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Pretty Please Can We Invest?

As Kim Jong-eun surveys his next meal – like his father before him – as his old friend and Kim Jong-il’s sushi chef, Kenji Fujimoto announces a return to the Hermit Kingdom, let us move away from totalitarian cuisine and arresting mental images of the Kims consuming fish like Jabba the Hutt.

In September 2011, RoK state-run mining company, Korea Resources Corporation (Kores) began negotiations to open rare mineral deposits in the DPRK. Or, more accurately, attempted to resume mining interests at various locations across the DPRK.

With the inception of the Sunshine Policy, Kores was one of many hopeful investors in the DPRK which eventually came a cropper when it was discovered that there is no honour in dealing with a medieval kingdom with the barest trappings of modernity. Although its loss of investment was not as well-deserved as Roh Jeong-ho who attempted to sell barbed wire intended to segregate the common citizenry from the bright young things in Special Economic Zones, nonetheless its operations came to an inexorable halt by 2008.  As recently as April 2011, its President, Kim Shin-jong was bemoaning lack of progress.

Negotiations came to another half in December 2011, following the death of the Supreme Fish-Eater.

Now, Kim Jong-eun is thought to be stripping senior KPA officers of export rights in order to make the economy slightly less kleptocratic; and is known to have sacked Ri Yong-ho, the Commander-in-Chief and close ally of his late father whom he replaced with Jang Song-thaek, his aunt’s husband. (Although reports that Ri disagreed forcefully would have required various foreign diplomats in Pyongyang not to have noticed a fierce gun-battle, I do rather hope than Ri currently is sobbing with fear as Lazar Kaganovich is reputed to have done on being removed as First Deputy Chairman by Khrushchev.)

It might be that these reforms will work or Kores might very well find that, like so many investors before them, they are stitched-up like a kipper.