December 03, 2021

How Stalinism built North Korea’s command economy

Despite its idiosyncratic system, the DPRK economy is built on classically Soviet ground

North Korea is widely known to have been, until at least very recently, the world’s last bastion of Stalinism. And while as far as culture and ideology go this isn't strictly true (writer Brian Myers has pointed to the essential role of nationalism under Kim Il Sung), in one critical regard North Korea remained very Stalinist indeed: in the management of the economy.

The Stalinist model that Kim Il Sung took credit for developing was, initially at least, the creation of Soviet Koreans. They were the ones with administrative experience, and were integral in the staffing of economics ministries and the state planning committee, as they came from other administrative organs.