February 21, 2024

Without sponsors, can North Korea grow?

China’s disapproval, Western outrage, Russia’s economy give Pyongyang few investment options

On the surface, the year 2014 has been relatively uneventful for North Korea. No member of the ruling family was purged and subsequently executed, no American city has been threatened with a missile attack and, of course, no South Korean warships have been sunk by plucky North Korean submariners.

However, this was certainly a year of serious, if subterranean, change. Amid comparative calm on the international scene, domestically the North Korean leadership has seemingly embarked upon the long, winding and perilous road of reform. The reformist tendencies of the new leadership should be welcomed but, alas, the international environment is significantly more foreboding now than it was a year ago. Admittedly, the problems that the North Korean government now faces on the international stage are largely of its own making, but a stroke of bad luck also has contributed much to this sorry situation.