November 29, 2023

No hope for N.Korean development programs

Sincere but misguided determination to punish Pyongyang dooms beneficial exchanges

We have talked about educational exchanges, investment in infrastructure and support for human interactions. At first glance at least, these are some simple and cheap policies that can produce a great impact on North Korea’s future, either facilitating its slow but benevolent evolution, or making its collapse less painful for North Koreans and the outside world.

However, we should be skeptical about whether such policies can realistically be implemented in the current political climate. The major issue is one of politics: Political institutions and dominant ideological values in the countries that matter are telling in this regard. South Korea, the United States and to a much lesser extent Europe, Japan, China and Russia just do not have the short-term political incentives to act and the long-term incentives will likely be overlooked.