38 North: The Road to Rason by Andray Abrahamian

[From time to time CanKor will alert our readers to papers published by our partner-site 38North. The following article is authored by Andray Abrahamian, a freelance writer on Korea issues. He teaches in the Social Science College at the University of Ulsan in South Kore while working towards completing his doctoral dissertation on contemporary Orientalism and western images of North Korea. He holds an M.A. in International Relations from the University of Sussex, where he focused on Realist and Critical Theory approaches to East Asian relations. Please follow our links to this article on the 38North site. –CanKor.]

The Road to Rason By Andray Abrahamian

A bus bumps and bruises its way along the unpaved road, carrying would-be investors to Rason’s First Rason International Trade Exhibition which ran from August 21-25, 2011, in Sonbong. The windows are open, until a crimson humvee barrels past, its powerful suspension dancing on the road, leaving behind a plume of beige dust. The bus windows snap shut, the still air quickly gets hot and more than one of the passengers wishes we were Chinese high-rollers, being whisked to the Emperor Casino and Hotel, which sits beautifully on Korea’s East Sea, overlooking Bipa Island and flanked by lush green mountains and crystal waters.
Pictured to the right (Google Earth via NKeconwatch.com): Rason geographic border (in red) and security perimeter fence (in yellow).

The passengers of the humvee—part of the casino’s fleet—will long be checked in and gambling their fortunes away by the time we complete our two and a half hour journey. However, it won’t always be this way. Rason’s 50km road to the border is finally being upgraded. Indeed, the 2.5 hour journey took 3.5 hours in June. Since then, the road has been widened, the first stage of the construction plan, allowing for traffic to flow both directions more easily and smaller passenger vehicles to overtake the more cumbersome truckers who ply the road.  …Read More

The Survival of North Korea by Suk Hi Kim

[From the Nautilus Policy Forum comes the following summary of a new book by Suk Hi Kim, Editor of North Korean Review. Entitled “The Survival of North Korea: Essays on Strategy, Economics, and International Relations”, the book interweaves threads of argument and evidence to reflect the complicated nature of the international conflict focused on and in Korea and the urgency of ending the standoff on the Peninsula to avoid what could easily escalate into a catastrophic, nuclear war. This summary provides an overview of the engagement options that the USA and its allies should consider as part of a long-term strategy to complement short-term efforts to address North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities. –CanKor.]

The Longevity of North Korea and Solutions to its Nuclear Standoff
In the late 2000s, North Korea faced its third wave of possible state collapse, a phenomenon largely rooted in Kim Jong-il’s poor health, an impending power transition to his son, Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s ongoing food shortages, and its failed currency and economic reforms. This latest speculation of North Korean collapse came from an array of intelligence analysts, Asian and American scholars, think tank specialists, and workers in relief organizations. [1] The first wave that predicted North Korea’s collapse occurred in the 1980s, when the North Korean economy spiraled downward as the country’s chief allies–the Soviet Union and China–discontinued new loans and demanded repayment of outstanding debts. [2] The second wave came in the mid-1990s, when the great North Korean famine claimed the lives of between 200,000 and 3,000,000 people. Since the end of the Cold War, most communist countries either collapsed or carried out significant economic reform except for North Korea. Why should we assume that North Korea, one of the survivors that did not implement economic reform, will continue to be an exception to the pattern of history and survive? Read the rest of this entry »
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