This week news of Kim Jong Un's second major speech was disseminated in North Korea and required not one, two, but three pictures to commemorate it. The speech was on land management, with that term being used to cover topics as diverse as forestry, agriculture, road construction, urban renewal and mining. There were a number of interesting things about this speech, but a couple in particular stood out as relevant to Choson Exchange.
In the English summary, this stands out:
"The Ministry of Land and Environmental Conservation and relevant institutions should conduct brisk joint study, academic exchange and information exchange with scientific research institutions of other countries and take part in international meetings and symposiums to introduce advanced science and technology, he added."
We've had conversations with our North Korean partners about conducting training sessions on land reform and taxation issues. It doesn't seem unreasonable to hope that the interest we've perceived on this issue will be redoubled after what seems like an endorsement from the very top.
In the full Korean text posted on Rodong Sinmun, Kim Jong Un also takes some time to specifically address the issue of underground resources. As Geoffrey and I have argued over at The Diplomat, North Korea's vast, untapped resources could create a more marketized and internationalized economy, but serve to maintain existing social and political structures. (Though this is by no means certain.)
Kim begins addressing this crucial sector by saying "We must positively protect and conserve the country's underground resources". He is concerned that "right now, to earn a handful of pennies, the country's precious underground resources are being developed and exported abroad to the point of depletion, instead of taking a long-term view but looking just in front of their faces with a shortsighted perspective that doesn't show patriotism."
As such, the authorities will "strictly set up a system to stop the development of underground resources to depletion or the random or chaotic development of said resources."
This appears, when combined with his public chastisement of officials at an on-the-spot inspection this week, to be something of a warning shot. Local officials who run things for personal gain will have to start worrying that pressure from the center may be coming to bear. Our workshop leaders have often emphasized rule-of-law issues as related to investment environment and it would be a welcome development to see more consistency across the investment sectors the DPRK wants to focus on.
There is, of course, much to be done. And while this is just a single speech, it is interesting to note that some of our points of focus are on Kim Jong Un's mind, at least.