Thanks to Joongang ilbo, one of the most prominent media companies in South Korea, I was invited to participate in the Joongang-CSIS forum 2018 held in the Westin-Chosun Seoul hotel. The forum was a series of four debates. Plus, the lunch was very good that I ate one more.
Although there were a plethora of points of contentions, the co-existence of NK-SK relations and denuclearization was one of the biggest clash. After listening to all debates, I got an idea that denuclearisation will naturally follow economic prosperity. As the elevation in tension between SK and NK every time a conservative administration governs in Korea proves, The reason North Korea is constantly taunting South Korea with their nuclear weapons is its economic destruction. Mr. Park Myoung Lim, one of the debaters, shared a similar point that anti-north sentiments always form after missile tests or nuclear experiments. Rather, North Korea will gain a natural incentive to discard its nuclear weapons only after a reciprocal economic development plan succeeds with South Korea. After North Korea is able to reap the benefits of an open economy, it will naturally lose its incentive to radicalize and develop mass murder weapons.
Pictures during the second debate
I personally enjoyed the second debate the most, since it introduced novel hypotheses about the sustainable development of the North Korean economy. Especially Mr. Yoon Sung Eun, senior vice-president of SK telecom, and Mr. Marcus Noland’s points perfectly manifested their comprehensive understanding of the issue.
While listening to the debate, I could lead some indisputable conclusions. First of all, now it is the time to approach North Korea with a bottom-top approach to cause internal changes. Also, North Korea’s economic model resembles that of Vietnam. However, numerous obstacles such as currency problems, differences in the economic structures should also be taken into consideration. In addition, we should be cognizant of the possibility of a dangerous aftermath of North Korea’s economic development. If North Korea resumes its nuclear developments after it reaches its economic pinnacle, it will be far after economic sanctions lose their effectiveness. This possibility will not only exert undue political pressure to Korean conglomerates, but also pose a significant threat to
Korea’s national security.
Also, I would organize some remarkable points made by Mr. Noland about the prospect on the North Korean economy. Taking into consideration the North Korean political structure, there are mainly two ways to reap the maximum benefits while minimizing political turmoil. Firstly, the use of railways and pipelines will allow the North Korean government to gain money from tariffs but minimize the contact of North Korean residents and tourists. Sencondly, the usage of Geumgang mountain or various tourist sites will also provide fiscal benefits to North Korea. However, North Korea will have to minimize the interactions between tourists, investors and denizens. There also were interpretations that developments in ICT does not necessarily equate to political turmoil, as the case of China and Vietnam shows. However, North Korean infrastructure must be refined as a prerequisite for foreign investment.
To further add a sense of pessimism, the economic benefits of railroads or tourism will only exist after North Korea reaches a sufficient level in infrastructure. If not, the profit will only benefit South Koreans. The priority must be set to establishing economic equality.
Overall, this conference allowed me to obtain a thorough insight about the North Korean economy. However, I thought that the debate could have been more fruitful if there were less language barriers between the debaters.
My name tag and photo at the photo booth
Beautiful sky after the conference (Below)