[EDITORIALS]Don't rejoice on this newsReports seeping out from North Korea say that Pyeongyang has abolished food rationing, nullified money orders issued in exchange for foreign currency and raised wages by a factor of 20 to 30. If these reports are true, these changes indicate a fundamental shift in the direction of the socialist economic policies of the last Stalinist country in the world.
North Korea has clung tenaciously to its old regime long after the Soviet Union and eastern European communist countries acknowledged the failure of the socialist economic system and joined the free-market economy. This anachronistic and secluded state has produced masses of starving people and a flood of fleeing refugees.
Could the changes that North Korea is said to be applying to the root of its system mean that it is finally acknowledging the folly of its economy and choosing an open and cooperative economy? If so, North Korea's leaders must be praised for having seen the light of international politics and economy and for doing something courageous about it. These changes in North Korea, if found to be true, also give hope to those of us who have found it harder and harder to justify our belief in the success of North-South conciliation efforts. It is reported that the government is monitoring these signs from Pyeongyang closely.
Nevertheless, these reports should be taken into consideration only in light of a proper evaluation and understanding of North Korea's reality. As experts have pointed out, North Korean workers have been given wage hikes three times since 1992, and an incentive wage system has been used for some time. The money orders that supposedly were nullified are still very much in use. In short, there is no change.
Of course, we should welcome any changes in North Korea and offer our cooperation in efforts North Korea takes to shed its dysfunctional system.
We should not be so rash as to get excited about any yet unverified reports of North Korea's moving toward change, attributing the changes to the "sunshine" policy and deceiving ourselves into believing that everything is going to be fine in the land of North and South.