North Korea could follow Vietnam’s “doi moi” example

North Korea Could Follow Vietnam’s “doi Moi” Example
Street life in North Korea © Arno Maierbrugger

As Vietnam’s capital Hanoi prepares to host the second US-North Korea summit later this month, experts say North Korea may be gearing up to study Vietnam’s model of economic development which started with the “doi moi” policy of opening its market in the late 1980s. That said, Vietnam’s ability to retain one-party rule, strict censorship, minimal dissent and a top-down system of control after integrating into the global economy is seen as an “attractive prospect” for the North, political observers say.

If Pyongyang were to ever transition into a market economy, it will likely continue to prioritise regime stability as loosening restrictions on areas such as currency and migration could be politically destabilising for Kim Jong-un’s rule.

To gauge lessons for its own future, North Korea has long studied communist governments such as China and Vietnam, countries with state-managed growth that have integrated into the world economy.

Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh traveled to Pyongyang on February 12 following North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho’s visit to Hanoi last year. That trip was reportedly aimed at studying Vietnam’s reforms, according to Yonhap News Agency. Such visits hark back to earlier years such as 2012, when a North Korean delegation visited the Vietnamese province of Thai Binh to examine rural development.

In the late 1980s, Vietnam embraced free-market reforms known as “doi moi.” That eventually opened the country up and resulted in its present socialist-oriented economy.  Vietnam began receiving assistance from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in the 1990s after it began enacting reforms. That was followed by significant foreign investment in the mid-2000s and membership to the World Trade Organisation in 2007. Vietnam’s frontier market is now one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, thanks to an expanding middle class, strong manufacturing sector and young population.

Kim, meanwhile, has promised to improve domestic development since coming to power in late 2011. In 2014, he introduced measures to reduce farm sizes and allow some production for household use and sale in markets. Since 2016, these reforms have been expanded and greater emphasis has been placed on more decentralised decision-making.

A young generation in North Korea is now growing up with some sort of free market perspective for the first time since the 1950s. The lifting of sanctions, coupled with more economic reforms and changes in national security policy and international relations, North Korea could be well on the way to a better future.

 

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[caption id="attachment_32501" align="alignleft" width="300"] Street life in North Korea © Arno Maierbrugger[/caption] As Vietnam’s capital Hanoi prepares to host the second US-North Korea summit later this month, experts say North Korea may be gearing up to study Vietnam's model of economic development which started with the "doi moi" policy of opening its market in the late 1980s. That said, Vietnam's ability to retain one-party rule, strict censorship, minimal dissent and a top-down system of control after integrating into the global economy is seen as an “attractive prospect” for the North, political observers say. If Pyongyang were to ever transition into...

North Korea Could Follow Vietnam’s “doi Moi” Example
Street life in North Korea © Arno Maierbrugger

As Vietnam’s capital Hanoi prepares to host the second US-North Korea summit later this month, experts say North Korea may be gearing up to study Vietnam’s model of economic development which started with the “doi moi” policy of opening its market in the late 1980s. That said, Vietnam’s ability to retain one-party rule, strict censorship, minimal dissent and a top-down system of control after integrating into the global economy is seen as an “attractive prospect” for the North, political observers say.

If Pyongyang were to ever transition into a market economy, it will likely continue to prioritise regime stability as loosening restrictions on areas such as currency and migration could be politically destabilising for Kim Jong-un’s rule.

To gauge lessons for its own future, North Korea has long studied communist governments such as China and Vietnam, countries with state-managed growth that have integrated into the world economy.

Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh traveled to Pyongyang on February 12 following North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho’s visit to Hanoi last year. That trip was reportedly aimed at studying Vietnam’s reforms, according to Yonhap News Agency. Such visits hark back to earlier years such as 2012, when a North Korean delegation visited the Vietnamese province of Thai Binh to examine rural development.

In the late 1980s, Vietnam embraced free-market reforms known as “doi moi.” That eventually opened the country up and resulted in its present socialist-oriented economy.  Vietnam began receiving assistance from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in the 1990s after it began enacting reforms. That was followed by significant foreign investment in the mid-2000s and membership to the World Trade Organisation in 2007. Vietnam’s frontier market is now one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, thanks to an expanding middle class, strong manufacturing sector and young population.

Kim, meanwhile, has promised to improve domestic development since coming to power in late 2011. In 2014, he introduced measures to reduce farm sizes and allow some production for household use and sale in markets. Since 2016, these reforms have been expanded and greater emphasis has been placed on more decentralised decision-making.

A young generation in North Korea is now growing up with some sort of free market perspective for the first time since the 1950s. The lifting of sanctions, coupled with more economic reforms and changes in national security policy and international relations, North Korea could be well on the way to a better future.

 

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