By Kang Mi Jin
Public opinion in North Korea is divided over Kim Jong Eun’s order to review establishing two special economic zones in each province, inside sources have informed Daily NK.
A source from North Hamkyung Province told Daily NK on the 1st, “Some people have said, ‘If these special zones materialize, won’t this help with economic development?’ But others have given a decidedly chillier response.” The partial reaction stems from the concern that the government will strengthen its regulation of citizens living within the economic zones, as it did in the Rasun Special Economic Zone.
Defector Woo Myung Suk (45) used to live in close proximity to Rasun. She told Daily NK, “People started to criticize the situation when the authorities increased their control over the residents. At the time people were saying, ‘If one thing is good (better living standards from wages earned in the zone), something else will be bad (restrictions, control and investigations).’”
Furthermore, it's possible that access to the proposed new special economic zones will remain off-limits to ordinary citizens. Even in the case that access is allowed, the process of obtaining a pass would be so cumbersome that the outer regions will barely be impacted.
Woo explains that, "I tried to obtain a pass to enter Rasun City once to buy some goods, and it was nearly impossible. There have been cases where traders without passes were caught trying to make a swift escape through the barbed-wire fences that circle the area."
A source in Yangkang Province similarly assesses that while this most recent measure may temporarily inject new life into the markets, it is also expected that a surge in restrictions will follow. Controlling the people’s activities, like banning the use of cell phones in border regions for example, is likely to have a negative impact over the long-term.
"Rasun’s heydey didn’t last long, so the people’s response to the establishment of new economic zones is not a particularly joyous one. Should controls intensify, as befitting for a ‘special zone’, then the people's disappointment can only grow.”
At the other end of the spectrum, the source in North Hamkyung proclaimed that, "People are buzzing. Many are excited at the thought of receiving proper wages like workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex do. They also are looking forward cheaper commodity prices and being able to receive a proper day’s wages at any factory they work in.”
This article is published originally at Daily NK.