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North Korea's economic reform to face challenges

Updated: 2013-12-17 (KST)
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When the young North Korean leader Kim Jong-un assumed power two years ago, he made a bold statement to move toward economic reform.

"There must be economic development for Kim Jong-un to receive more support from the North Korean public. In that sense, North Korea is attempting economic development that it can achieve by itself despite all the international sanctions."

One way to do that was to establish 14 special economic zones across nine regions in the state, opening up the reclusive regime to foreign investors.
But because the now-executed uncle of the young Kim, Jang Song-thaek, was a key player in the plan along with North Korean Premier Pak Pong-ju, experts say Jang's removal may put the brakes on the drive to reform.

"Pak Pong-ju lost his big partner in North Korean politics. That means probably the hardliners in Korean Workers' Party and North Korean military authorities, they will raise their pressure against new economic reform and any kind of open-up policy."

Another ambitious project for raking in foreign currency is the construction of the Masikryong ski resort.
The park, expected to open for business by the end of this year, is estimated to have cost the ailing state 400 million U.S. dollars.
But experts are skeptical about Pyongyang's ability to open up due to its constant provocations and nuclear threats.

"Such efforts to open up must be backed by an easing of international sanctions and an improvement in North Korea's image to the outside world. It is foolish of the North to think that it can attract foreigners just by building tourist sites."

The recent detainments of American tourists will also work against the North's attempts to attract foreigner tourism.
Hwang Sung-hee, Arirang News.

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