This week, an international trade fair staged at the exhibition hall in the zone in North Korea’s far northeast offered foreign investors and visitors from China, Britain, Russia and elsewhere, as well as journalists from The Associated Press, a glimpse at the efforts to turn a long-neglected, remote region into a manufacturing, tourism and transportation hub.
A diorama of the future Rason International Commercial Trade Center displayed at the trade fair showed rows of modern buildings sparkling with lights and cars parked under street lamps along tree-lined streets — a look at what officials hope the zone will look like in years to come. But whether that vision comes to fruition will depend in large part on whether China comes through with the electricity, supplies and money needed to bring Rason into the 21st century.
Over the past two years, North Korea’s leadership has made the bid to transform Rason into an international hub a priority, along with drawing much-needed foreign investment. Last week, Jang Song Thaek, a senior official and uncle of leader Kim Jong Un, led a visit to China to discuss joint cooperation on developing economic zones along the border in an indication that the project has the attention of top officials.