Activity at Korean Enclave Grinds to a Halt

In the past decade, as China opened its markets to foreign investment, the northeastern city of Dandong developed into a bustling center of economic activity. But its North Korean counterpart city across the border, Sinuiju, is still languishing in bleak poverty. North Korea has made plans to imitate China’s efforts in Dandong, however, by turning Sinuiju into an administrative center. The project would involve moving the city’s 200,000 residents to another area and bringing in skilled workers in their place, but the plan has faced stumbling blocks and may not get off the ground for a few years. In 2004, after the Chinese government designates Dandong as a special economic zone, Sinuiju might also reap some benefits due to its proximity and ties to the Korean-Chinese community in the Chinese city. – YaleGlobal

Activity at Korean Enclave Grinds to a Halt

The special administrative region, Sinuiju, may gain momentum again – but only after China develops city of Dandong
Friday, December 6, 2002

DANDONG (China) - Streams of cars, trucks and taxis flow on bustling riverside roads in this Chinese city bordering North Korea.

Across the Yalu River, the North Korean city of Sinuiju offers a striking contrast, showing little more than several guards staring blankly at the Chinese side.

After the initial fanfare, little progress it seems is made on an ambitious plan to turn Sinuiju into a special administrative region where foreigners can invest freely.

'The two cities looked almost the same 10 years ago, but it is pretty different now,' a Korean-Chinese tour guide said.

China's recent economic reforms have breathed new life into this once-barren city of Dandong, a relatively conservative municipality with a sizeable Korean population.

Following in the footsteps of the Beijing government, its Cold War ally, Pyongyang announced in September an ambitious plan to turn Sinuiju into a special administrative region where foreigners can invest freely.

North Korea's legislature adopted a law on Sept 12, giving the city independent legislative, administrative and judicial rights to turn it into an 'international financial, trade, commercial and industrial' centre under the tutelage of a foreign businessman.

But the project sputtered when Yang Bin, the Chinese-born Dutch tycoon tapped to head the special economic zone, was arrested by the Chinese authorities on charges of illegal business activities.

'After Yang's arrest, there have been no significant movements in Sinuiju,' said a South Korean businessman in Dandong.

He said North Korea stopped moving residents out of the city. The initial plan was to relocate 200,000 residents and bring in new settlers who were armed with technical and administrative skills.

The South Korean businessman said, however, that North Korea is continuing construction of walls around the city.

Residents and diplomatic sources in China agreed that the Sinuiju project could gain momentum again around 2004, after China develops Dandong into a special economic region.

'The Beijing government seems to believe that the Chinese city may lose its place as a regional business hub to Sinuiju,' a diplomatic source said. --KoreaHerald/Asia News Network

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