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Task Force Calls for Economic Engagement to Transform North Korea Into a Responsible Power

Oct 22, 2009
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New York, October 22, 2009 - A newly released Asia Society/U.C.-Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation report focuses on economic engagement with North Korea as a peaceful means of inducing change in the DPRK. As the likelihood of some form of US-DPRK talks increases, this report proposes a fundamental rethinking of Washington's approach toward the DPRK. Economic engagement, properly integrated into a system of sanctions, can transform North Korea into a country that can better provide for its people's welfare and engage with other countries in a non-hostile manner. As the report shows, North Korea's history of experiments with reform is limited, and domestic resistance to transition is formidable. But recent trends and tentative past efforts suggest some impulse toward reform and opening from within. North Korea should be actively engaged from the inside to encourage change in its domestic and foreign policy.

The North Korea Inside Out: The Case for Economic Engagement Task Force was co-chaired by Charles Kartman and Susan Shirk and directed by John Delury. Ambassador Kartman, as Director of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), oversaw the largest international effort at direct engagement with North Korea. Professor Susan Shirk, author of China: Fragile Superpower and founder of the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue, is a pioneer of Track Two work in Asia and a leading expert on U.S.-North Korean foreign policy. John Delury, Associate Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society, is an adjunct professor at Columbia University and an expert on Chinese political economy. He has visited North Korea and written extensively on its politics.

"There are no easy solutions to the North Korean problem. Sanctions have been tried for decades and at times have been useful in moving Pyongyang back to negotiations. But their long-term effect has been to harden the DPRK's resistance to international cooperation." said Task Force Co-chair Susan Shirk. "Sanctions must be complemented by other long-term strategic approaches. The mechanisms of engagement we recommend can move Pyongyang from its hostile crouch into a neutral stance toward the rest of the world."

The report identifies a number of potential benefits to the U.S. and its allies of economic engagement with the DPRK.

  • Economic engagement would encourage the transformation of the DPRK's political economy and foreign policy, with direct benefits to international peace.
  • It would open space for the Korean people to have greater contact with outsiders, and vice versa.
  • It would reinforce changes that are already taking place from the ground up.
  • An active economic engagement policy would bring the long-term strategic approach of the U.S. into alignment with those of its allies and partners.

  • The report recommends a combination of the following avenues to initiate the new policy approach: official contacts, Track Two dialogues, academic exchanges, and non-governmental organizations' (NGOs) development programs. The report further recommends that the U.S. government adopt a new visa policy to increase contacts significantly. Finally, the report suggests how the U.S. could help enable international financial institutions to begin to interact with North Korea.

    Full text of the report and executive summary are available at http://www.asiasociety.org/northkoreareport.

    Project Co-Chairs:

    Charles Kartman
    Former Director, Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization

    Susan Shirk
    Director, Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation

    Ho Miu Lam
    Professor, School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, University of California, San Diego

    Project Director:

    John Delury
    Associate Director, Center on U.S.-China Relations, Asia Society

    Task Force Advisory Group:

    Bradley O. Babson
    Former Official, World Bank

    Harry Broadman
    Managing Director, The Albright Stonebridge Group

    Bill Brown*
    Senior Advisor, North Korea Mission Manager, Office of the Director of National Intelligence

    Robert Carlin
    Visiting Fellow, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University

    Jerome Cohen
    Professor, New York University Law School

    Stephan Haggard
    Lawrence and Sallye Krause Professor of Korea-Pacific Studies, University of California, San Diego

    Peter Hayes
    Executive Director, Nautilus Institute

    Frank Jannuzi*
    Professional Staff Member, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee

    Tom Kellogg
    Program Officer & Advisor to the President, Open Society Institute

    Karin Lee
    Executive Director, National Committee on North Korea

    Jennifer Lind
    Assistant Professor of Government, Dartmouth College

    Jamie Metzl
    Executive Vice President, Asia Society

    Katharine Moon
    Professor of Political Science, Wellesley College

    Marcus Noland
    Deputy Director and Senior Fellow, Peter G. Peterson
    Institute for International Economics

    Steve Orlins
    President, National Committee on U.S.-China Relations

    John S. Park
    Senior Research Associate, U.S. Institute of Peace

    Evans Revere
    President, Korea Society

    Stephen Del Rosso
    Program Director, International Peace and Security Carnegie Corporation

    Orville Schell
    Arthur Ross Director, Center on U.S.-China Relations, Asia Society

    Leon Sigal
    Director, Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project Social Science Research Council

    Donald Zagoria
    Senior Vice President, National Committee on American Foreign Policy

    *Observer

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    Contact: Asia Society Communications Department, (212) 327-9271, [email protected]