7 ‘Shinuiju Liberalization’ Rumors, Follow-Up Tracing

[imText1]After Kim Jong Il’s visit to China early this year, there were rumors all over the districts as Shinuiju of North Korea and Dandong of China expecting ‘Shinuiju Special Region Development’ to be realized.

If Shinuiju is developed as a special region, all residents living in the districts of Shinuiju and Dandong will benefit financially. Great disappointment that these residents felt in September 2002 still remains when Shinuiju was expected to be developed as a special region but Yang Bin, who was appointed as the Minister of Special Region, was arrested. Thus, whenever NK-China relations seem to be close, rumors of ‘Shinuiju Special Region Development’ spread all over the districts.

Now, 7 rumors spreading all over the districts of Shinuiju and Dandong can be summarized as follows. Of them, there are facts which are confirmed to already start and real rumors or personal wishes which are not as trustworthy.

Shinuiju Roads and Housing Constructions Confirmed as True

First, a rumor had it that road extensions and repairs were under construction in Shinuiju. For the ‘Shinuiju Special Region Development’, infrastructure constructions such as roads and harbors are required. After examination, it became known that the road construction in Shinuiju was confirmed as true, although it was not clarified whether or not it was for the Shinuiju special region.

Second, there was a rumor that a huge housing complex was under construction. In order for a special region to be well established and given the characteristics of North Korea, removal of residents who are of humble origins in the areas should be preceded. After examination, it was confirmed that a huge housing complex is under construction, although it was not known to what degree it was.

Meanwhile, there was a rumor that a straightaway linking Shinuiju with Northern Shinuiju was under construction. According to an information source, the Chinese government invests in it and the North Korean government demobilizes labor for the construction.

Third, a rumor had it that on or before Kim Jong Il’s birthday, April 15th, North Korea would announce an ‘important statement’. The important statement is that a mega building, which would be completed in Shinuiju soon, would be open to all foreigners such as the Chinese and South Koreans. Yet, the condition is that the opportunity would fall to people who invest 10,000 dollars or more in North Korea. Besides that, there is a rumor that this is a kind of ‘Pilot Project’ which pretests a possibility of the realization of Shinuiju liberalization. Yet, until now, it has not been confirmed whether or not this is true.

Bidan Island Development, Chinese Residents “Groundless”

Fourth, a rumor had it that Bidan Island next to Shinuiju would be developed as a special region. This kind of a report was once reported in the domestic press.
Bidan Island faces Donggang City of China, which is 37km Southeast away from Dandong city. According to an official related to Donggang City, recently Donggang City has been contacted by the North Korean party concerned regarding Bidan Island development. However, a result of a meeting between the two parties seems to be unsatisfactory, and the parties just conveyed their wishful expectations. Moreover, a rumor had it that a ‘mega building’ expected to be built in Shinuiju, the third rumor, would be built on Bidan Island. A Chinese who often visits Bidan Island replied to a question regarding ‘Bidan Island Special Region’, “I did hear even noises of the land being dug up.”

Fifth, there was a rumor that a bridge linking North Korea to Langtou on the road to Donggang City from Dandong was under construction.

Plan of the rumor is rather specific. For example, total construction expenses are provided by China and the rest of it, 30%, is done by North Korea. The 30% of the capital is loaned to North Korea in a condition that China guarantees.

Besides it, the reason why the bridge is constructed is that the bridge can be used as a major road when ‘One day Free Market’ is open to foreigners for Shiniju liberalization. The market is held in an area a little away from Shinuiju.

Sixth, there was a rumor that in and before March 18th a NK-China talk concerned with ‘Shinuiju liberalization’ would be held in Dandong. At the same time, an additional rumor has it that because of Chinese People Representatives Convention, the talk would be delayed in 2 weeks. As a result of confirmation of Dandong, there is no such plan.

Seventh, a rumor had it that from June, free visa to Shinuiju would be issued. It is saying that the available duration to stay in Shinuiju would be one day, despite the free visa. According to a trader working in North Korea, “it has not been heard.”

From March 1th to 17th, an Intensive Crackdown on Cellular Phones in All over the District, Shinuiju

Like this, there have been various rumors. However, only two are viably confirmed. They are that road extension and repairs are under construction in Shinuiju and a huge house complex is under construction in Northern Shinuiju. The rest of them are repetitions that spread when in 2002 a statement of ‘Shinuiju Special Region Development’ was declared.

While expectation and demand about the liberalization are increasing domestically and internationally, the North Korea does not still slacken the rein of protecting its system.

From March 1th, there was an intensive crack down on cellular phones in Shinuiju. This was an extensive crack down involved even internal audit in the National Security Agency. The reason for it was that a North Korean was detected to be on the cellular phone with a South Korean in Yongchun district. Because North Korean traders turned off their phones, Chinese traders who did not know about the crackdown jump up and down impatiently. The crackdown was finished.

In March 2006, there was the Yalu River where false winds about liberalization in one hand conflict with winds of crackdown in the other hand.