Seoul to Help N. Korean Officials Learn Capitalism

Korea Times
Lee Hyo-sik

The government has decided to finance training programs next year to educate North Korean officials and scholars about the free market economy as part of efforts to smoothly implement planned cross-border business projects.

According to the Ministry of Finance and Economy Thursday, the government has set aside 300 million won ($322,000) in next year’s budget to financially support education programs through which North Korean officials can learn about market economy principles and the financial market system.

The ministry is considering organizing a series of workshops for North Koreans to study how former communist countries, including China and Vietnam, opened their doors and successfully transformed into market economies.

It is also planning to arrange study tours to Europe to offer North Koreans opportunities to learn first hand about macroeconomic policies and the government’s role in advanced economies.

“It will be the first time for the government to help North Korean officials and scholars learn about market economic management and development experiences. If it bears fruit, we plan to expand the economic education program in the future to have more North Korean participants,” a ministry official said.

The government will not be directly involved in the training, and instead it will entrust the program to a private education institution, he said, expressing hope that the training will help government officials carry out scheduled inter-Korean business projects more smoothly with their northern counterparts.

During the second inter-Korean summit early October, President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il agreed on a number of cross-border development projects, including the establishment of a special peace zone in the West Sea and operation of the inter-Korean railways.

On its own, the communist state has been dispatching a large number of government officials to Germany and other European nations over the past few years on economic training programs. The government estimated the number of North Korean officials visiting advanced economies in Europe totaled 220 in 2004, compared with 237 in 2003, 227 in 2002, 186 in 2001 and 158 in 2000.


Market Economy for NK
Korea Times


Seoul’s Program to Help Pyongyang Learn New System

The South Korean government plans to launch an education program next year to help North Korean officials and scholars learn about the market economy. It is the first time that Seoul has organized such a program. The plan followed recent developments in improving inter-Korean relations after the second South-North summit held in Pyongyang from Oct. 2-4.

According to the Ministry of Finance and Economy, a budget of 300 million won ($320,000) has been set aside for the 2008 program, which will include cross-border information sharing workshops and education on a transition to a market economy and how to adapt to the new system. The budget is only a small sum at this initial stage. But it could increase if the program produces tangible results.

We welcome the education program as it is expected to encourage the stalwart socialist country to shake off its aversion to the market economy system. And furthermore, the program could create a favorable atmosphere for North Korean policymakers and economists to usher in reform and an open door policy. It’s time for the North to realize that inter-Korean economic cooperation packages cannot succeed if it fails to introduce economic reform.

South Korean officials are well aware that it is still difficult to change the mindset of the North Korean leadership that sticks to the old ways of socialism. Regrettably, President Roh Moo-hyun was disappointed that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and his inner circle refused to discuss reform and openness during the summit.

However, we have to be more patient with the hard-line North Korean regime and make more effort to persuade it into acknowledging the need to join many socialist countries in their effort to move toward a market economy. During the summit, President Roh agreed to build railroads, ports and other infrastructure in the North as well as an industrial park and a peace zone for inter-Korean cooperation. These development packages require huge investments from the South.

Such big-budget projects are expected to inject fresh air into the moribund North Korean economy. But they are not enough for the North to realize its ultimate goal of economic reconstruction. In addition to massive investment, the South will have to teach North Koreans how to do business, make money and become rich.

North Korea has recently shown interest in Vietnam. In October, a Hong Kong-based weekly reported that Kim Jong-il expressed the intention of following Vietnam’s reforms and openness during a meeting with Nong Duc Manh, secretary-general of the Vietnamese Communist Party. A delegation from the North led by Prime Minister Kim Yong-il visited Hanoi to learn about the “Doi Moi” reform policy.

The Seoul government plans to select a research institute that will take charge of the education program for the North. An official said candidate institutes might include the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. We hope the North will learn a lesson from Chinese or Vietnamese style reform to end its isolation, bring prosperity to its people and promote peace on the Korean Peninsula.


Comments are closed.