North Korea  is starting to dismantle it’s nuclear reactor.

The breakthrough on making the Korean peninsula a nuclear free zone is being hailed cautiously by the six parties involved in the negotiations:

The move is one of the biggest steps the North has taken toward denuclearization, a stipulation reached during October’s six-party talks with the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia. North Korea agreed to the steps in exchange for economic aid and increased political recognition….

“By the end of the year, on the road to denuclearization, we hope to have arrived at an important milestone, where there is a complete disablement of the Yongbyon facilities, a full list of additional facilities for disablement, and that uranium enrichment is also resolved to mutual satisfaction,” Hill said, according to the AP.Hill also said the United States will begin taking steps to remove North Korea from Washington’s list of countries that support terrorism, one of the concessions granted to the communist country during negotiations..

There are a lot of things behind this concession. Part of it is the floods and famine. One problem with food aid in the past was that most of it went to the military. But China is pressuring the government because they worry another major famine would increase their refugee load, which is now estimated to be 300 000 people.

At the same time, the Japanese have been applying political and economic pressure, much of it based on getting back Japanese who had been kidnapped years ago for various reasons.

One small but important “pressure” was when the US applied economic pressure and froze the private bank account of Korean leaders in Macau, meaning they couldn’t play the casinos or buy goodies while on R&R.

Finally, even the “hermit kingdom” is being infiltrated by Christianity, cellphones, and satellite dishes.

Nobody thinks the government of North Korea is a good thing, but anarchy and a million refugees streaming into China is feared more than a quiet famine.

So the “Carrot/stick” approach is being helped by sending oil and food aid into the north. South Korea industries are eager to build factories in the Kaeson Industrial Complex which already employs over 100 000 North Koreans at wages below that of South Korea or even of China, and is estimated to employ 700 000 workers by 2012.

Here in the Philippines, Korean Language schools are becoming common, so that locals pass the language test to apply for high paying factory jobs in that country ($700 a month). There are an estimated 70,000 Philippine citizens in South Korea, working in factories, as nannies, English teachers, and in the entertainment industries of Korea.

The ability to utilize cheap labour in nearby North Korea would be a “win/win” proposition for both South and North Korea: it would supply much needed jobs and revenue for the North while allowing South Korean industries to cut their costs  by hiring cheap North Korean labour only a short drive away, instead of importing workers or export factories to cheaper foreign countries.

Another small factor in all of this is the recent incident off of Africa, where the presence of a US ship encouraged the North Korean crew to overcome a hijacking by local pirates, and then the US Navy treated the wounded.
All of this is good news, of course. No one needs the threat of another Korean war destablizing the region.

Now, if we could only figure out what those North Koreans were doing in Syria...


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket. 


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