Is South Korea’s engagement hindering the growth of North Korea’s markets?

On April 23, the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP)hosted, “The Lee Myung-Bak Administration’s Policy toward North Korea: Denuclearization or Disengagement.”  In this seminar they essentially answered this question with a ‘yes’.

According to the Daily NK coverage of the event:

[Dong Yong Seung, the Chief of the Security and Economics Department of the Samsung Economic Research Institute stated,] “While economic exchange between North Korea and China has been business-to-business, in the case of Kaesong, the exchange has been controlled from a single control tower, the North Korean regime. That is, the condition has been set up for government-to-government economic exchange to facilitate North Korean government’s planned economy. Economic cooperation in the style of South Korea’s has been obstructing North Korea’s rational transformation.”

In a sense, he is arguing that South Korea’s support for the Kaesong Zone yields results more similar to foreign aid than private economic exchange.  If this is the case, South Korea, and just about everyone else, could learn from China’s strategy for investing in North Korea.

As Judge Posner put it:

All the problems that foreign aid seeks to alleviate are within the power of the recipient countries to solve if they adopt sensible policies. If they do not adopt such policies, then foreign aid is likely to be stolen by the ruling elite, strengthening its hold over the country, or otherwise squandered. What we can do for poor countries is reduce tariff barriers to their exports. With money saved from eliminating foreign aid, we could compensate our industries that would be hurt by import competition from poor countries and thus reduce political opposition to tariff reform.


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