Thursday, September 02, 2010

China tells North Korea it's time for economic reform

During Kim Jong-il’s visit to China last week, Chinese President Hu Jintao told Kim in strong terms to reform the North's failed socialist economy and open up the country, a senior South Korean government official has said. Hu in his advice to Kim used such language as "enterprise," "market mechanism" and "external cooperation."

According to a Chinese official, Kim reportedly acknowledged Hu: "Since its launch of the reform and opening drive, China has achieved rapid development."

China's business media made upbeat observations about the North turning toward reform, quoting Kim as saying he was "deeply impressed" after touring major cities in China's northeastern region such as Changchun, Harbin and Jilin.

It is unclear whether Kim will listen. Kim has paid lip-service to the Chinese economic development model before. After returning from a trip in the early 2000s, he introduced some timid elements of the market economy but swiftly clamped down when markets became too brisk and a new class of successful businesspeople began to look like a threat to his regime.

The North Korean leadership is afraid of any reform that could weaken its stranglehold, and at the moment tight control is essential if the regime is to officially establish Kim Jong-il's son Jong-un as his father's heir.

Chosun Ilbo

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