01/09/2010, 00.00
KOREA
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Pyongyang takes lessons in capitalism

by Joseph Yun Li-sun
The North Korean government sends its engineers to China to study reforms and free market. A sign of the fragility of the economic system of the regime, which fears total collapse. The trip was paid for by Seoul, which does not want to find 22 million poor people on its back.

 Seoul (AsiaNews) - A group of 48 leaders of the North Korean government was involved in a crash course on the dynamics of capitalism at the University of Dalian, China. The trip was paid by the government of the South, which fears a "Germany effect" in the event of reunification of the peninsula. The decision to grant the permit shows that the Pyongyang regime does not know what to do to stop the current economic crisis in the nation.

The Study Group comprised 23 members of the central government in the North - from the Planning Commission, the Ministry of Trade and Foreign Ministry - along with 15 businessmen and 8 lawyers and professors from Kim Il-sung University. The course was held in the utmost secrecy, between October and November 2009. Confirmation comes from the South Korean government, which yesterday also quantified the cost: 225 million won, for what was described as "a project of cooperation with North Korea".  

An unnamed government official in Seoul also explained the choice of the University: "We chose Dalian because the course would be approved only if held in China, the closest ally of Pyongyang. Our government has decided to remain in the background". The low profile of South Korea is explained by the shared fear of the executive and population, of a possible reunification of the peninsula.

If this should happen, in fact, the economy of the Democratic part of the country would find itself suddenly with 22 million new citizens without any weight, or entrepreneurial knowledge. It would be a blow for a nation currently among the eight most developed countries in the world. To prevent this, the new Seoul government has decided to help the North in every way to develop its own economy.  

The course was held in Dalian by academics and technicians who were the brains behind the quick reform of Chinese cities that have become top-level financial centres such as Shanghai. An executive of the Ministry of Finance explains: "For the North Koreans it was not important who their sponsor was. They applied themselves with great seriousness, determined to best prepare for the market economy. Their attitude clearly shows that the decision was made directly by Pyongyang”.
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