March 01, 2021

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North Koreans survive on private business — and Kim will fail to stop them

North Koreans also resisted former DPRK leader Kim Jong Il’s attempts to clamp down on the country’s private economy

Last month, North Korea made a dramatic U-turn from its reformist economic policies of 2012 to 2017 and reverted back to de facto Leninism — in other words, emphasizing central planning and the command economy while prohibiting private entrepreneurial activity.

Before then, Kim Jong Un’s early rule was marked by initially successful economic policies that were the same as Chinese reforms in the 1980s in all but name. But at the Jan. 2021 Eighth Party Congress, the North Korean leader made it clear that these measures no longer serve his interests. He believes (perhaps wrongly) that in tough times the only way to survive is to keep everything, including the economy, under the direct control of the central bureaucracy.