Yough Pioneer Tours

Rason SeZ

You could in some kind of weird way separate the DPRK into two parts, the mainland, and the Rason SeZ, in some very small ways vaguely analogous to China and Hong Kong, with one part being Socialist, and the other being (in some ways at least), capitalist, but this would be a very big simplification of what is quite a complicated set of affairs.

In the early days of Deng Xiaoping and his open door policy, much of the socialist world either started to experiment loosely with ways of opening, or embracing it head on. In the USSR we had the much known failure of perestroika, whilst in Vietnam there was Doi Moi, and even Cuba had it’s “special period”(although its current changes are much more contemporary).

The DPRK chose to model its small reforms as a mixture of both Chinese and Russian, with new laws on increased joint-ventures with foreign companies, and governments, and its very own Special Economic Zone, Rason, which toyed with capitalist elements, such as allowing foreign capital, and joint-ventures as well as having a looser visa regime. From the 90’s to the 2000’s it largely sat quite idle (even briefly losing its status) before new found interest came about due to its extremely strategic open water port that could be of use to both China, and Russia. New money, and new infrastructure, and the hope that this would be the new gateway for business, and tourism to the DPRK, “visa free”, and full of tourist facilities.

The reality, I had always found to be slightly different. This was no Hong Kong, but it did and does offer lots of freedoms not available in the mainland, and with this being my 6th time in the zone, I was looking forward to seeing just how things might have changed.