October 01, 2023

Let them eat rice: North Korea’s public distribution system

‘90s-era collapse of the Communist Bloc left a void, filled by markets and PDS nostalgia

Some countries have or used to have a system of state distribution of goods – like food or clothes. In some, this “public distribution system” (PDS) is part of the welfare program for satisfying the needs of poor people – like in the United States. Some others – like the Soviet Union – used the PDS in times of extreme emergency to guarantee that their people would not starve.

The North Korean PDS was perhaps one of the most radical variants of the system, since ideally almost everything was to be distributed by the state.