Crackdowns fail to reverse marketization of Peoples’ Economy

THE ELITES ARE DISGRUNTLED at Kim Jong Un’s impulsive temper and insensitivity, according to this Chosun Ilbo report. Separately, this report talks about endemic corruption and economic inequality in North Korea.

Meanwhile, a third Chosun Ilbo survey of 100 North Koreans in China suggests that the marketization of the peoples’ economy has passed the point of no return.

Between 70 and 90 percent of North Koreans make ends meet by buying and selling goods in the grey or black market now that the state rationing system has effectively been wiped out, according to a survey. 

The survey was conducted by the Chosun Ilbo and Center for Cultural Unification Studies among 100 North Koreans living in the Chinese border areas of Dandong and Yanji from January until May. [….]

“The state rationing system has collapsed except in Pyongyang and a few other areas, and it’s difficult to survive on your wages alone, so most people make ends meet by selling goods,” one North Korean said. 

Another said, “A worker makes around W3,000 a month, but that’s not enough to buy even a kilogram of rice, so you’d starve to death unless you sell goods at markets.” He added, “You get scolded for not showing up for work, so people go to the office in the morning to check in and then head to the market.” [Chosun Ilbo]

The survey also provides a basis for an interesting analysis by Christopher Green, at Sino-NK. Those surveyed support reunification overwhelmingly. Surprisingly for people who live by trading, they support a transition to capitalism in a unified Korea by a less overwhelming margin.

One always wonders about sampling and selection bias in stories like these. Are views like these really predominant in Pyongyang, in particular? I can’t say, but it is significant that in a society that demands unanimous obedience, the Chosun Ilbo was able to find dissenters. And yes, I believe that it really did find them.

1 Comment

  1. One Free Korea wrote “survey … suggests that the marketization of the peoples’ economy has passed the point of no return”

    There is no amount of reform which cannot be reversed with enough machine guns, as Kims 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 have definitely proven.

    One Free Korea wrote “it is significant that in a society that demands unanimous obedience, the Chosun Ilbo was able to find dissenters”

    If one researches the truly crazy people who created a government, e.g. Bolsheviks and Maoists, you find that there is no barrier too high for their fanatical beliefs. Molotov was quoted as having said that Stalin was like a lamb compared to Lenin in terms of brutality. Beria honestly believed that a particular nuclear scientist would have been much better if he had spent a year in the camps. There were plenty of Maoists in earlier decades, especially during Mao’s successful attempt at setting the world record for mass killing in the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, but that type of enthusiasm only lasts so long.

    Today those people only represent a small slice of the population in North Korea. If you can eliminate them, whether via killing or isolation of some kind, the rest of the population will quickly move to a more humane equilibrium as they did in the DDR.

    P.S. The Soviet Union fell, not because Reagan was a god, but because Gorbachev was unwilling to employ machine guns against his people.




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