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NOVEMBER 6, 2000 VOL. 156 NO. 18

David Guttenfelder/AP.
A group of North Korean women bow in front of a monument of the late President Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang.

Don't Reward Kim
The 'Great Leader' is still a threat to peace

Kim Puts On a Show: With poise, promises and a mass celebration, North Korea's Great Leader does his best to impress Madeleine Albright in his first encounter ever with an American official

A marketing adage warns that the best way to kill a bad product is through good advertising, meaning that consumers who are enticed to buy shoddy goods because of clever ads will eventually denounce their defects to others. Something of this nature is now happening with North Korea. While U.S. officials are wined and dined by their North Korean hosts, journalists are broadcasting the pitiful reality of life in the capital Pyongyang, the nation's Potemkin village. Efforts by American leaders to open discussions with the reclusive and unpredictable Kim Jong Il regime are commendable. But unless the high politics of nuclear and missile nonproliferation are accompanied by the low politics of social and economic exchanges, North Korea will continue to threaten the security of North Asia.

COVER: It Comes Down to This
As the presidential race nears the endgame, contenders Al Gore and George W. Bush are still looking for the knockout punch to win over the legions of undecided voters

NORTH KOREA: Kim Puts On a Show
With poise, promises and a mass celebration, the nation's Great Leader does his best to impress Madeleine Albright in his first encounter ever with an American official
Viewpoint: Pyongyang still poses a threat

JAPAN: Tape It Shut!
Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori's mouth gets him in trouble—again

THAILAND: What Recovery?
Though the country has pulled out of its financial tailspin, many citizens are still suffering—and blame the Prime Minister
Report Card: The IMF overreached in Asia

TRAVEL WATCH: Who's Got the Best Business Class in Asia?

As they become more widely publicized, the North's abysmal economic and political conditions will surely hinder the development of relations with the outside world. Foreign investors examining the potential for doing business will no doubt be appalled by the poor infrastructure and government controls. Pyongyang's official line still includes statements like "The superiority of the socialist self-reliant economy was and is absolute." And while North Korea has actively sought foreign investment since 1984, the government continues to warn its people that "Foreign capital is like opium." Politics and ideology are to blame for the collapsed economy. The Stalinist model to which North Korea adheres is unworkable, its only virtue being that it allows Kim to control his society. Citizens enjoy few rights as individuals.

Now that Kim is making himself available, foreign governments are eager to make the most of the opportunity, unwittingly demonstrating another marketing principle: that scarcity confers value. But Washington should be in no hurry to make deals with another dictator, even one with the potential to develop nuclear-tipped missiles. A fruitful, sustainable relationship must be built on a solid foundation of shared values. Deals between Washington and Pyongyang that are limited to rewarding the Kim regime for freezing its nuclear and missile programs simply strengthen the North Korean leader's power over his people.

Amid hopes of reforming North Korea through "engagement" with Pyongyang, the U.S. and South Korea have virtually ignored the abysmal human rights conditions in the North, willingly agreeing through signed documents not to interfere in the North's domestic affairs—that is, permitting Kim to run the country as he likes. This neglect is a grave mistake. Human rights, democratic reform and the development of a market economy are not luxuries for North Korea—they are the very essence of what will permanently end the threat to peace in Northeast Asia.

Kongdan Oh, a research staff member at the Virginia-based Institute for Defense Analyses, and Ralph C. Hassig, a consultant in Washington, are the co-authors of North Korea Through the Looking Glass

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