- POSTED: 19 Sep 2013 15:06
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According to analysts, economic necessity may be nurturing a greater sense of openness in North Korea as foreign aid starts to dry up.
PYONGYANG: Necessity, it's claimed, is the mother of all invention.
And according to analysts, economic necessity may also be nurturing a greater sense of openness in North Korea.
As foreign aid has essentially dried up, Pyongyang is said to be experimenting with free-trade zone developments near to its China border.
Venture capitalist John Yohan Kim explained: "There's a free trade zone in the north - Rasan. There have been some announcements of other free trade zones. I think you're going to get targeted areas of "development" as you would call it. It's kind of similar in sense to what happened in China. A lot of these free trade zones are on the borders with China or facing the sea."
Kim is also a board member of Choson Exchange - an international outfit that engages North Korea on the economic front.
Having visited the country several times, he is optimistic Pyongyang will continue to open up, albeit cautiously, to bring prosperity to its population.
"Back in the 90s, there was a lot of relief aid, money coming into the country. That's dried up for the most part so in order to get funding into the country, they need to attract business; they need to attract investment," he said.
To that end, Pyongyang seems eager to get international humanitarian organizations back into the country.
Last year, Singapore's Mercy Relief was in Chonnae county, some 400 kilometres away from Pyongyang.
They were invited to provide assistance to the communities affected by floods and landslides.
Mercy Relief CEO Hassan Ahmad said: "Along the way we saw many things - pockets of poverty, but to us we've seen these conditions in some Indochina countries. We've seen these conditions in the South Asian countries. It's not as if they are much way below than what we've seen before. We don't see people dying of hunger."
However, the United Nations has raised concerns over the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in North Korea and called on the international community to extend their help.
Observers said the combination of economic and humanitarian needs - coupled with a young leader who was educated for some time in Switzerland - could all combine to create an opportunity for even greater openness.
However, even if that openness materializes, it's would still be premature to talk of peace and unification on the Korean peninsula.