Classical Socialism in North Korea and Its Transformation: The Role and the Future of Agriculture
Harvard Asia Quarterly, Vol. X/2, 2006, pp. 15-33
38 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2016
Date Written: 2006
Agriculture is not the dominant sector in North Koreas mostly industrial economy. Nevertheless, it is of crucial importance given the country's low level of international integration and the resulting limited capacity to acquire food through international trade. More-over, the few so far successful examples of a gradual socialist transformation in China and Vietnam started out with reforms in agriculture. These two points provide enough justification to have a closer look at that sector and its possible role for the future of North Korea. This will be done following Kornai's (1992: xxvi) advice who urges us to "study the classical, prereform system, for that is the only route to a thorough understanding of the problems, crises, and vicissitudes met with by the socialist reforms, and then of the state of affairs and the problems as the post socialist transition begins." Accordingly, the paper starts by exploring the general characteristics of state socialism as witnessed in the Eastern Block with a particular emphasis on agriculture, before contrasting the results with the specific case of North Korea. Based on Kornai's theoretical framework, the reasons for the relative functioning of the North Korean agriculture over the last decades will be discussed, as well as the new circumstances that made a continuation of the old approach impossible and demanded a policy change. A discussion of the various options for reform will be followed by a reality check considering a sufficient likelihood of regime stability as one precondition for a top-down reform process. Finally, the actual reform measures and their future will be discussed.
Keywords: Korean Studies, East Asian Studies, Korea (North and/or South), North Korea (politics and society), East Asian Economy, North Korean Economy
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