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Analyst: N. Korean Plans for Special Econ Zones Under Way

FILE - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
A leading expert on North Korea's economy says Pyongyang's plans for the development of special economic zones are under way, and that land has been allocated at 13 sites.

Economist Kyung-ae Park, a professor at Canada's Columbia University, spoke to VOA's Korean Service Tuesday, after touring the zones earlier this month. He said the zones, which include sites at Rason, Chongjin, Nampo, Sinpyong and the Masikryong ski resort, have not yet passed the planning stage. He said he saw no signs of construction at the sites.

Pyongyang announced last year that it would establish the zones to encourage direct foreign investment, in a push to revitalize an economy that Western analysts routinely describe as moribund.

Park participated in the Pyongyang seminar along with experts from the United States, the Philippines, China and India.

British Columbia University launched the Knowledge Partnership Program in 2011. Since then, 19 North Korean professors have participated in the initiative.