Signals coming from the media in North Korea

Joong Ang Daily
Brian Lee

Newspapers indicate a desire for more outside interactions

North Korea is increasingly sending out signals through its state media indicating a desire to interact more with the outside world.

The North’s communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said in an editorial earlier this week that it is no longer a time for production and construction to be achieved through the workers’ bare hands alone.

“We are stressing self-sufficiency, but that does not mean we are disregarding international economic relations while striving to build our economy,” the newspaper said. “The republic has always maintained its position that it wants to have good relations, even with capitalist countries.”

The Chosun Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan widely believed to be representing North Korea’s views, also said this week that progress in the six-party talks reflected Pyongyang’s political will to improve ties with neighboring countries.

“The nuclear test was Pyongyang’s tool to change the stalemate with Washington,” said Koh Yoo-hwan, a North Korean specialist at Dongguk University. “It got its attention and now both sides are talking. The diplomatic exchanges with other countries are a sign from the North that it can accept capitalist methods and that it is open to the outside. This is not coming just out of the blue. In the North everything is planned from the top and all these moves are done strategically. They want to connect to the outside.”

Yesterday, North Korea restored diplomatic ties with Burma after 24 years of severed ties over the North’s involvement in a bomb attack on South Korean cabinet members in 1983, The Associated Press reported.

North Korean Premier Kim Yong-il has also embarked on a rare sweep of the Asian region, visiting Vietnam last week with Malaysia, Cambodia and Laos also on his itinerary.

Washington has tried in its own way to lure the isolated North more into the open.

A visit by the New York Philharmonic to the North is being pondered while the JoongAng Sunday reported that the North’s women’s soccer team may visit the United States.

In a related development, Christopher Hill, Washington’s chief representative to the six-party talks, met with his North Korean counterpart Kim Gye-gwan in Beijing yesterday to discuss progress in the nuclear negotiations.

Hill is scheduled to arrive in Seoul today to brief officials here on the meeting, a government official said yesterday on condition of anonymity.

Foreign Minister Song Min-soon told reporters a U.S. team of nuclear experts is scheduled to enter the North today to take actual steps to disable the North’s key nuclear facilities. Pyongyang said earlier this week that such measures would start within this week.


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