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2012年9月27日 (木)

最高人民会議 不透明な「北」の経済立て直し

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 27, 2012)
Outlook for North Korea's economic revival uncertain
最高人民会議 不透明な「北」の経済立て直し(9月26日付・読売社説)

North Korea is seemingly laying the foundation for future development. But it remains to be seen what results Kim Jong Un's reform initiatives will produce.

The Supreme People's Assembly--North Korea's parliament--held a one-day session Tuesday. It was the second assembly session held since Kim Jong Un's regime was inaugurated in April.

In the latest session, the assembly decided to extend the term of compulsory education from the current 11 years to 12 years. The reform is reportedly aimed at bolstering children's education on computer technology and foreign languages in addition to basic knowledge.

North Korea aims to foster human resources who can survive fierce international competition by extending the term of primary and middle school education to the levels of Japan and South Korea. Of course, Pyongyang also will have factored in that this will help that nation's military modernization, such as development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Greater emphasis on education can be taken as one measure by the six-month-old Kim Jong Un regime to lay the foundation for a long-term grip on the country.

But more than that, the most pressing priority for the new regime is economic reconstruction.


Plight deepening

The international community has imposed economic sanctions on North Korea after it charged ahead with nuclear and ballistic missile launch tests in defiance of strong objections. A string of policy blunders plus these self-invited economic sanctions have deepened North Korea's predicament.

Unless North Korea resolves its food shortage so the people have enough to eat and feel their lives have improved, the regime will inevitably collapse from within.

It is no wonder that the Kim Jong Un regime is fretting about how to strengthen ties with China, North Korea's biggest aid donor and traditional ally.

Kim Jong Un, the first secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, made his diplomatic debut in August when he met with Wan Jiarui, the visiting head of the Chinese Communist Party's International Department.


Track record not encouraging

That same month, Jang Song Thaek, Kim Jong Un's uncle-in-law and vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, visited China and agreed with the Chinese side to jointly develop a special economic zone on the countries' border. Pyongyang hopes to earn foreign currency by using Chinese investment in the project as leverage.

Speculation is rife that Chinese leaders will pledge additional assistance to North Korea during Kim Jong Un's visit to China, which is expected soon.

To enhance agricultural and industrial productivity, North Korea is reportedly considering introducing a new system that would permit private possession of surplus goods after production quotas have been met.

It seems North Korea is making full-fledged efforts toward rebuilding its economy.

However, Pyongyang has a track record of economic reform failures that have generated confusion. Furthermore, it is unclear whether the country has changed its "military-first politics." If new policies are implemented but prove unsuccessful, serious backlashes and side effects could erupt.

It will be necessary to keep a wary eye on the course Kim Jong Un's regime will take.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 26, 2012)
(2012年9月26日01時22分  読売新聞)


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