Speaking on the anniversary of South Korea’s independence from Japanese colonial rule, President Lee Myung-bak urged its neighbor in the north to “turn over a new leaf”.

This comes as North Korea agreed to develop economic zones in areas bordering China during a meeting in Beijing between Jang Song Thaek, a member of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, and Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming.

The development programs include building infrastructure aimed at attracting corporate investment in the Rason Economic and Trade Zone in northeastern North Korea and Hwanggumpyong and Wihwa islands. According to China’s Commerce Ministry, both countries plan to turn the zones into “a model of bilateral economic and trade cooperation and a platform for economic cooperation”.

The talks were brought about by North Korea’s first foray into diplomatic relations, spearheaded by young leader Kim Jong-un, which others, including the South Korean president, hoped this might be a hint toward possible reforms which would build up its economy.

North Korea is struggling with a food crisis exacerbated by poor agriculture and the recent flooding. Mr. Lee urged North Korea to consider “transformation” and adhere to UN resolutions on Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.