North Korea could learn from Vietnam?


In July, 2018, speaking to members of the U.S.-Vietnamese business community in Hanoi, Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State said Vietnam’s experience since the normalization of relations with the U.S. (1995) should be proof for North Korea that prosperity and partnership with the U.S. is possibleafter decades of conflict and mistrust.

He suggested that North Korea could learn from Vietnam in achieving twofold missions – economic growth and political stability.

In the seminar “Following Vietnam model? Crisis in Korean Peninsula and North Korea Dilemma” hosted by Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management, using soft power framework, Dr. Yooil introduced recent development of Northeast Asian security crisis and assessed Mr. Pompeo’s comment on the Vietnamese model as a proof for North Korea.

North Korean economy is considered one of the weakest economies in the world and most of available resources are distributed to military industries and “Juche” ideology has been practiced for over 60 years. Against such background of rising political conflicts, other more successful models such as China and Korea, despite remarkable achievements, are not readily available to North Korean specific designs.

Dr. Yooil argued that though Vietnam and North Korea bear many resemblances, the two countries are different in many respects (median ages, total population, market size, etc.), resulting in reduced possibility of Vietnamese model’s success in North Korean circumstances.

On the other hand, the motives of North Korean leaders (economic development vs. regime stability) are unclear. By highlighting the importance of ‘socialization’ aspect of soft power as a form of productive power, Dr. Yooil concluded that the Vietnamese model as a source of soft power would only work if the benefits of the model were fully socialized among North Koreans.

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