Senior Sejong Institute researcher Cheong Seong Chang today joined the chorus of experts believing that change is happening in North Korea, saying, “Since the death of Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Eun has revised six laws relating to foreign investment. This indicates Kim Jong Eun’s positive disposition towards economic reform and opening”.
Cheong, who was speaking at an event hosted by North Korea Policy Forum, pointed to the ‘Foreign Invested Bank Act’, ‘Foreign Invested Enterprise Bankruptcy Act’, ‘Foreign Invested Enterprise Registration Act’, ‘Foreign Invested Accounts Management Act’, ‘Foreign Invested Enterprise Accountancy Act’ and ‘Foreign Invested Enterprise Labor Act’, all of which were supplemented and modified on December 21st last year, just days after the death of Kim Jong Il.
He went on, “According to Fujimoto Kenji (Kim Jong Il’s private chef)’s testimony, Kim Jong Eun has had a lot of interest in reform and opening since he was young. Especially, Vice-Chairman Yang Hyung Seob’s remarks immediately after the Kim Jong Eun system was launched hint that the possibility of reform and opening is big.”
Utilizing statistics to defend his point, Cheong explained that over the past three years, 2009 to 2011, North Korea’s symbolic joint New Year’s editorial has contained the words ‘military-first’ 33, 15 and 14 times respectively, while the words ‘light industry’ have appeared increasingly steadily, from 1 to 9 to 21. ‘Consumer goods’ also rose in frequency, from 1 to 2 to 8.
Analyzing his keyword statistics, Cheong explained, “This is because, following the confirmation that he would be the successor in 2008, in 2009 during the Kim Jong Il-Kim Jong Eun ‘joint reign period’ the state unfurled the North Korean economic policy, and since then has been gradually moving toward reform and opening.”
“In 2009, there were reports that Kim Jong Eun made a ‘reform and opening strategy team’ and this was adjudged to be highly reliable,” he even added, “Through this Kim Jong Eun has carefully prepared for reform, and the number of trucks coming in and out of customs between China and North Korea has actually increased”.
He also said, “Kim Jong Eun visited Dandong in March or April of 2011 to see the progress going on in that area. Dandong residents and ethnic Korean businessmen testified that transportation and personnel around the Crown Plaza Hotel, the best hotel in Dandong, was completely restricted.”
All of which, Cheong concluded, suggests North Korea is opening up. However, he cautioned, “Kim Jong Eun will use capitalism but find the way to control it.”