March 21, 2023

Who owns North Korea’s businesses?

While enterprises are owned by the state, private entrepreneurs usually run the show

A couple of years ago, I spoke to a small group of North Korean refugees who described the topography of their native town. Among other things, they mentioned a handful of upscale restaurants located near the city's Workers' Party headquarters. When asked who owns these establishments, the refugees – without any hesitation – explained it was the state which owned and operated these restaurants.

However, just a few minutes later, our conversation took an unexpected turn. They mentioned an expensive mansion, recently built by a well-to-do local woman, and added that this woman owned at least two of the restaurants mentioned above.