Can Myanmar Show North Korea the Way to Reform?

In the search for a solution to bring rogue state North Korea back into line countless avenues have been explored, then rejected. However, one panel may at last have hit upon a radical and effective solution- using Myanmar as a model for reform.

In spite of the significant differences between the two states, many of the same people who predicted the turnaround in South East Asia are equally hopeful for North Korea. Like the aggressive Communist state, Myanmar too was once internationally blacklisted, but has turned it all around in recent years, luring in investors and international collaborators at a rate that would have been unthinkable even ju st a few years ago.

The arrest of leader apparent Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as countless human rights violations by the military junta, made Myanmar untouchable to all but neighbouring China. The rest of the international community placed heavy sanctions on the state, which were only lifted when the junta made the decision to endorse a U.S plan for reform.

Whilst North Korea continues to indoctrinate its children with tales of Western barbarianism, it seems unlikely that it would be willing to go into partnership with a US or European group

With Aung San Suu Kyi free to take power, the west was happy to go into business with the former Burma. The liberated leaders believed that the reliance on China could serve to damage national security in the future, and so a drive began to boost the country’s roster of trading partners.

Of course, it helps that Myanmar is a rich, largely untapped resource. Unlike North Korea where famine is widespread, fertile agricultural land is abundant, and there are diverse natural resources to be tapped. Investors have come in their droves, and in some areas rental prices have skyrocketed to rates that rival Tokyo.

Nonetheless, North Korea could find itself in a similarly vulnerable position to Myanmar if it continues to rely solely on China. The superpower provides most of North Korea’s aid and diplomatic support, but after the rogue state embarrassed it on the international stage with nuclear tests and reckless provocation of South Korea and Japan, there are signs of increasing exasperation from China.

 Investors have come in their droves, and in some areas rental prices have skyrocketed to rates that rival Tokyo

In the future, some analysts predict that North Korea may well attempt to diversify its relations with international partners, though this will take some significant paradigm shifts. If it does so, it’s not unfeasible to think that it would struggle to attract interest. The South Korean government estimates that North Korea has undeveloped mineral wealth deposits worth around six trillion dollars, as well as a cheap, literate labour force.

Whilst North Korea continues to indoctrinate its children with tales of Western barbarianism, it seems unlikely that it would be willing to go into partnership with a US or European group- however the soft power leveraged by figures such as Dennis Rodman, Eric Schmidt and Bill Clinton has made at least some inroads into opening up dialogue between the Hermit State and the West. One thing is for certain- should Kim Jong-un decide to relent and allow the investors in, he won’t have to look far for his business model.

 

 

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