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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 16:55, February 09, 2006
"Opening up" message revealed by Kim Jong Il's China visit
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Chinese semimonthly Ban Yue Tan recently carried an article by Ren Libo, a reporter stationed in Pyongyang, which believes the recent visit to China by Kim Jong Il, top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), carries an "opening up" message.

At 7pm Jan. 18, 2005, China's Xinhua News Agency released the news of General Secretary Kim Jong Il's informal visit to China at the invitation of General Secretary Hu Jintao. Meanwhile, China Central Television (CCTV) broadcast the news in picture.

Friendly informal visit

As a resident reporter in Pyongyang, the author has long heard the news of Kim Jong Il's visit to China. On the eve of the visit -- Jan. 9, 2005 -- the reporter saw the motorcades of DPRK's party, political and military key officials such as Kim Yong Nam, Cho Myong Rok and Pak Bong Ju in front of the Mansudae Assembly Hall. Obviously, it was the meeting between Kim Jong Il and the key leaders before the visit.

The DPRK side attached great importance to this visit. The DPRK central television broadcast the news at the same time China did. On the evening of Jan. 18 the TV station broadcast the KCNA (Korean Central News Agency) news four times in a row, which is rather rare. The news covered roughly the same content as that of the Xinhua News Agency.

A "learning tour" with much gain

During the visit, the DPRK leader went to several Chinese provinces and cities, including Wuhan, Yichang, Guangzhou, Zhuhai and Shenzhen, visiting a dozen or so units and businesses involving multiple areas like agriculture, science and technology and education.

In Beijing Chinese President Hu Jintao accompanied Kim Jong Il in his visit of the Crop Science Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. Kim Jong Il said that they are deeply impressed and have gained much. Regarding this visit, the international press believed it might be a "learning tour" for Kim Jong Il who wants to further advance the special zone construction and test reform and opening up to the outside world. He would draft new economic reform measures back home.

Due to geopolitical and historical reasons China has always been DPRK's largest trade and economic partner. Since 2004, DPRK stepped up introcution of foreign investment. Chinese state-owned enterprises and non-governmental capitals also increased investment in DPRK's mining and power grid rebuilding with various China-DPRK joint ventures and cooperative plants put into operation. The general trend is encouraging, toward a win-win situation.

For now, China-DPRK trade and economic cooperation in various areas is continuously expanding and deepening while bilateral trade keeps hitting new highs. Nevertheless, many new and urgent problems emerge in the trade and economic exchange between DPRK and China. For example, DPRK still doesn't have a rather mature strategic arrangement for maximally expanding cooperation with China in the trade and economic area, and relevant laws and regulations fail to catch up. This forces the DPRK to learn more and do some groundwork internally before taking larger steps.

The evolution of exploring one's way through practice

During his first visit to China in 1983, Kim Jong Il made an inspection tour to Shenzhen at Deng Xiaoping's suggestion. In January 2001, he visited Shanghai. The DPRK began to implement measures on economic restructuring and reform in July 2002, attempting to change the planned economic system through partly encouraging individual economy and breaking equalitarianism.

In the meantime, it considerably raised salary and partial abolished government rationing, letting the market guide commodity distribution. These measures promoted the development of commodity economy to certain extent and raised the initiative of the laborers. The introduction of market and competition mechanism, however, can trigger problems such as social wealth gap and inflation.

Generally speaking, due to issues such as the nuclear, the reform and opening up yet hasn't mature internal and external conditions. Blindly copying foreign experience might risk social and economic crisis like those experienced by the former Soviet Union and East European countries in the early 1990s.

Therefore, the DPRK chose a progressive path, exploring a development road that adapts to national conditions, based on absorbing foreign experience and integrating with domestic reality.

The DPRK's strategy is quite clear, that is, internally, to maintain the socialist public ownership by the whole people and make some micro adjustments on labor distribution and management methods; consolidate the strength of the whole society in addressing food problem, continue to strengthen national defense industry and military construction and at the same time vigorously develop services industry.

Externally, it boosts the bilateral trade and economic cooperation with China, reinforcing foreign investment; focuses on building the Kaesong industrial park which, if successful, is to be copied and tested for opening up on small scale such as in some ports and border cities in order to attract foreign investment and promote development; concentrates in pushing the peaceful solution of the nuclear issue so as to improve its international image and create a more peaceful and favorable external environment for itself.

It can be seen that the DPRK has actually been "changing", though this "changing" is "progressive" rather than "radical". It is a "progressive change" like gropingly crossing a river or one with internal hardship and toughness outside.

By People's Daily Online

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