A Compromise for Control: Understanding North Korea's Private Market Economy
Ha, Mathew J
Cha, Victor D
Free market enterprise embodies values of independent thinking and self-reliance, which are antithetical to the North Korean regime’s ideological values inherent to Marxist-Leninism. However, in recent years, the Kim Jong-un regime has demonstrated more tolerance and near acceptance of the grassroots market trends that became more prominent after the great Arduous March famines of the 1990’s. Enabling the private market economy may seem counterintuitive for the regime’s effort to re-consolidate its influence as private markets have increased in commercial value that undermines the value of the regime’s formal economy as well as undercutting the regime’s influence. Additionally, the North Korean regime also confronts the decay of its influence and former tools of authoritarian control as a result of the emerging private market economy. In this paper, I argue that the Kim Jong-Un regime enables private market activity to ameliorate the long-term challenges of the regime’s influence and re-establish its control. As the vivid memory of a failed reform to suppress markets under his predecessor Kim Jong-il demonstrated that disrupting the private market economy could elicit grassroots upheaval, the Kim Jong-un regime had to take a different approach. Kim’s regime in turn risk further deteriorating its influence by disrupting market activity. The Kim regime therefore has accepted the grassroots market-level trends. In exchange for this ideological compromise, expert analysis of recent evidence in market trends, size, and activity demonstrate that the regime now exercises direct control to extort market funds as well as restrict size and influence.
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Enos, Olivia Catherine (Georgetown University, 2017)This paper seeks to answer core questions about the development of the informal economy. More specifically, it asks why the leadership in North Korea allows informal economic activities to continue despite the fact that ...