German Master Plans (II)

PYONGYANG/BERLIN | | kvdr

PYONGYANG/BERLIN (Own report) - German foreign policy experts are recommending that the policy of confrontation vis à vis North Korea be renounced and replaced with new proposals to the Pyongyang leadership. Confrontation can hardly lead to success, predicts an expert on Korea at the CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation: The North Korean rulers are resorting to military threats toward the West to rally the population and divert attention from the country's domestic shortcomings. If you want success, you must entice Pyongyang's leadership with the promise of intensive support in "opening" its economy and guaranteeing their position of power, in the event of a transformation of the social system. Vietnam is a blueprint for such an approach. For quite some time, German party-affiliated foundations and economic and legal experts have been serving as consultants in the North Korean capital. At the beginning of this year, a participating scholar reported that a pending "master plan" for the transformation of the social system could be implemented later this year. If the country opens its doors, Berlin would immediately benefit not only economically but politically as well: Tangible influence on the Korean peninsula would be combined with an important role in East Asia, the future center of gravity in global policy.

Unpredictability as Strategy

To solve the crisis on the Korean peninsula, German foreign policy experts are recommending that instead of military threats, new political proposals should be made to the leaders of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Pyongyang's seemingly erratic threats are not at all irrational, explains Norbert Eschborn, director of the CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation's branch office in Seoul, South Korea.[1] "Unpredictability," on the contrary, is "an important element" of the North Korean strategy. It is therefore "grossly incorrect" to defame the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a "baby-face dictator" or even as the "lunatic in Pyongyang," as German media is doing. Instead, new incentives should be offered to persuade Pyongyang to open up to the West.

Internal Cohesion

The economy would be the appropriate lever, according to the Adenauer Foundation's representative. Pyongyang's current confrontation with the West is based, not only on its strategy of unpredictability but, above all, is motivated by its domestic policy, according to Eschborn. Other German experts on North Korea agree, for example Eric J. Ballbach, a political scientist at the Freie Universität in Berlin. "Kim Jong Un's government," which came to power in December 2011, is "still relatively new and controversial" and "one of the most effective means" of "strengthening internal cohesion" is the "existence of an external enemy," reasons Ballbach.[2] Norbert Eschborn explains the current leadership's motivation by pointing to the "country's poor supply situation." Already in his New Years address, Kim felt obliged to publicly promise to transform North Korea into an "economically efficient and powerful nation." Because this has not yet been successful, he is now vociferously turning on the West and its East Asian allies, to distract from domestic tensions provoked by poverty.[3]

Blueprint Vietnam

Eschborn sees this as a possible starting point and proposes that Pyongyang be offered an economic opening toward the West. North Korea certainly has "development opportunities." Its population is "very ambitious, disciplined and can work hard" - qualities, that makes that country, with its low salaries, very attractive for profit-seeking western companies. The leadership in Pyongyang does not have to worry about complete disempowerment through a transformation of the social system. Rather, one could apply the "Vietnam model" of economic transformation as the blueprint, where "there is no longer socialism," yet "the party" has been able to maintain its power. According to Eschborn, even for North Korea, "provisions can be made, to permit the party to continue to exercise certain stringent controls in key areas of state and society."[4] As a matter of fact, this model is based on installing in Pyongyang, an elite, who is cooperative with the West; one, who would make the country accessible to companies from the EU and the USA - in exchange for guarantees that they will be permitted to retain power, even after transformation of the economic system. The fact that this model opens the door even to dubious foreign policy cooperation can also be seen with the example of Vietnam, which has entered cooperation with the West in opposition to China - including military manoeuvres. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[5])

Plans to Transform the System

Eschborn's proposals are not at all new. In fact, for years, German organizations have been attempting to convince Pyongyang to make the country economically accessible to the West - and are certainly generating interest. Back in 2004, North Korean high state officials granted the FDP-affiliated Friedrich Naumann Foundation explicit permission to develop initiatives for the "economic renewal of the country." This included, for example, the four-day "training seminar," hosted by the foundation, in cooperation with the North Korean Ministry of Finances. Also in 2004, it organized a workshop on "the challenges and opportunities" of a possible "transformation from a planned to a market economy." (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[6]) During his visit in Pyongyang in late 2011, a representative of the foundation is said to have noted "that economic modernization was making progress."[7] In fact, a growing number of foreign companies are doing business in North Korea, albeit, in their majority, they are companies from the People's Republic of China, and German industry actually still plays no role in that country.

Opening This Year

That this could change has been hinted in a report published in an influential German daily at the beginning of this year. It was reported that the government in Pyongyang is "being advised by German economists and jurists" concerning a possible "opening already this year." A participating German scholar is quoted saying that a "master plan" has already been established. Pyongyang is "interested in the Vietnam blueprint," and therefore has a special need to "modernize investment laws."[8] The German foundations as well as an array of economic and legal experts are continuing their activities. A few days ago, when CDU parliamentarian Manfred Grund returned from his visit to North Korea, it became known that, in fact, he had intended to visit North Korea with a delegation from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. The original plan had been to discuss possibilities for qualifying North Koreans in economic questions. However, the trip had been postponed because of the escalating tensions.

Long-Term Utility

From Berlin's perspective, the transformation of the North Korean social system, under the auspices of German experts, would provide an opportunity for strengthening German influence in Pyongyang and provide entry for German companies to previously denied North Korean sectors. Beyond these immediate gains, it would also signify that Germany could tangibly strengthen its standing on the immediate East Asian periphery of the People's Republic of China - an area, considered the essential center of gravity for future global policy.

[1] "Ich rechne nicht mit einer großen Auseinandersetzung"; www.kas.de 04.04.2013
[2] "Jede Nordkorea-Führung braucht eine große Krise"; www.handelsblatt.com 08.04.2013
[3], [4] "Ich rechne nicht mit einer großen Auseinandersetzung"; www.kas.de 04.04.2013
[5] see also Verbündete gegen Beijing (I)
[6] see also Gesamt-Transformation
[7] see also German Master Plans
[8] Nordkorea bereitet baldige Öffnung der Wirtschaft vor; www.faz.net 04.01.2013. See also German Master Plans