[FORUM]Revive the North’s economy

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[FORUM]Revive the North’s economy

My heart broke with sorrow watching video footage showing the wretched situation in North Korea. A Japanese television station acquired it from an undisclosed North Korean source. Young children were lying down or crawling on the ground here and there, their clothes were ragged and faces were covered with dirt. A girl was constantly scratching her hair and body. When did that child last wash her face?
Along with deep sadness, I wondered how such scenes could have been captured and transmitted outside the country. It is particularly strange that scenes of people being disciplined in a concentration camp after attempting to defect from North Korea were taken in the video footage. How could it happen? Isn’t it circumstantial evidence that the impenetrably controlled society has started to erode?
Come to think of it, rumors on the collapse of North Korea that have circulated persistently among foreign news agencies seem rather unusual. President Roh Moo-hyun emphasized during his visit to the Americas and Europe at the end of last year that he did not want North Korea to fall and that the country would not collapse easily.
As if triggered by his remarks, leading newspapers and television broadcasters in the United States, Britain, Japan, Germany and Hong Kong continuously announced assumptions and arguments to the contrary.
Headlines such as “A whirlpool of speculations on the collapse of North Korea,” “The rumors of impending collapse of the Kim Jong-il regime” and “The possible popular uprising of North Koreans” were provocative first of all.
The International Herald Tribune published on Jan. 8 an interesting column by Andrei Lankov, a long-time Korea researcher. He suggested that the international community promise amnesty for Kim Jong-il and his confidants, because North Korean leaders try to maintain the present regime with a determination of “kill or be killed” for the sake of their safety. By promising to grant amnesty, therefore, they could be induced to lead a reform movement themselves.
In the Asian Wall Street Journal on Jan. 6, a column was published that argued, “China should invade North Korea in the humanitarian dimension, and establish an interim government in Pyeongyang that China supports.” The writer is Bruce Gilley of the United States, and he is called a China expert.
His argument was more radical and irritating to us than the remarks of Michael J. Horowitz, chief researcher at the Hudson Institute in the United States, made at the end of last year that “China is reviewing a scenario in which to make North Korea its dependent territory. China will select a North Korean general and have him take over the regime and then have him ask for the dispatch of 200,000 Chinese soldiers.”
Our government says that such predictions had insufficient grounds or were exaggerated. It says that the grip of the Kim Jong-il regime on the North Korean military and residents remains the same.
I believe the government’s analysis is exact, but it is also true that I am worried that its judgment on the situation is too complacent. Did East Germany fall after giving advance notice?
The collapse of North Korea could be a disaster for South Korea. Among others, the worst scenario is military collision in the process of the collapse. If a third force, including China, enters North Korea after its fall, this would be a nightmare too.
After all, our best policy is to lead North Korea toward a gradual and peaceful unification by helping its soft landing. Its success or failure depends on the economic recovery of North Korea. But support without goals or economic cooperation limited to certain districts like now would not be of fundamental help.
We need to turn our ear to the view that we should not give fish alone, but teach how to catch fish and approach the North Korean problem with a program that comprehends the entire North Korean economy.
This is a more powerful “sunshine” and support policy. It is essential to apply capitalistic reforms in North Korea.
Why doesn’t our government appoint a prime minister-level heavyweight as manager of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex and special adviser on the North Korean economy who designs and coaches not only Gaeseong but also the entire North Korean economy?
The problem is whether North Korea will accept this idea, but North Korea is also known to have taken interest in the Park Chung Hee-style economic development model.
It was also reported that North Korea had once reviewed the appointment of Park Tae-jun, founder of Posco, as the head of Shinuiju special economic zone.
If North Korea accepts this approach, it could be a game in which both South and North Korea can win.

* The writer is the chief of the editorial page, JoongAng Ilbo.

by Heo Nam-chin
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