May 18, 2022

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“By our own efforts”: self-sufficiency in North Korean culture of the 90s

As trade with foreign powers dwindled, DPRK films encouraged citizens to skimp as much as they could

When many years ago I heard, for the first time, lamentations by Pyongyang about the economic sanctions imposed on them by the vicious U.S., my first reaction was of surprise. Sanctions presuppose a ban on trade, I thought, but can North Korea really trade?

Having spent my university years in the Soviet Far East (the most active region of Russia in terms of trade with the DPRK) I remember three types of North Korean goods on the shelves of Soviet stores.