Reprinted from “Street Smarts” Copyright © 2013 by Jim Rogers. Published by Crown Business, an imprint of The Crown Publishing Group, a division Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.
In 2007, my wife Paige and I received permission to visit North Korea. I wanted to go there because I sensed that changes were coming.
Now I am not a tour group kind of person. I like to make my own way and create my own itinerary, to decide where to go and what to eat. That is not an option in North Korea, where we had government minders every minute we were there. Walking down the main thoroughfare in Pyongyang, I saw a barbershop, and because I needed a haircut, I ducked inside, where an old man sitting on a stool stood up in shock when I started pantomiming the use of scissors with my hands. I was summarily pulled outside by one of our minders. A haircut, he assured me, was not on the agenda.
It was clear to me that the North Koreans knew that their country needed changing. And it was not hard to understand why. All the North Korean generals, as young officers, thirty years ago, were sent to places like Beijing, Moscow, and Shanghai. Today they go as generals and see the changes that have taken place, and when they return to Pyongyang they say to themselves: Look at what is going on in those places, and now take a look at where we live — nothing has happened here, this place is still a disaster.
The country’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, was educated at a private school in Switzerland. It is very unlikely that a guy who is thirty years old and spent his formative years in Europe is going to come back and say, “Boy, I really like this, with no bars, no entertainment, no cars, no nothing.”
These men have been exposed to the outside world, and they know what is going on there. And in my view that is why North Korea is about to open up. And when it does, it will be a formidable player on the world stage. The Chinese are already pouring in. Up in the northwest, they are building new bridges connecting the two countries. There are new trade zones up there. So change is happening.
Jim Rogers started trading the stock market with $600 in 1968.In 1973 he formed the Quantum Fund with the legendary investor George Soros before retiring, a multi millionaire at the age of 37. Rogers and Soros helped steer the fund to a miraculous 4,200% return over the 10 year span of the fund while the S&P 500 returned just 47%.