North Korea's five-year plan could backfire, analyst says

Kim Jong Un's economic polices could result in negative growth in the years ahead.

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea's five-year plan could backfire, analyst says
North Koreans wait to cross part of the Yalu River at a makeshift pontoon dock near Sinuiju, across the river from Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. A South Korean analyst said Thursday the North Korean economy is expected to contract by 1 to 2 percent. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, May 12 (UPI) -- North Korea's five-year economic plan could backfire as dissatisfaction grows in the country over Kim Jong Un's policies.

Pyongyang's economic announcement for 2016-2020, delivered at the Seventh Party Congress, could encounter a "boomerang effect," said Cho Bong-hyun, a senior research fellow at Industrial Bank of Korea in Seoul.


Kim's goals require coercion, and ordinary North Koreans are already complaining about the forced labor requirements and heightened control over the population, Cho said, according to Yonhap.

"Five years from now there will be no upshot to the national economic development strategy, and that boomerang effect will come back to Kim Jong Un," the South Korean analyst said at a conference held at Korea University.

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North Korea's economic policies require its diplomats overseas to raise foreign currency for the regime through illegal sales of alcohol, prescription drugs. The demands are taxing its elites.

On the domestic front, citizens have been required to volunteer labor for projects where they are not being provided with safety equipment and must work within tight and unrealistic deadlines – which have led to accidents, including what has been reported as a dam collapse.


None of the problems related to mass mobilization, however, seem to be weighing on the regime, Cho said.

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Pyongyang could be planning a 120-day, or even a 150-day "battle" for quick results in construction following the congress.

If results are not met, the state could continue to punish officers affiliated with failed projects. In response, however, dissent can only grow in the country.

"The Seventh Party Congress was a 'hollowed out event of self-praise,' a political show for power consolidation," Cho said, adding that North Korea's economy could contract 1 to 2 percent because of bad policies.

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Speaking at the same conference, Jung Sang-don, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, said South Korea shouldn't expect too much from China on the North Korea issue.

China is advocating denuclearization on the Korean peninsula in part because Beijing wants to see a reduction in the U.S. troop presence in the South, Jung said.

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