Among the inner circles of the American financial oligarchy, some think that North Korea is an existential threat to the hegemony of western capitalism that should be met with nothing but shunning, sanctions and military threats. However, others think the DPRK could be a huge money maker if allowed to open up and join the world economy.
The first historic summit between US President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un of North Korea took place in the prosperous Asian city-state of Singapore. The city is also the home of one of the leading voices championing a possible entrepreneurial boom on the Korean Peninsula, legendary investor Jim Rogers.
Jim Rogers is currently the chairman of Rogers Holdings and Beeland Interests Inc. He explained to South Korean TV: “Important opportunities are coming in the Korean peninsula, and North Korea is going to be the most exciting country in the world for the next decade or two.” He went on to say: “North Korea today is where China was in 1981. North Korea is a copy. He has been opening up the country just as Deng Xiaoping did.”
In an appearance on FOX news, Rogers emphasized the fact that the population of the DPRK is highly educated, making them more highly skilled than other people throughout the developing world. Rogers is associated with Republican and libertarian circles and has admitted that the Austrian School, with its “hands off” approach, is closest to his view of how the state should handle the economy.
Despite his personal libertarian bent, Rogers seems to embrace the highly authoritarian government of his current country of residence. However, an old business partner of his seems to hold the opposite view, not just about Singapore, but about North Korea, Trump, and everything else.
Jim Rogers and George Soros
Back in 1973, Jim Rogers and the Hungarian billionaire George Soros launched the Quantum Group of Funds. This was a network of hedge funds based in London, New York, Curaçao and the Cayman Islands. Eventually, the Obama administration’s Dodd-Frank Reform Act forced Quantum Funds to return all outside money and reduce itself to a Soros family investment group. But Rogers had already left in 1980, long before.
It seems pretty clear that Rogers and Soros are no longer friends. Rogers diplomatically answered a reporter from Forbes who asked him about Soros saying: “I left 37 years ago and have not had contact since. We were both dedicated and passionate about our work. He was a great market timer…. I have no idea what he has been doing these days, but back when we worked together, I did a lot of the research and reasoning for a position.”
While any personal disagreement between the two billionaire investors remains unknown, they clearly occupy opposite ends of the political spectrum. Rogers is associated with Republicans and libertarians, Soros has become a funder of liberal, Democratic-Party activism and is the favorite bogeyman of the American right-wing. And while Jim Rogers seems to be a beloved resident of Singapore, in 2018, George Soros’ Open Society Foundation was officially barred from setting up shop in the Lion City. Soros linked human rights organizations have long been harshly critical of Singapore’s political system.
While Jim Rogers continues to celebrate the possibility of hope for economic development on the Korean Peninsula, Democrats and liberals in the USA are less optimistic. In fact, the lack of results following the second meeting in Hanoi was widely praised by Nancy Pelosi and other figures that are normally harshly critical of the Trump administration.
The Eurasian Boom, A Huge Money-Making Opportunity
In order to understand what is really driving these divisions within the ruling circles of the United States, one must understand what is happening on the other side of the planet.
“Especially on the Eurasian continent, this is a golden era, and in the Eurasian continent we’re seeing a lot of power accumulating, we’re seeing roads, cities, train networks snaking through the post-Soviet wilderness, and creating a fabulous amount of wealth and dynamism,” said Asle Toje of the Norwegian Nobel Institute. He was speaking at the 2017 summit of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi, Russia.
What he was describing is real in every way. Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union and China’s One Belt, One Road initiative have lit up the region. Both Russia and China have state-controlled economies. Russia’s economic model involves two state-controlled energy giants, Gazprom and Rosneft, propping up a diverse economy involving mineral extraction, steel production, along with a low rate of taxation in order to create a good environment for business. China’s economy involves state-run steel manufacturing, the biggest telecommunications manufacturers in the world, cutting edge technology breakthroughs, and lots of oil and gas imported to keep the big machine rolling.
Surrounding the two Eurasian superpowers are a number of smaller countries that have long suffered from chronic underdevelopment. Improving living standards in Eurasian hemisphere is not only about making money, it is a matter of national security. Much like living spaces that are not cleaned can soon become infested by pests, regions that remain in chronic poverty can soon become hotbeds of drug dealing, sex trafficking, and terrorism. A policy of win-win cooperation, making the region more stable and economically prosperous is a matter of security for both Russia and China.
