A Convergence of Interests: Prospects for Rason Special Economic Zone

In this paper written for Korea Economic Institute's Academic Paper Series, Andray explores the ongoing changes seen in Rason. The paper is available to download here.


Rason, North Korea’s Special Economic Zone located in the far Northeast of the country, is undergoing change at a pace unseen in its twenty-year existence. Its history has been one of insufficient support, both from leadership in Pyongyang and from external actors. Now, however, amid political transition in North Korea, reform and reoganization have taken place in the SEZ, while at the same time China has included Rason in its ambitious plans to develop its Northeastern province of Jilin. These changes demonstrate Pyongyang’s increasing need to reach out to foreign investors to reinvigorate its economy. They also point toward China’s desire to develop its Northeast region and promote stability while increasing its leverage over North Korea’s economic growth. Despite the myriad challenges facing both the SEZ and North Korea’s economy, these factors give Rason better prospects for development than we have seen before.