March 01, 2021

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What is marketization and when did it begin in North Korea?

Late '70s reform in foreign trade sector one of the earliest catalysts for marketization

Many scholars of contemporary North Korea think of the country as having undergone a rapid, grassroots and spontaneous transformation from being a state socialist, command economy, to becoming a market economy sometime in the past decade or two. But what is the evidence for this? What is North Korean marketization? And when might it actually have begun?

If we think of the ‘market’ as being simple a ‘marketplaces’ then yes, the accepted narrative that marketization began in the mid-to-late '80s can be demonstrated to be true. However, if we take a more expansive and technical view of the ‘market’ as a mechanism for allocating goods and services, and also being defined by private property relations, then marketization probably began a lot earlier, as early as the late '70s.