1950s: War and a Cruel Revolution
The heavy industry inherited and reshaped by the Communists in the North was literally flattened in a blanket bombing by the allies during the Korean War, 1950–1953. Consequently, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) had an opportunity to start all over again to build a more normally structured economy. However it was more adamant than ever to rebuild an economy of heavy industry, allowing little room for modern light industry. For consumer goods, the people were driven to use waste materials to construct their own industries—called local industry—in which to craft as best they could what they needed to consume.
A grotesquely deformed economic structure was thus founded in the 1950s, one that could make do with local industry should heavy industry be destroyed again. To undergird the unique economy being built, a nativist idea of Juche or self-reliance was developed and fused with the imported idea of socialism, ushering in the ideology of Juche socialism. The labor mobilization campaigns typical of Communist countries took on an especially intense and permanent form, under the indigenous title Chollima (flying-horse) Movement. Agriculture was duly collectivized, and the new farms were cruelly called cooperatives, not collectives. The 1950s even saw the appearance of an indigenous synthetic fiber, christened vinalon, to clothe the people on a self-sufficiency basis.