Russia’s far eastern region has long been underdeveloped. The recent 2018 Far Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivistock featured an interaction by Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin and plans to bring the “golden era” to this part of the Russian Federation that is ripe for an economic boom.
However, a big “road closed sign” stands blocking the way of Russia and China’s vision of economic development in the Russian Far East and the Eurasian hemisphere overall. The barricade holding back economic development is sanctions on the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea for its nuclear proliferation.
The DPRK has expressed a readiness to open up for foreign investment, and more thoroughly integrate itself with the emerging Eurasian economy as well as bring in western investors.
Defending the “Open Society” from Korean Socialism
Speaking at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos, George Soros blasted the Chinese government saying: “China isn’t the only authoritarian regime in the world, but it’s undoubtedly the wealthiest, strongest and most developed in machine learning and artificial intelligence. This makes Xi Jinping the most dangerous opponent of those who believe in the concept of open society. But Xi isn’t alone. Authoritarian regimes are proliferating all over the world and if they succeed, they will become totalitarian. As the founder of the Open Society Foundations, I’ve devoted my life to fighting totalizing, extremist ideologies, which falsely claim that the ends justify the means. I believe that the desire of people for freedom can’t be repressed forever. But I also recognize that open societies are profoundly endangered at present.”
Soros specifically highlighted China’s social credit system for criticism. According to Soros’ logic Facebook, Google, and other US tech monopolies that work with intelligence agencies should be able to monitor people and predict their behavior, but the Chinese Communist Party should never employ such methods in its own defense.
Soros’ “Open Society” vision is really a society that is “Open for Business” with no strong state apparatus to hold back the wealthy defacto rulers. Soros would prefer that all “totalizing, extremist ideologies,” that offer moral codes and protection to those less powerful than he gradually fade away, and be replaced with his own shady moral relativism accompanying a “law of the jungle” in society at large.
Millions of women across eastern Europe saw the harsh reality of Soros vision when they went from having guaranteed jobs and maternity leave under the Marxist-Leninist governments to being impoverished victims of sex trafficking after capitalism was restored. Soros imposed his ideology on eastern Europe in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s demise, financing Jeffrey Sachs to oversee the looting of the former Eastern Bloc. Putin’s rise in Russia is largely credited with having ended the demented free-market experiment described in the pages of Naomi Klein’s 2007 book, Shock Doctrine.
Since then, Soros has become more critical of excessive neoliberalism, but his worldview favoring an “open international system” and free-market capitalism has not changed. The ideology espoused by Jim Roger’s beloved Austrian School of Economics is not much different in its ultimate goal, though Soros now pushes a more watered-down and pragmatic brand.
Regardless of their similarities in perspective, the American elite is clearly divided, not just about Korea, but about the emerging economic alternative that the DPRK is on the verge of becoming more fully enmeshed in. Russia and China both have good relations with the DPRK, but so far, UN-imposed nuclear-related sanctions have prevented them from offering a full economic embrace.
George Soros, probably representing the wealthier and more entrenched circles of wealth in the USA, is thinking of the long term interest of capitalism and western liberalism. Much like it did in China during the 1980s, a “reform and opening up” in North Korea would likely strengthen the socialist foundations of the economy. Soros most likely sees allowing North Korea’s ruling Workers Party to raise living standards and bring its highly loyal population into the global economy as a big mistake.
However, Jim Rogers and the crowd of lower-level billionaires and millionaires grouped around Trump, seem to think a potential investing bonanza on the Korean Peninsula is in their “rational self-interest.” They would prefer the UN sanctions be lifted, so they can go in and “make a killing.”
Trump thundered with optimism prior to the Hanoi summit, tweeting out: “North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, will become a great Economic Powerhouse. He may surprise some but he won’t surprise me, because I have gotten to know him & fully understand how capable he is. North Korea will become a different kind of Rocket – an Economic one!”
These divisions of strategy and direct financial interests seem to be underlying the confusion in Washington DC, as a third Trump-Kim summit is said to be in the works.
Caleb Maupin is a political analyst and activist based in New York. He studied political science at Baldwin-Wallace College and was inspired and involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.