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Opening of North Korea Really Happens?

Posted September. 29, 2002 22:56,   


Will it really happen that entry into Sinuiju from Dandong, a Chinese city across the Yalu river, would be visa-free as Yang Bin, executive of the Sinuiju special administrative zone said?

Around a hotel near the Dandong customs office across the Yalu River from Sinuiju, tourists and journalists were bustling on the morning of Sept. 29. They were waiting for the bridge connecting Dandong and Sinuiju to open. On the morning of the same day, they got disappointed on the news that entry into Shinuiju on the 30th is impossible. Despite the news, however, they did not give up and just waited for the opening.

Ñ Discord between Governor Yang Bin and North Korea and China? = Most of all, China is showing a negative response. Liaoning Province of China and Dandong city officials flatly said that regardless of Pyongyang’s position, foreigners including Koreans could not go into Sinuiju without visa. They insisted that visa-free entry agreement should be made first.

Jaoshaogwang(趙曉光), working in overseas marketing team in a state-run travel agency in Dandong said, “I got about 10 phone calls from Koreans and Japanese, but our company has a policy that foreigners cannot enter Shinuiju without visa right now.

The Korean Embassy in China also said, “Chinese officials didn’t have an inkling of the visa-free entry. Yang Bin is a figure whom we could not understand yet.”

Even Yang himself acknowledged that he did not consult with China on the visa issue.

Joosang(周翔) in public relations department of the Euro-Asia Group in Shenyang, China, spokesperson of President Yang Bin, confessed, “Yang suddenly made the announcement on the visa issue, so we are still reviewing this.

The Chinese authorities are allowing Japanese to enter Pyongyang for four days, but not for the visit to Sinuiju.

A Chinese of Korean origin only identified as C, who often went to and from North Korea said, “From a source close to Kim Yong-sul, North Korea’s vice trade minister, I heard that Kim said, “What kind of person is he?” after Yang’s annoncement.

It is because Yang went too far beyond what he agreed on with Pyongyang without prior consultations with the North.

According to C, the designation of Sinuiju as a special administrative zone was decided in Shenyang in summer of 2001, after Kim Yong-sul, who worked for 17 years in Europe, pushed ahead with the plan.

North Korea is said to have contacted first Puri(富利), headquartered in Beijing and specializing in construction in order to discuss the development of Sinuiju as special economic zone before suggesting the plan to Yang Bin. However, it is reported to have rejected the plan, raising doubt over the credibility of Pyongyang.

Even there is a rumor that Yang Bin offered $30 million to the North in exchange for the project.

Ñ Crisis of credibility = Chinese officials see that if Yang’s remark about visa-free admission into Sinuiju does not materialize, Pyongyang as well as Yang will be given a fatal blow.

A Japanese reporter in Dandong related, “The future of Sinuiju special zone seems somewhat worrisome in that Yang failed to deliver on his first promise.”

A North Korean official worried, “If his remark is not fulfilled, then it will throw discredit upon Pyongyang.”

As for this, a professor of the social science institute of China, noted, “Because it is now at the initial stage of opening the country to the outside world, there are a lot of happenings. Quite a few incidents will follow as the epochal economic experiment by the North is going on.”

yshwang@donga.com ljhzip@donga.com