we consider the development of the past one and a half years, it seems that the DPRK has worked to undertake large-scale change and has developed a bright foresight.

First of all, the DPRK can enjoy the advantages of a “latecomer”, employing China’s experiences of advancing the market economy while maintaining its existing structure. The experiences of China and Vietnam are good examples, and the DPRK may be able to use them positively in order to change more smoothly.

Secondly, the DPRK can use the merits of its charismatic image. China had a hard time emerging from the personality cult of Mao Zedong. However, the DPRK may be able to follow Kim Il Sung’s thoughts and developments without any strong resistance. Since many contradictions will become obvious at the beginning of reformation, “development dictatorship” will be necessary. The charismatic image of Kim Jong Il may become a positive factor if it is promoted in the right way.

Thirdly, security issues in the DPRK are not so severe as in China. The DPRK made adventurous military moves when the relationship with China, and with Russia became worse. Since its relationship with the ROK has improved as well as with those countries mentioned, the DPRK has been emerging from a “security crisis”. On the contrary, China has constantly been involved in tensions in its relationships with the U.S. and Japan, in terms of issues related to Taiwan.

Finally, the DPRK can gain economic support from China and the ROK, which will earn most profits when the DPRK changes its policy line. Although China will lessen its grant aid, the nation will promote ODA style economic cooperation positively. This applies to the ROK as well.

Since the Bush Administration took office, the U.S. has adopted a policy of strengthening its relationship with “friendly” countries as its slogan for diplomatic strategy. There is a possibility that the U.S. may employ strict policies towards the DPRK and China. As long as the present political conditions continue in Japan, there are likely to be no big improvements in the cold relationship between Japan and the DPRK. In these circumstances, economic cooperation in Northeast Asia will progress, lead by China, the ROK and the DPRK first. Then, Japanese and American investments will flow when the economy reaches a certain level of development.

[Translated by ERINA]