Monday, February 27, 2006

Andrei Lankov replies...

Because Professor Lankov's fascinating article (pdf) on "The Natural Death of North Korean Stalinism" generated a bit of discussion on this blog, I'll post his response to my query about how he would suggest that the world outside of North Korea support:
"small-scale activities ... [that] would help engage the North Korean people and expose them to the outside world."
As careful readers will recall, this was the policy suggestion that Lankov promoted in his article. I had openly wondered about it:
How this policy suggestion would be implemented is left unsaid.
In response to this query, Lankov sent me an email with the following elaborations on how to implement his policy suggestion:
1) Education programs. Invite NK students to other countries, even to do purely technical subjects (of course, economy and social subjects are better). Needless to say, 90% of such students will come from the top elite, but they will see the world anyway.

2) Small-scale investment, joint projects of all kinds which will make North Koreans work together with foreigners. They are afraid of the Americans? Well, why not to send Europeans? The major task is not to open their eyes to the outside world.

3) All programs which either bring foreigners to NK or get N. Koreans out of their country: sport, culture, name it.

4) There should be less unconditional aid. All aid packages should be delivered for particular projects, and all these projects should be chosen according to two major criteria: a) to which extent they help the general population; b) to which extent they promote the understanding of the outside world and modern economy.
When Lankov, observes that "[t]he major task is not to open their eyes to the outside world," I wonder if he meant to write this minus the "not," i.e., "[t]he major task is to open their eyes to the outside world." This seems to make more sense. Perhaps Lankov was thinking: "[t]he major task is not [to Americanize them but] to open their eyes to the outside world."

Anyway, here are some of my quick responses:
1. On the education programs ... as Lankov himself notes, these would primarily help the elite, so this isn't an example of policy points aimed at the larger population. Nevertheless, it's probably a good idea since it would broaden the elite's horizens.

2. Small-scale investments are another good idea, but wouldn't these also end up in the hands of the elite? On this, I'd have to see more details.

3. Programs to get foreigners in North Korea or North Koreans out of the country ... again, a good idea, but wouldn't this also affect mainly the elite?

4. Conditional aid for particular projects is another good idea, but how would this be implemented? The North Korean state controls the distribution of aid, which is used by the state as part of its system of reward and punishment and which therefore runs counter to the development of a market-based economy. How could aid be kept from control by the North Korean state?
These might all be good suggestions, but they mostly seem aimed at the elite, and they're all dependent upon the good will of the North Korean state.

I wonder if we perhaps should be thinking from a different perspective. As Lankov's article shows, the changes in North Korea have come about through unofficial developments. Would encouraging these unofficial developments be possible? I'm thinking primarily of the private markets and of the private cross-border trade with China, which together provide the silver lining to the dark clouds of North Korea's deteriotating command-economy.

But every silver lining has still more dark clouds. The unwanted effect of the North's unofficial trade: economic integration with China, which can pose impediments to the future reunification of Korea.


At 4:53 AM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

"When Lankov, observes that '[t]he major task is not to open their eyes to the outside world,' I wonder if he meant to write this minus the 'not'..."

It might have been a simple typo: he may have meant to type "now" instead of "not." Having made that typo myself on numerous occasions, I consider it a distinct possibility.

At 5:08 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Kevin. That sounds much more likely an explanation. I've made the same error myself.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:05 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Kevin, I just received an email from Lankov that confirms your suggestion. He meant "now" rather than "not."

Jeffery Hodges

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