Hub or Backwater?North Korea Between Alter nati ve Conceptions
of Northeast Asian RegionalEconomic Cooperation
The research project on which this article is based was supported by a Chinese Post-Doctoral Research Grant and the Kwngwoon University Industry–AcademicCollaboration Foundation. In the process of writing this article, the author also accumulat-ed a number of debts to his colleagues, including Bradley Martin, Richard Mason, ChenBo, Liang Zhi, and Shen Zhihua, for their kind support.
Balázs Szalontai is an assistant professor at Kwangwoon University in Seoul as well asassociate fellow and visiting scholar of the Institute of Occidental Studies, NationalUniversity of Malaysia. After receiving a Ph.D. in Soviet and Korean history, he has donearchival research on North Korea, Southeast Asia, Mongolia, India, and the USSR. Hispublications include
Kim Il Sung in the Khrushchev Era: Soviet-DPRK Relations and the Roots of North Korean Despotism, 1953-1964
(Stanford University Press and WoodrowWilson Center Press, 2005) as well as articles and book chapters on North Korean andSoutheast Asian history. His current research projects are focused on North Korea’sinvolvement in the Vietnam War, DPRK–Middle East relations, and nuclear proliferation.
This article seeks to investigate how the various recent conceptions of Northeast Asian regional cooperation have been perceived by the North Koreanleadership, how compatible they are with Pyongyang’s non-economic objectives,and how they might influence North Korean actions toward South Korea.Placing the present situation into a historical context, it argues that for the NorthKorean leaders, regional economic cooperation is less an end in itself than anissue seen through the prism of security policy. That is, such forms of Northeast Asian cooperation that bypass the DPRK or potentially reduce its room for maneuver are likely to elicit unfavorable reactions from Pyongyang. In contrast,the leadership is prone to welcome those conceptions of regional cooperationwhich imply not only the inclusion of the DPRK but also the full or partial exclu-sion of its current opponents.
North Korea, Northeast Asia, regional economic cooperation,inter-Korean relations