Former World Bank member speaks on North Korean crisis
"How do you think about North Korea?" Bradley Babson said Tuesday as he began his lecture in Daggett Lounge entitled "The Current Crisis on the Korean Peninsula."
Since last October (when North Korea admitted to nuclear development), there has been a great deal of confusion on how to deal with this developing problem. The United States government has been giving more focus to Iraq than North Korea, but the nuclear threat posed by North Korea cannot go ignored for much longer. One of the greatest dilemmas in North Korea is that it is "in a desperate situation" said Babson. Economic reforms are failing and pressure is building on the present regime to find practical ways to move forward. In turn these pressures are "impelling them to find a different kind of future from the one that they come from." Based on the current economic crisis, Babson predicted in his talk that "what we are going to see is a reconciliation in Korean relations."
North Korea is looking to make a deal that achieves three main goal- legitimacy, an economic future, and training and education to ensure this economic future. Unfortunately, they tend to take advantage of crisis and self-made crises in order to get the best deal that they can in terms of international relations.
Furthermore, North Korea tends to be very wary of the United States and its plans for the future. Having seen the American approach to the Iraqi crisis, North Koreans have developed a real fear that American policy towards their own country will follow suit-that America can and may very well launch a similar attack on North Korea. In addition, Bush has said "some very derogatory things" concerning North Korea recently, which have not helped North Koreans feel secure about their future relations with the United States.
However, Babson pointed out that the official policy of the United States towards North Korea resembles regime transformation rather than regime change. However, the North Koreans' central desire is a "security guarantee" from the United States. They truly fear that the United States will take active measures with North Korea as happened in Iraq; yet, as has been demonstrated by their recent activity in the nuclear arms arena, the North Koreans take the stance that "the best defense is a good offense."
In terms of an economic future for North Korea, the prospects seem dire. Dealing with foreigners, noted Babson, is not North Korea's forte. In fact, they have the worst record in the world and are notorious for being "not very good business partners." They often fail to honor international business contracts and they do not play by standard economic rules in making deals. Therefore, that in order for the North Koreans to step into a legitimate international, business role in world economics, they will have to be provided with not only money, but also training, business education, and general economic advice.
Babson headed the World Bank Mission in Hanoi in the 1990s. His lecture was attended by government professors, economic professors, President Barry Mills, and a crowd of highly engaged Bowdoin College students.