[NOTEBOOK] North Korea's Secret Study of CapitalismUnusual foreign visitors came to Washington Tuesday. They are five symposium representatives from North Korea who specialize in diplomacy and economics. The head is Han Seong-ryeol, who was a minister of the North Korean mission to the United Nations and is now a deputy director of the American Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The others are officials of Ministry of Foreign Trade and the Foreign Trade Bank.
They visited Washington to participate in debates with economic specialists of the United States working in the private sector, and to inspect the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-national Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The Stanley Foundation, a private organization founded in 1956, the Sigur Center for Asian Studies of George Washington University and a research center of Asia and Pacific affairs are sponsoring the visit.
North Korean officials have received training many times in the United States, but unusual interest has focused on this visit because of its timing. The Korean press reported on this visit a few days before the delegation's departure.
The world is waiting to see whether North Korea will embark on Chinese-style reforms, after the visit to Shanghai of Kim Jong-il, the national defense commission chairman. At the same time, the symposium representatives are the first North Korean officials to visit the United States since the change of the U.S. administration.
It is natural that the five North Koreans should be the center of media attention, but nothing was known in advance about their arrival time, the list of delegates, the accommodations, schedule or location of symposium, which be-gan Wednesday and closed Friday.
The sponsors explained that the North Koreans demanded absolute secrecy, since their visit is an unofficial one. They even added that if reporters came to the symposium, then the location would be changed.
It is known that the North Korean representatives and American economic specialists were to exchange questions and answers on the economic systems, commercial transaction and investment methods of each nation. Measures to activate commerce between the two nations, in light of the easing of the U.S. economic embargo against North Korea were also to be discussed.
It seems that the secret visit of the North Korean officials verifies the intensity of North Korea's pursuit of capitalism. North Korea must have started a secret study of market economy.
by Kim Jin