Remembering when money talked, five years on | NK News
July 15, 2024
Analysis

Remembering when money talked, five years on

Fifth anniversary of currency debacle serves as reminder of market's power

Late January is a time when we can celebrate the fifth anniversary of the ignominious failure of the North Korean currency reform. This is indeed something to be celebrated: The failure of the reforms demonstrated that the average North Korean can sometimes win over the seemingly invincible forces of bureaucracy in an authoritarian state.

In the early 1990s, the North Korean state socialist economy, once patterned upon Stalin’s Russia, began to fall apart. Factories stopped operating and food rations were not delivered anymore. A few hundred-thousand people perished in the famine, but many more survived – and nearly all of them did so by “reinventing capitalism,” creating a market economy from scratch.

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