North Korea Needs Outside Help: Naumann Foundation Rep

From the Korea Times:
Jane Han
10/24/2006

As the high-charged summer energy simmered away, Niemann immersed himself in the Korean way of living and delved deeper into his responsibilities that ranged from teaching small, citizen democracy classes to bridging communications and pioneering exchanges with North Korea.

“I went to North Korea 15 times,’’ Niemann told The Korea Times in an interview on Monday as he summed up his past four and a half years in Seoul, noting that he made his most recent trip just after the missile test in August. “What stunned me was that they [North Koreans] wanted to know how the missile test was perceived in the South. That, for me, was a good sign.’’

Showing a deep affection and understanding of Korea (Germany has a similar history as a divided country), Niemann earnestly believes that the Stalinist state needs help from outsiders.

“I told them that the missile test was not at all helpful for relations and organizations such as ours to provide support if the security problem further escalates,’’ he affirmed, “I was honest by telling them it will hurt them.’’

He recounted the 2002 summit of the two Koreas, remembering what a breakthrough it was for many things, including bilateral talks with Germany and EU. “The North Korean regime wanted to modernize its economic system so they were trying to open up and invite knowledge from the outside market economy.’’ The following two years found Niemann and the FNF busy with seminars and workshops in Pyongyang teaching business leaders, politicians and scholars the mechanisms of the market economy.

However, with the security threats, things didn’t go smoothly.

More training programs are in the pipeline to take place next year, but the future is unclear because of the current nuclear situation.

On the recently passed U.N. sanctions against the North, Niemann said, “They [sanctions] aren’t harsh yet, and it’s the first step to unity, but everyone should follow the sanctions so that the message can get across.’’

As the FNF representative nears the end of his years in South Korea, he praises the country for its mature democratic system, but hopes that further improvements could be made in local autonomy and party system.

“I think Korea has all the capabilities and many, many friends in the world so that it can stand up and be a regional and even global leader,’’ said Niemann.

Following Niemann’s departure to Berlin where he will take on a bigger responsibility as a director overseeing parts of Asia and Europe, Walter Klitz will take up the job of FNF resident representative, starting January 2007.

“For four and a half years of my life, Korea was the center. I had to be concerned about both Koreas day and night for those years,’’ reminisced Niemann, It’s almost half a decade, I can never forget these years.’’

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