The Dim-Post

May 30, 2009

Change in North Korea

Filed under: general news — danylmc @ 7:52 am
The caption reads 'Let's extensively raise goats in all families!'

North Korean propaganda poster, courtesy of Lew at KiwiPolitico: The caption reads 'Let's extensively raise goats in all families!'

The Browser interviews Andrei Lankov, a Russian historian currently teaching in Seoul who specialises in the history of North Korea:

Under Kim Il Song’s rule until the early 1990’s, North Korea was a perfect Stalinist state. It was a strange mixture of Confucian traditionalism, nationalism and Stalinism. Economically it was very Stalinist, based on total state property; even small private economic activity was discouraged or banned. In the 1990’s the old economy collapsed. It had been inefficient and only survived so long as the Soviet Union and China were willing to provide North Korea with aid. When the aid flow abruptly ended the result was economic disaster. The economy collapsed, with the partial exception of the military sector. In order to survive, the populace had no choice but to rediscover capitalism. It was market economy from below. Until this point people lived on government rations, there was almost no free trade, nearly total rationing of everything. This system was introduced in the late 1950’s and became all encompassing in the 1960’s. Change occurred largely because the government was no longer able to provide rations. Since the early 1990s people were forced to find ways to generate other, independent, means of income. Booming markets began to grow, there was smuggling, farmers began to work on their private plots, low-level officials, sometimes out of compassion but more frequently in search of bribes, began to turn a blind eye on all of this “bad” activity. To all intents and purposes, North Korea is no longer a perfect Stalinist economy. It is more like a country in central Africa, but with a bad and cold climate.


  1. Interesting Lankov thinks the caste system is over. And at least Lankov made passing mention of the caste system which is the key feature of North Korea since just after the end of the Korean war.

    The caste system was the basis by which the North Korea govt staved at least 2,000,000 Koreans to death in 1994 as a means of control. (Straight after the North Korean govt signed a peace deal with that reprobate Carter.)

    There are still people who think those deaths are due to umm “food shortages”. Not sure if Lankov is one of them.

    The North Korean govt continues to choose to stave as a means of control and those staved are in the lower castes.

    Comment by Simon — May 30, 2009 @ 12:41 pm

  2. If you want some interest on a Saturday afternoon, check out the DPRK twitter feed –

    Comment by George D — May 30, 2009 @ 5:24 pm

  3. North Korea is the best example we have today of what happens when the government thinks it can run a whole country without any involvement by markets.

    The clearest difference between capitalism and socialism is provided by the difference between South Korea and North Korea.

    Comment by radar — May 31, 2009 @ 8:47 am

  4. The clearest difference between capitalism and socialism is provided by the difference between South Korea and North Korea.

    I’m not going to defend the DPRK (who would?), but it’s worth noting that until the late 1970s North Korea had a higher standard of living and a higher per-capita GDP than the South, at which point the South began to pull ahead substantially. The collapse of the Soviet Union sealed their fate, as the cheap oil and fertilisers they relied on were no longer available, and they didn’t have the hard currency to buy them on the open market. Their agriculture went into freefall, their heavy industry stagnated.

    Of course, it’s not quite as simple as that, but to blame it entirely on central planning would be misguided.

    Comment by George D — May 31, 2009 @ 2:10 pm

  5. Hey, this goats thing… That is seriously wierd. I mean, isn’t this the NZ Greens’ energy policy?

    Comment by Dave Mann — June 1, 2009 @ 8:33 pm

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