Rolling Reforms: Reflections on Visits to Kim Jong Un’s North Korea, by Rudiger Frank

[On visits to North Korea since Kim Jong Un came to power, CanKor Brain Trust member Rudiger Frank has seen growing evidence of a more diverse and cash-based economy. These signs of creeping reform are evidence of North Korea’s desire for change, but achieving real transformation remains a long and delicate process. Rudiger Frank is Chair Professor of East Asian Economy and Society at the University of Vienna and Head of the Department of East Asian Studies. He has visited North Korea numerous times. This article appeared in Global Asia, a publication of the East Asia Foundation in Seoul, Vol. 8, No. 2, SUMMER 2013. The full article, as published, with numerous pictures may be accessed here: Rolling Reforms. –CanKor]

Rollerblading has become a hot new hobby on the boulevardes of Pyongyang. (Photo by Rudiger Frank)

Rollerblading has become a hot new hobby on the boulevards of Pyongyang.
(Photo by Rudiger Frank)

Painting a masterpiece and reforming North Korea have a surprising number of things in common. We know the necessary ingredients, tools and available techniques. There are numerous cases for comparison and a large body of literature to study. Still, few if any of us can create art to equal that of old masters such as Rembrandt or Kim Hong-do.

In theory, realizing North Korea’s potential seems easy. State socialist systems have been well researched and understood for decades. We possess a growing amount of empirical knowledge about North Korea. We can look at transformations in China, Vietnam and Eastern Europe for guidance. Incentives have to be set right, so that resources are allocated more efficiently. China has demonstrated that this does not require a fully-fledged Western-style democracy, just a stable currency, markets where demand and supply result in realistic prices, private ownership and an economy that can freely import and export goods, services, capital and technologies.

We know that North Korea has a food, energy and transportation problem. We know that it can, theoretically, produce more food with more inputs of fertilizer, electricity, fuel and machinery, but that, for the time being, importing food would better reflect the North’s comparative disadvantage in agricultural production. We know that North Korea has abundant natural resources, that these are a potential source of hard currency and that a smart strategy would be to process these resources before exporting them. Read the rest of this entry »

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PROK Statement on the Current Situation

[The Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK) on 13 March 2013 issued the following “Statement on the Current Situation in the Korean Peninsula in view of the Joint US-ROK Military Exercises and Threats of War between North and South Korea.” The original text can be accessed here. –CanKor]

Stop the threats of war, without any conditions, begin dialogue and negotiations!

“God will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4).

Logo PROKWe, in the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea confess our faith in the God of peace and have been working and praying for reconciliation and reunification of the North and South Korea and peace in the entire Korean Peninsula. We offered our earnest prayers especially in this Lenten Pilgrimage carrying with us the concerns of the suffering of the people, justice, peace and abundant life in the Korean Peninsula. Yet, in spite of our earnest prayers, the North and the South are heading toward precarious armed confrontation.

In view of the recent Joint United States-Republic of Korea Military Exercises which began on March 11 dubbed, ‘Key Resolve’, the North pushed to invalidate the Armistice Agreement signed in Panmunjeom in 1953, shut down telephone communication lines with the South. The confrontational exchange of words and propaganda between the North and South is just short of outbreak of armed conflict that may happen anytime in the Korean Peninsula, creating a very volatile situation. In this kind of situation we are mourning and in remorse like the prophet Jeremiah whose heart was broken and his bones tremble.

Weapons of war and destruction and the ongoing military exercises will not bring about safety and peace in the Korean Peninsula. Read the rest of this entry »

Canadian Parliament passes unanimous motion on North Korea

[On 18 March 2013, the Canadian House of Commons gave consent to a motion on North Korea by Deepak Obhrai, Conservative MP for Calgary East (Alberta). The following is taken from a Media Release issued by Mr. Obhrai’s office. –CanKor]

Deepak Obhrai (House of Commons photo)

Deepak Obhrai (House of Commons photo)

Motion by Deepak Obhrai, M.P. condemning North Korean actions passes unanimously in the House of Commons

(Ottawa) Deepak Obhrai, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, today moved a motion condemning recent actions by North Korea, in the House of Commons. The motion was unanimously passed by Members.

