Lankov Embraces Kaesong Industrial Complex Deal

[imText1]Professor Andrei Lankov is enthusiastic about this Tuesday’s agreement on the future of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, calling it a “slightly unexpected but very good” result, one that marks out President Park Geun Hye’s interest in enacting “Sunshine Policy Lite.”

Speaking in a Liberation Day interview with Daily NK, Professor Lankov explains that he is one expert who supports engagement efforts, but not because he thinks the North Korean authorities can actually be persuaded to change.

“Frankly, I did not expect the Kaesong agreement to happen,” he recalls. “When I was asked about probability, I used to say ‘60% to 70% it is not going to restart.’ And some people, people whom I take very seriously, they even said 95%. So it’s a good thing; slightly unexpected, perhaps, but very good.”

Lankov has three reasons why reopening the Kaesong Complex is a positive move: ▲ because it reduces the risk of military confrontation; ▲ because it changes the North Korean people; and ▲ because it teaches a few North Koreans a little bit about modern industrial practices.

He explains in more detail, “As our experience of the Sunshine Policy showed, when North and South Korea interact there is far less chance of military clashes and serious confrontations. I’m not saying that clashes will not happen; we saw some clashes under the Sunshine Policy after all. Nonetheless, the chance of such a clash is much lower, and the chance of such clashes developing into full-scale escalations is quite close to zero.”

Moreover, he continues, “North Korea has to be changed. And as the Cold War in Eastern Europe revealed, the best way, or maybe the only way, the outside world can promote such change is by infusing information inside North Korea.” In the Soviet Union, information that travelled through formal channels was always viewed as more reliable, he adds, which is why official-level interactions may be more valuable than clandestine channels.

“In Kaesong we have 55,000 North Koreans who are exposed daily to the sight of the South Koreans,” he says. “Their height, and their skin! It clearly reveals that they are not sent to do labor in the fields; that the American imperialist dogs do not send them to work for free as part of agricultural labor mobilization programs.”

Finally, he says the deal is good for the simple reason that the future must be considered sooner or later. “One of these days North Korea will start changing,” he points out. “I don’t know whether it will come as a result of popular revolution, regime collapse or as a result of some gradual transformation, but it will come. In Kaesong, North Koreans can see how modern factories are operated; should be operated. And they know some basics, very primitive basics no doubt, but still some basics of modern technology. And this should be welcomed.”

Lankov also believes the reopening of the Kaesong Industrial Complex is good news because it may lead to the reopening of Mt. Geumgang and Kaesong City tours. In particular, he claims that the Kaesong City tour project is a very good one. He would like the process to lead to the opening of a second inter-Korean economic zone, too. When last seen, at the death of the Sunshine Policy in late 2007, the proposed site of the zone in question was Haeju, on the West Sea coast of South Hwanghae Province.

“I strongly suspect that the Mt. Geumgang project and Kaesong tours will be restarted within the next year or two,” he says. “And this is good because of the above-mentioned reasons, especially Kaesong City tours. Mt. Geumgang is a sort of ghetto, but Kaesong tours give a great deal of exposure.”

“So this is what I think is going to happen; there’s a fairly good probability. We’ll go back to the last year of Roh Moo Hyun administration,” he concludes. “Meanwhile, what I am hoping for is another industrial zone, and maybe tourist tours to Pyongyang and some other major North Korean cities.”

However, he warns that nobody should be under any illusions for the future. “The North Koreans want better relations with the South Koreans because they’ve got South Korean money,” he firmly declares.

Daily NK will publish the full Liberation Day interview with Professor Lankov in a special Saturday article tomorrow. In it, Lankov explains why he doesn’t think the death of a South Korean tourist at Mt. Geumgang in 2008 should stop South Koreans visiting North Korea, explains that the Democratic Party has “the right policy on North Korea, but for the wrong reasons,” and explains why Daily NK is such a valuable resource for anyone interested in what is really going on inside North Korea.