The DPRK’s reform and opening up

Here’s an interesting little fact: the DPRK’s economy grew by 3.9% last year. Officially, it trades with China, Russia, Thailand, Philippines, Pakistan, India and even … South Korea. Unofficially, it trades in small arms manufacture and a range of other goods sought the world over. In fact, the DPRK’s economy has been steadily improving for the last decade, with a couple of small dips.

How can this happen, when sanctions are supposed to hurt them? They are well-organised, quite used to sanctions, and developing their own version of the ‘reform and opening up’ policy China began four decades ago. As for China, the number one trading partner, it is keen to see the lives of DPRK citizens improve, since this leads to stability on the peninsula.



11 thoughts on “The DPRK’s reform and opening up

  1. If you are interested in delving deeper into Billy Graham’s relationship with Kim Il-Sung, he has a whole chapter in his autobiography (2007, ed.) about his travels to the DPRK. Chpt. 34, pgs. 616-634, plus a little bit in the introduction, pg. xix

    1. Quick question, in China, have they ever published the collected works of Chairman Mao, like they have with Lenin and Stalin?

      I’m not talking about Selected works, I’m talking about everything that he ever wrote down?

      1. My understanding is that the most complete collection in Chinese was published in Japan as Mao Zedong Ji, under the direction of Takeuchi Minoru. This forms the basis of the almost complete English translation, ‘Mao’s Road to Power’ (pre-1949) and the large 2-volume post 1949 collection. However, in 1996, Mao Zedong Wenji was published in China with official endorsement. This is an 8-volume collection of 2.3 million words, supplementing the 5-volume selected works (
        However, like Marx and Engels and Stalin, I am not sure that any of them has the complete collection. To my knowledge, only Lenin has that honour, but even there some pieces may still be missing.

  2. What is the source for that 3.9% figure? I haven’t been able to find much in the way of reliable sources for DPRK economic stats.

    This paper from 2014 is one of the more detailed attempts to gauge the country’s growth I’ve seen, and at the time I found it remarkable for its seeming optimism:

    (At one point it suggests that, while not a certainty, the idea that the DPRK experienced something approximating double-digit growth in recent years should not be dismissed out of hand.)

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