December 06, 2023

North Korean capitalism’s failure in the Third World

Pyongyang mixed economics and politics as it competed with Seoul and sought new trade partners in the Global South

Immediately after the Korean War ended in 1953, North Korea had little to no trade with countries outside the Eastern bloc. Yet this began to change after 1956, as the DPRK actively looked outside the communist world for new trade partners in its quest to become more economically self-sufficient and autonomous. 

Pyongyang looked at the Third World in particular as a valuable space to expand its trade partnerships in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In a Nov. 1957 meeting with East German diplomats, for example, North Korea’s Deputy Foreign Minister Pak Song Chol described the plethora of trade delegations that the DPRK had recently sent to the Third World. According to Pak, the North Korean government had recently sent trade delegations to India, Indonesia, Burma and Syria.