A New Look at North Korea

A New Look at North KoreaThe Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been in the news a lot lately, with the DPRK testing new missiles and the United States moving a naval strike group off the Korean peninsula.  The commentary almost always revolves around strategic issues, especially North Korea’s nuclear program. But in focusing so narrowly on the country’s military and…

Brexit and Korea: Pandora’s Box?

Brexit and Korea: Pandora’s Box?Many who observed the Brexit decision consider Pandora’s box now to be open. Was the Brexit ballot box indeed Pandora’s box? Were the Brexit decision and the “Trump phenomenon” flares of erupting distrust and frustration with the establishment, anti-immigrant sentiments, xenophobia, animosity toward international institutions, and isolationism, as many have noted? The world has prospered…

North Korea’s Gingerly Approach to Tech

The early January visit to North Korea by Google chairman Eric Schmidt has focused attention on North Korea's fledgling attempts - if indeed they are attempts - to steer a cautious course towards opening up the flow of information to some of its citizens. In fact, however, Schmidt and his entourage are not attempting to…

North Korea’s Border Lifeline

Cargo trucks rumble across the Friendship Bridge that links North Korea and China, carrying goods back and forth over the border. With a per capita income under US$2,000 North Korea might be poor, but the crucial border trade is helping make Dandong rich. The city is China’s trading hub with North Korea with some 70…

North Korea’s Unreported Economic Figures

The North Korean economy is very much bigger than it appears when estimates are derived from the scant official statistics available from Pyongyang, according to a just-published report by the Samsung Economic Research Institute. But that’s not saying much. The official South Korean agency Statistics Korea recently put the North’s gross domestic product at a…

A Rare Look North Korea’s Attempts at Capitalism

The “Special Economic Zone” at North Korea’s northeastern port city of Rason on the borders of both Russia and China has long been seen as a shining example of the country’s failure to attract even the most modest investment from abroad. But times are changing. Though designated an SEZ in 1991, what little investment there…

North Korea’s Nascent Consumerism

North Korea appears to be making a few tentative moves towards becoming a consumer society according to a February report by the Samsung Economic Research Institute, which says that “a new energy is flowing through the country although assessments of the economy contrast sharply.” (For a look at attempts to resuscitate North Korea’s major Special…

Adam Smith, Meet Kim Jong-Il

North Korea: leader in entrepreneurship! It sounds an unlikely tale that this closed, Stalinist, xenophobic, military-dominated nation should harbor some of the world's most entrepreneurial people. Yet that is the essential and very serious implication of a new book by South Korean economist Lim Soo-Ho, "The Rise of Markets Within a Planned Economy" to be…

Are North Korea’s Reform Bottles Half-Empty?

In the basement entertainment center of the luxurious Yanggakdo Hotel in Pyongyang, there is a bowling alley and a cocktail bar. A row of expensive liquor bottles stand reserved for their owners, their amber contents glowing in the light just as one would find in affluent Seoul or Tokyo. But this is austere North Korea…

To Market, To Market

Asia’s financial markets have largely shrugged off news of North Korea’s nuclear testing gambit. They just don’t appear to believe that the communist state’s latest machinations are the major threat to regional, let alone world, peace that screaming news headlines across the planet suggest. In Japan, perhaps more nervous than even South Korea about Kim…