North Korea: Authoritarian Capitalism

Via Forbes, commentary on the future of free enterprise in North Korea.  As the article notes:

“DOES THE DEATH of Kim Jong Il portend any change in foreign trade and investment with a range of “enemies,” including the U.S.?

Maybe. Dear Leader’s anointed successor, third son Kim Jong Un (a.k.a. “Brilliant Comrade”), is believed to be far more open to it. He backed a deal with Egyptian giant Orascom to provide cellphone service. Now about 1 million North Koreans place calls, though not to foreign countries, especially not to South Korea, with which Pyongyang is still technically at war. Kim Jong Un’s business sense isn’t perfect: The late 2009 currency reform, lopping a couple of zeroes off North Korean banknotes, was said at the time to have had his backing; when it failed, not he but a veteran economic guru got the blame–and may have been executed.

But to maintain the goal of a “strong and prosperous country” North Korea will need massive infusions of aid, foreign investment and trade. The U.S. might be inclined to lift sanctions if the hermit kingdom agrees to make serious concessions on its nuclear program.

Whatever Kim Jong Un’s intentions about disarmament–no one yet knows his grip on the military–there is some optimism about economic liberalization. North Korea has private markets, much though Kim Jong Il liked to throttle them; about 100 South Korean companies operate in the Kaesong economic complex 40 miles north of Seoul. Like anything else in North Korea, nobody knows until it happens. Still, the chances of eventual trade with the U.S. have to be better with Kim Jong Un than they were with his dad.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 11th, 2012 at 6:42 am and is filed under North Korea.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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