North Korea and China celebrated the groundbreaking of a joint free trade zone on an island between the two nations today.
The joint industrial complex is located on Hwanggumpyong Island, on the Yalu River, separating North Korea and the Chinese mainland.
This recent development is the fruit of Kim Jong-il's low-profile diplomatic visit to Beijing last week.The island will be divided into four separate areas, used for communications manufacturing tourism, contemporary farming and industrial processing, according to North Korea's outline as reported in South Korean paper JoongAng Daily.
Analysts believe that while North Korea has long grappled with famine, the recent drought in the region has worsened the condition of the recluse nation's food supply.
Also contributing to the severity of North Korea's situation are the series of sanctions and other punitive measures imposed late last year after it continued to develop its arsenal of atomic weapons and ballistic missiles. One particular attack on South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island particularly angered the international community, staving off any potential for cooperation.
North Korea has long depended on China for economic aid.
The island is designed to improve the communist nation's ability to stand alone economically.
The creation of a free trade zone models the initiatives of former Chinese Chairman Deng Xiaoping's 1978 Opening Up and Reform, which established special economic zones on the South China coast.
Then, the economic zones encouraged the pouring in of foreign direct investment (FDI) and international business projects, primarily from overseas Chinese, interested in exploiting Chinese sheer manpower and low production costs.
In 1978, China's population was well over 956 million, and in in 2009, North Korea's population roughly 24 million.