Maritime State University together with Global Partnership for Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) convened an online roundtable on the Korean Peninsula on August 13. Scholars and NGOs from China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the US took part in the discussion. The presentations by Korean speakers covered issues such as prospects of economic and social development of the DPRK in the conditions of the ongoing pandemic, Moon Jae-in’s policy and Inter-Korean relations.
The very fact that round tables of such a kind are only possible in virtual format shows how pandemic has changed our world, way of life and communication. Not to mention negative impacts of ongoing pandemic on global economy, policy and international relations. It is impossible to find a country, which was not affected by global economic recession due to pandemic. As for the DPRK, its economy had been problematic and developing slowly due to the sanctions and pressure even before the pandemic. So it is logical to suggest that in the present situation when the borders are closed and all foreign trade is curtailed, the DPRK suffers from the economic crisis. It is evidenced, for example by mentioning another Arduous March by the country’s state media. Previous Arduous March of the end of 90s led to the grave economic crisis and even human losses. Of course, the DPRK could achieve some successes in its economy for the two last decades and could become less reliant on the external aid. At the same time since the DPRK closed its borders with China last year it has become deprived even of that modest aid. Voluntary self-isolation and natural disasters resulted in the food crisis in the country. Lack of advanced disinfection equipment and sanitizing frames on the borders makes it risky for the DPRK to open the borders even for the humanitarian aid.
As for ROK, it can be considered one of the most successful country in terms of overcoming the pandemic. However, uncertainty remains around new president and administration who will assume the power in the country next March. This issue is especially important because new president in ROK usually declares a new course towards the DPRK and Inter-Korean relations. Since all the previous approaches to the DPRK reached impasse, the need for a new course is especially urgent. At the same time breakthrough in Inter-Korean relations does not solely depend on South Korean president. There are many other factors like domestic policy considerations in the DPRK, interests of China and allied relations between the US and ROK.