North Korea has been studying Vietnam's reforms for years

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U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are due to meet in Hanoi on Wednesday and Thursday. It will be their second summit following last June’s meeting in Singapore. The key issues on the table will be the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, as well as sanctions on Pyongyang, which have taken a toll on the North’s economy.

The North Korean delegations also studied how Vietnam managed to normalize political and economic relations with Washington, said Doanh, who is now senior fellow at the economic college of Hanoi National University.

A series of reforms undertaken in the 1980s and 1990s paved the way for communist-controlled Vietnam to re-enter the global market and become one the region’s fastest growing economies.

Even in the midst of reforms, the Southeast Asia nation has managed to retain tight control over its people and economy, and is widely touted as a potential model for Pyongyang to follow.

Vietnam’s economic transition has managed to “mobilize the whole dynamism, the creativity and deliver the determination of the Vietnamese people to come to develop,” said Doanh. “I think it is a very good experience for North Korea.”

However, he cautioned: “Reform is a difficult process — some gain or benefit, (others) will lose power.”

North Korea’s Kim has allowed some markets in his country to develop, introduced more Special Economic Zones and called for factories to expand their product ranges to cater for diverse consumer tastes.

— Reuters contributed to this report.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Kim Jong Un.

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