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Interview with Paul Chamberlin - 2002-09-19


Mr. Paul Chamberlin, President of Korea-U.S. Consulting, Inc. is an authority on Korean politics and business. He offers insights into the Japan-Korea talks.

MR. BORGIDA:
Joining me live in our studio, Korea analyst Paul Chamberlin, President of Korea-U.S. Consulting, Inc. He has broad diplomatic policy and business experience in the region. And, Mr. Chamberlin, we're delighted that you could join us today.

MR. CHAMBERLIN:
Thank you for inviting me.

MR. BORGIDA:
There are a lot of things percolating in Asia. Let's talk a little bit about the Japan-North Korea relationship. Do you see this as beginning to reestablish diplomatic ties, as we told our audience a moment ago?

MR. CHAMBERLIN:
Oh, sure. It's a breathtaking development. It reflects broad coordination between South Korea and Japan. It's a very positive development.

MR. BORGIDA:
Japan, the residents of Japan, the people of Japan, however, are a little bit concerned about it. They have been reacting with some emotion and, in some cases, anger to all this. What is your take on that?

MR. CHAMBERLIN:
According to a recent poll that I just saw before coming over here, roughly two-thirds of Japanese people approve of the summit; they are pleased with the way it turned out overall. About 23 percent are a little disappointed. They think that the kidnap issue could have been handled better. But two-thirds is a pretty significant number.

The advantages for Japan are significant --political advantages in resolving the abductee issue, and not to mention economic advantages. When Japan begins to invest in North Korea, the opportunities are there for a lot of Japanese companies. It is going to be very beneficial for all concerned parties.

MR. BORGIDA:
Let's talk for a moment about the level of stability in the region. Of course you just mentioned business benefits, but what about the overall security to that region, does this move it in the right direction?

MR. CHAMBERLIN:
Oh, there's no question. Countries that trade with each other have less incentive to do harm to each other. The sunshine policy that Kim Dae-jung courageously implemented in early 1998 is premised on improving economic and cultural ties for the purpose of easing tension. It has been obviously successful. Japan's coming in to tie up, to provide economic assistance, is also going to be very beneficial.

Why does North Korea export missiles? One reason clearly is for economic benefit. They lack cash. And they lack an economy. They lack an infrastructure in which to make money. The Japan-South Korea connections now provide a foundation for them to make some progress, coupled with an obvious desire that Kim Jung-Il has shown to reform elements of the North Korean economy.

MR. BORGIDA:
That's a perfect segue to my next question, which is the famine in North Korea. What does North Korea get out of this that is going to help the people of North Korea, anything?

MR. CHAMBERLIN:
Well, to be sure, the question has to do with how will Japan dispense economic assistance. If the South Korean model is any example, it will probably be parceled out on specific measurable projects. Through those projects, North Koreans will begin to build an infrastructure which is essential for the conduct of commerce and the conduct of trade.

In July, Kim Jung-Il implemented reforms that brought the price of rice and other staples to rough market levels, standards, and increased wages. It's still a centrally planned economy, but by getting an infrastructure in place, the potential is there for it to begin to grow. They have to reduce their investments in the nonproductive sector, which of course is the military. That will probably come with time, as North Korea's sense of security improves.

MR. BORGIDA:
Let's talk for about a minute or so in the time we have left, Mr. Chamberlin, about the North?South Korea tension. Some progress on that front, too. I would assume that you feel encouraged about that as well.

MR. CHAMBERLIN:
I think encouraged is exactly the right word. The sunshine policy that Kim Dae-jung implemented began to bear fruit in the spring of 2000. There was a lull period, which might be considered a testing period, but now the results of several important meetings in August stipulated 19 measurable milestones for improving inter-Korean relations. The railroad project is one of them. The construction of an industrial complex in Kaesong is another, which is just 35 or 40 miles from Seoul, is another. These are tangible results.

And the concept of the Pusan-to-Paris Railroad is breathtaking in scope. How did the Transcontinental Railroad improve the United States? Well, of course, our economy was at a different level of development at that time.

MR. BORGIDA:
Well, it sure was. Let's spend a little more time talking about this hopefully the next time you visit us.

MR. CHAMBERLIN:
Thank you very much.

MR. BORGIDA:
Thanks so much. The views of Paul Chamberlin, an analyst of Korean affairs. We're so glad you could join us today, Mr. Chamberlin.

MR. CHAMBERLIN:
The pleasure was mine. Thank you.

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