Monday, March 28, 2005

North Korea Experiments, With China as Its Model

By HOWARD W. FRENCH, The New York Times, March 28, 2005

DANDONG, China - At night, the view from the upper floor of a hotel looking out across the Yalu River toward the North Korean city of Sinuiju seems one of utter desolation. Three naked bulbs twinkling feebly is all that can be seen along a several-miles arc of riverfront.

By day, though, the scene at the border in this bustling Chinese city could scarcely be more different. Trucks steadily lumber across the bridge linking the countries, ferrying North Korean raw materials into China and Chinese manufactured goods to market in North Korea.

Westerners have long taken the nighttime view as the truest reflection of North Korea, a country all but frozen in time, its leaders so obsessed with control that they do not countenance contact with the outside world. The view from China, though, in cities like this, where small groups of North Koreans can be found in the downtown shops and hotels, scouring the city for bargains, is of a country already well into an experiment, however uncertain, aimed at rebuilding its economy and even opening up, ever so gingerly, to the outside world.

North Koreans who have recently arrived in China, and Chinese businessmen who have extensive experience in North Korea, speak of significant changes in the economic life in a country with a reputation as one of the most closed and regimented.

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