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˝N. Korea Moves Toward Capitalism˝ - Washington Post

Posted September. 14, 2003 22:49,   


Washington Post reported yesterday that North Korea seemed to choose a capitalist path. The daily newspaper said, ˝Big-sized billboards advertising cars will be set up in five places on Pyongyang roads. Park, Bong-ju, a former businessman in chemical industry, was appointed as the nation`s Prime Minister. All these changes are testament to the North`s U-turn towards capitalism.˝

According to the he daily, a passenger car, Whiparam (meaning whistle), assembled and manufactured by Pyongwha (meaning peace) Automobile Company, is priced at 14,000 dollars, which is equivalent to a worker`s compound salaries for 15 years.

Despite a doubtful marketing effect yet, building advertisement signboards itself implies significant changes of the North, said Washington Post. Pyongwha Automobile Company is a car assembly line, established in the suburbs of Pyongyang in March of last year by joint investment of 20 million dollars from the North`s Tongil (meaning unification) Group and Fiat Motor Company.

The first-ever commercial billboard in North Korea paints a young man expressing admiration at a passenger car with the Fiat logo carved on.

While confronting with the Western countries over its nuclear programs, the daily said, the North is believed by foreign entrepreneurs, political analysts, and South Korean experts to be taking a bold step toward capitalism.

Washington Post reported that in July of last year, the North partially allowed groceries to be sold at market prices as a part of economic reform drive, and that recently the free market mechanism is spreading into rural communities.

The newspaper noted the recent appointment of Park, Bong-ju as Prime Minister in early September as a clear demonstration of the North`s strong commitment to the economic reform.

On the other hand, it quoted Professor Hyun, In-taek of Korea University as saying, ˝The North` economy is on the verge of collapse and some critics view the recent measures of the North regime as a mere struggle for sustaining its political power.˝

Sung-Kyu Kim kimsk@donga.com