Seoul (AsiaNews) - A group of Chinese leaders this morning signed the agreement establishing a common economic zone with North Korea near the island of Hwanggeumpyeong. Beijing and Pyongyang had agreed to open the complex during Kim Jong-il’s last visit to China: after the island, the Rajin-Sonbong province will be next, with another complex that will involve Chinese investment and a Korean labour force. Sources report that the local population is opposed to the initiative: on the one hand there is interest in an eventual economic recovery, on the other they fear being enslaved to China.
North Korea made official its decision to open Sino-Korean zones during the Supreme People's Assembly last June 6. The agreement was developed by Hu Jintao who, according to a source for AsiaNews, " imposed it on the Korean dictator. China desperately wants to see a more stable North Korea and less prone to uncontrolled military actions. This explains the emphasis on investment. " Precisely for this reason, before reaching Beijing the "Dear Leader" of North had stopped close to Shanghai for talks with Jiang Zemin, Chinese President at the time of economic liberalization.
A source from DailyNk, who travels regularly between the Chinese Dandong and North Korea’s Shinuiju province - where the new economic zone is located- said: "The atmosphere is quite good. There is talk of large scale investments by Chinese investors and this can only be good news for the local people". The vast majority of the people of North Korea, according to UN estimates, live below the threshold of absolute poverty, surviving on less than one U.S. dollar a day.
Under the plan, foreign investors will be permitted inside the two areas and will employ (or dismiss) North Korean workers each according to individual dictates. Approached on the day of the Agreement was signed by the two leaders, a source told AsiaNews: "Fine words and nothing else. In practice, no-one will be given anything fee of charge in those areas : it is a smoke screen for the North, which wants to convince the world of wanting to open up the market. In my opinion, however, the people sent to work in those areas will be dissidents that Beijing wants to get rid of. "
Today, the same source adds: "The speed with which they opened the complex puzzles me. I do not see what can possibly be built in ten days. In any case, the fear is that the North Koreans will end up as slaves to China. Or a more concrete possibility: China has reached a point where it is forced to relocate their industries, since pollution and labour costs are beginning to rise there, too. North Korea is the perfect place to do it. "