[EDITORIALS]Sinuiju questions abound

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[EDITORIALS]Sinuiju questions abound

North Korea followed up on the announcement of the Sinuiju project with the reported appointment of a Chinese-Dutch president of Euro-Asia Group, Yang Bin, as the first administrative minister of the special district. By appointing a foreigner to navigate a capitalist experiment, Pyeongyang has magnified its determination for greater openness. But there is also a mountain of tasks and questions to resolve before the project gets off the ground.

The first is whether Mr. Yang is indeed qualified to lead this project. He is a Chinese by birth, having spent time in the navy there before studying and working in the Netherlands, obtaining a Dutch passport. His businesses made him the second richest man in China. His business success was in part buoyed by China's adoption of a market economy, but he is also undoubtedly a shrewd businessman who gets things done.

But he is also under suspicion of tax evasion in China and accounting fraud in Hong Kong. His company, which was listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, has suspended trading. These parts of his background bring into question his ability to lay the foundation of what is in effect the city-state of Sinuiju.

North Korea and Mr. Yang also signed an agreement for the management of the special district. But this deal, signed by a foreigner and the North's head of the Committee for the Promotion of Economic Cooperation, a deputy minister of the state administrative council, is also a curious development. Even considering the unprecedented nature of the project and the North's less than consistent rule of law, the status of both sides can be considered inappropriate to sign an agreement of this magnitude.

The industrial infrastructure of Sinuiju -- the power supply, highways, ports and telecommunication networks -- remains in the primitive stage. Large financial capital and time will be needed for the district to become established as a center of industrial activities.

The early stages of the development will no doubt rely on international capital. But there is a limit to the availability of capital as long as North Korea remains on the U.S. list of "rogue states." Another question: Will it be possible to relocate existing residents of Sinuiju and repopulate it with 200,000 young people with technological skills within two years as planned?

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