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Is the mining industry the route to influence North Korea?

North Korean detention camps are no different from Nazi prison camps. But as long as the country remains economically isolated, international criticism will be ineffective, writes North Korea expert Remco Breuker in the opinion section of Dutch newspaper NRC on 21 February. Breuker advocates using the mining industry to gain influence.

'The Security Council is not the way to achieve change'

Professor R.E. (Remco) Breuker
Professor R.E. (Remco) Breuker

Professor of Korea Studies Remco Breuker gave his opinion following the publication of a UN report compiled on the basis of eye witness accounts. He believes the report is a reliable account of a series of atrocities, to put it mildly. Nonetheless, he expects it to have little effect, in spite of serious condemnations by human rights organisations, the media and governments. Why is that? Too many conflicting interests from China, Russia, South Korea and the US.  Breuker: 'The Security Council is not the way to achieve change.'

'The alternative can give us some influence in North Korea'

However, Breuker does see an economic route via the mining industry. North Korea is rich in minerals, including rare metals. 'By making ourselves part of the North Korean economy, we will become stakeholders.' In Breuker's opinion this would mean an end to standing on the sidelines; we will be able to exercise some influence.  'Being outraged about what's going on is a waste of time. The alternative is uncertain, costly, potentially profitable and, more important, it can give us influence in North Korea.' 

(24 February 2014)


Question an expert

The UN has produced a damning report on the state of human rights in North Korea. The chairman of the investigating committee compared the detention camps there with the Nazi death camps in the Second World War. Nonetheless, the likelihood of the international community taking real action is minimal. Why? Is it all China's fault for having the power to veto resolutions by the Security Council and so nipping in the bud any initiatives for change? And how can we continue to look on, when we can no longer deny what is happening there?

When: Tuesday 25 February 17.00 - 18.00 hrs

With whom: MEARC experts Professor Remco Breuker for North Korea and Professor Frank Pieke for China.

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