Mr. Obhrai moved:

That this House, reaffirming Canada’s commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons:

  • unequivocally condemns North Korea’s recent nuclear test in violation of its international obligations;
  • expresses its grave concern regarding the widespread violations of basic rights in North Korea, including torture and other cruel, inhuman punishment, arbitrary detentions, absence of due process and the rule of law, collective punishments extending up to three generations, and the existence of political prison camps; Read the rest of this entry »

Canada’s FM Baird Welcomes Expanded Sanctions Against North Korea

Canadian FM John Baird7 March 2013 – Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement:

“Canada welcomes the expanded sanctions against North Korea adopted today at the United Nations Security Council and is proud to have been a co-sponsor.

“This response to North Korea’s reckless nuclear test in early February sends a clear and strong message to those responsible in Pyongyang.

“The true travesty is that the North Korean people continue to starve and are denied basic human rights while the regime in Pyongyang squanders limited resources.

“The international community had clearly warned North Korea that its belligerent actions would bear consequences.

“It is high time that the Government of North Korea reverse this dangerous course, abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and focus its scarce resources on the living conditions of its people.

“Canada will continue to work with our international partners to pursue all appropriate actions against the rogue regime in North Korea.”

For more information on the extent of the sanctions and the available exemptions Canada has already imposed against North Korea, please see North Korea: Overview of New Sanctions and a May 2010 statement by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Canada Unequivocally Condemns North Korean Nuclear Test

[Just in case you missed it, here is the predictable reaction from Canada’s Foreign Minister to the detonation of the DPRK nuclear test last week. Pity the civil servants who have to draft these expressions of outrage! How many different ways are there to string together the words reckless, provocative, serious, misguided, unconscionable, and irresponsible? After decades of condemnation, how many teeth remain in the concepts of rogue regime, disregard for the global will, threat to peace and security, squandering of resources, and sanctions? The one novel piece of news in this statement: apparently the Government of Canada actually had hopes Kim Junior would disown the legacy of his father. Or is this merely another part of the liturgy? –EW]

February 12, 2013 – Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement:

Canadian FM John Baird“The North Korean regime’s reckless disregard for the global will is again on display.

“This test—North Korea’s third—is provocative and marks a serious, misguided threat to regional peace and security.

“What makes such actions even more unconscionable is the fact that the North Korean people starve and are denied their basic human dignity while the Pyongyang regime squanders limited resources.

“While we had hoped the passing of dictator Kim Jong-il would have closed a sad chapter in North Korea, we are disappointed that his son has continued the irresponsible path of placing weapons before the well-being of people.

“Canada will work with our international partners to pursue all appropriate actions and sanctions against the rogue regime in North Korea.”

UN Sanctions Resolution: the good news and the bad news by Marcus Noland

[The following was taken from the blog North Korea: Witness to Transformation, which is hosted by the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics, and authored by Marcus Noland and Stephan Haggard. This commentary by long-time CanKor friend Marcus Noland was posted on 23 January 2013. –CanKor]

Marcus Noland (Photo by East-West Center)

Marcus Noland (Photo by East-West Center)

More than a month after North Korea fired a missile in contravention of two existing UNSC resolutions, the Security Council passed UNSC Resolution 2087, condemning the use of ballistic missile technology in launch and saying the “act violated United Nations sanctions, expresses determination to take “significant action” in event country proceeds with further launch.”

First, the good news: The action took the form of a resolution, not a presidential statement, which passed unanimously with China’s support.

At the margin, the resolution expands existing sanctions. It recognizes that the existing regime is leaky, referring to the use of bulk cash to evade sanctions, and signals that additional measures may be needed to tighten implementation. The South Korean defense ministry has claimed that wreckage recovered from the launch revealed parts and components of Chinese and European origin. Read the rest of this entry »

Canadian Foreign Minister urges North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons program

[Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird issued a statement on 23 January 2013, following the passing of UNSC Resolution 2087. This text is taken from the website of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. –CanKor]

Canadian FM John Baird (Photo by AFP)

Canadian FM John Baird (Photo by AFP)

“Canada is deeply concerned about North Korea’s missile tests and apparent plan to conduct more nuclear tests. We urge the regime to abandon any such plans.

“The regime in Pyongyang has repeatedly violated its international obligations and poses a grave threat to the security and stability of the region, even as the people of North Korea starve and suffer.

“Further defiance of its non-proliferation obligations will lead to further consequences: Canada stands ready to work with the international community to take further measures if the regime continues to demonstrate total disregard for its people by choosing to fund military and nuclear programs.

“We welcome the United Nations Security Council’s latest sanctions against North Korea. These have already been imposed under Canadian law.

“Canada urges the regime in North Korea to abandon its reckless nuclear and missile programs and invest its limited resources in meeting the basic needs of its people.”

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