N. Korea connects politics and military to economic development

Posted on : 2014-01-20 14:08 KST Modified on : 2014-01-20 14:08 KST
Pyongyang’s recent calls to stabilize inter-Korean relations appear motivated by desire to set the stage for economic improvement

By Choi Hyun-june, staff reporter

The primary reason that North Korea is calling for an improvement in inter-Korean relations and an easing of tensions appears to be economic. A North Korean article that came to light recently argued that political and military stability are critical to building the economy.

The latest issue of the quarterly publication of North Korea’s Social Science Institute - published on Nov. 15, 2013, and viewed on Jan. 19 - included an article titled, “Major Issues Pertaining to Making the North Korean Economy Stronger by Establishing and Expanding Economic Development Zones.” The article identified “creating the right political and military environment” as one of the five important tasks for developing economic zones.

The other four tasks were building infrastructure such as roads and railroads, enacting laws for the special economic zones that take into account the profit of the government and of investors, providing benefits for foreign investors, and operating and managing projects in a way that is suitable to the characteristics of the zones. In November 2013, North Korea announced plans to set up 13 special economic development zones around and one special economic zone in Sinuiju with the goal of attracting foreign capital and developing rural regions.

“Before making an investment in a particular country, investors are bound to consider the political and military situation there,” the article said. “The basic objective of the political and military situation in an economic development zone is to insure the stability of investment.”

“Some major objectives to consider are stabilizing the political situation, eliminating the threat of war, and strengthening military power,” the paper said. It argued that there is a critical need for easing military tensions with South Korea and with the US, even if only to attract foreign investment.

Furthermore, the ROK-US joint military exercises to which North Korea is so adamantly opposed place a direct burden on the soldiers and civilians of the North. During the two months of the drills - when thousands of American and South Korean troops are mobilized, fielding weaponry that is capable of carrying out a nuclear strike - the North must go on emergency footing to counter this. In North Korea, the military performs a variety of economic roles, including construction, fishing, and trade. Consequently, it is possible to say that the ROK-US exercises have a negative effect not only in military terms but also economically speaking.

Another relevant factor here appears to be that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un mentioned “improving inter-Korean relations” on three separate occasions during his recent New Year’s address, along with promising an improvement in the people’s livelihoods in areas such as agriculture.

“North Korea is attempting to create a peaceful environment so that it can build its economy,” said Jeong Chang-hyeon, adjunct professor at Kookmin University. “We can infer that this is why it is attempting to take the lead in dialogue with the South and with the US.”


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