The state of North Korea’s economy

David Gura Dec 19, 2011

Adriene Hill: The world is reacting to the death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il. For almost two decades, Kim kept the country — and its economy — isolated.

Marketplace’s David Gura reports.


David Gura: Mike Chinoy is a researcher at USC. He says North Korea’s economy is a mess.

Mike Chinoy: The state-run system has all of the inefficiencies that you see in socialist economies, exacerbated by all the quirks that the Kim dynasty imposed on it.

There are really two North Korean economies. One is known as the “royal court” economy — that benefits the country’s elites. Then there’s the general economy. Most North Koreans are poor. There’s widespread hunger and bad infrastructure.

Scott Park is with the U.S. Institute of Peace. He says North Korea doesn’t have many trading partners.

Scott Park: We see the Chinese facilitating a lot of commercial and economic development activity along the border area.

A place where North Koreans mine for coal and iron ore. Today, almost two-thirds of North Korea’s trade is with China.

I’m David Gura, for Marketplace.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.