Sinuiju SAR: Take 4

sinuiju2.JPGOn September 20, 2002, the DPRK’s Supreme People’s Assembly announced the creation of the Sinuiju Special Administrative Region (SAR) (KCNA announcement here).

The project was to be headed by a Chinese-born, naturalized Dutch citizen, Yang Bin…who was arrested by Chinese authorities shortly after the Sinuiju SAR was announced.  Western analysts interpreted this move as a signal that China was not supportive of either the project or the selection of Mr. Bin as its chief executive.  Needless to say the future of the project lay in doubt.

However, according to a Yonhap report (here), as of March 2007 the North Koreans still seemed interested in launching some kind of SAR/SEZ in Sinuiju, though the location had been moved from the city proper to two islands in the Yalu River, Bidan and Wihwa.

In August 2007, IFES and the Choson Ilbo reported that preparations were already underway in Sinuiju to convert the city center into a SAR/SEZ.  However, after this initial media hit, most of the news coming out of Sinuiju was related to Jang Song Taek’s 2008 anti-corruption campaign which brought most of the trading companies along the Chinese border back under the control of the Ministry of Finance.

This week, Japan’s Yomuri reports from Shenyang, China, that the Sinuiju SAR is still on and will be located on Wihwa Island:

“The zone will only cover Wi Hwa Island, which will be much easier to control, and only Chinese will be allowed to freely visit,” one of the sources said. “The plan solely aims at expanding trade with China. North Korea isn’t planning any measures that would involve a dramatic opening up.”

According to Chinese statistics, the total value of trade between China and North Korea from January to October last year was 2.12 billion dollars, up 31.7 percent from a year earlier.

Meanwhile, a diplomatic source said, “The move to beef up border trade with China is also aimed at putting pressure on South Korea.”

(FYI: Use of the phrase “beef up” is a pretty good sign that the diplomatic source was an American.)

I know the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”  I will remain skeptical about the new SEZ until I see evidence of construction myself.

You can read the full Yomuri article here:
N. Korea plans free trade zone on island
Daily Yomuri
Toru Makinoda
1/23/2009

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  • Gag Halfrunt

    The article is from the Yomiuri Shimbun so it was probably written in Japanese and then translated. Anyway, “beef up” is a perfectly common expression in British English, so even if the diplomat used that exact phrase in English it doesn’t prove anything about his/her nationality.

  • Really? When I lived in England (in the old days) this was still a typically American expression….as best I can remember. I am not sure how I feel about it being adopted by the Brit diplo community!

  • Mike Madden

    One would be inclined to think of “beef up” appearing in a UK idiom to be the result of the influence of American culture (and American English), particularly our slang and vernacular. Any one who has taught English to an overseas class will be stunned at the American phrases of which our foreign friends are aware. When they say “beef up” in a Korea context, let’s hope they mean American beef.

  • Spelunker

    This Wi Hwa island, if the guru’s map is correct, is located north of Dandong’s Friendship Bridge in an area near Tiger Hill (Hu Shan) which is the site of a reconstructed Great Wall tourist site. I don’t recall an economic zone being planned there before.
    However the proposed new bridge is located south of Dandong where there is another dormant economic zone agenda near Langtou, where the airport is located. The Chinese name of the island there is Huang Jin Ping, and it yet another parcel of land on China’s Yalu shore which belongs to North Korea.

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