North Korea in Transition

By Chong-Sik Lee; Se-Hee Yoo | Go to book overview

8. Chuch'e versus Economic Interdependence: The Impact of Socialist Economic Reforms on North Korea

OH KWAN-CHI

Even though its own economy is reportedly in difficulty, North Korea seems unimpressed by the economic reforms of other socialist countries, as plainly demonstrated by the new slogan being bruited about, "Stick to our ways." With regard to the economy, the country appears to be holding fast to its chuch'e thinking -- an economic objective and strategy to develop a self- supporting economy -- despite success stories told by reform-minded leaders in China and other socialist countries. What prevents North Korea from adopting similar reforms? How would it appraise the merits and demerits of economic reforms if it should introduce such reforms into its own economy? What costs will be incurred if it does not? What are North Korea's calculations on future economic reforms?

These are the questions investigated in this paper. I first discuss North Korea's assessment of socialist economic reforms, then review changes in North Korean economic policy. Next, I analyze the economic cost of chuch'e and, finally, explore the impact that North Korean economic reforms would have on inter-Korean relations.


North Korea's Assessment of Socialist Economic Reforms

North Korea has shown its apprehensions about the economic reforms introduced in other socialist countries, particularly China. The Chinese have dissolved the people's communes, decentralized industrial management, allowed private business (under some limited conditions), established special economic zones with capitalistic legal systems and managerial practices, and invited foreign capital from capitalist countries. These reforms have led to a

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