Book Reviews

Book review: “Unveiling the North Korean economy”

Book review of "Unveiling the North Korean economy", written by Kim Byung-yeon and published by Cambridge University Press in 2016.B. Tauris in 2017.

Instytut Boyma 02.07.2019

The author is Kim Byung-yeon, a professor of economics at the Department of Economics at Seoul National University. He’s a recognized distinguished researcher in Humanities and social sciences by the National Research Foundation of the Republic of Korea. He’s a regular columnist o Korean issues in leading South Korean newspapers.

The book Unveiling the North Korean economy, written by Kim Byung-yeon was published by Cambridge University Press in 2016.B. Tauris in 2017. Excluding acknowledgements and introduction, conclusion and additional elements, the book consists of a classic structure: three chapters, where the first chapter is an evaluation of the Socialist economy, then a presentation of the North Korean economy, and finally the Transition process of the North Korean economy, demonstrating how the North Korean leadership overpassed the collapse of the Soviet Union. The book is also a synthesis and overview of studies of the North Korean economy since 1953 (starting from page 41). It’s one, but not the only one, scholar book focused on North Korean economic studies, made available in a foreign language. Interestingly similar books related to the North Korean economy were published in communist countries such as for instance the book entitled Współpraca KRLD z krajami socjalistycznymi [The cooperation of the DPRK with Socialist countries] (Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Ekonomiczne, 1975) authored by Stefan Kojło Stefan, and the monograph prepared by Stefan Kojło and Anatol Dikij Polska – KRLD: Gospodarka, współpraca [Poland-DPRK: Economy, cooperation], (Państwowe Wydawnictwo Ekonomiczne, Warszawa 1975).

The book is equally divided between the three following chapters. The first chapter is an evaluation of the Socialist Economy (pp. 6-40). Divided in five parts, the section discussed the framework of the Socialist economy from the point of view of companies and households. The whole is explained using theoretical economic models. The second chapter (pp. 41-216) is a kind of economic history of North Korea, underlining its basements such as the Central Planning System, Juseok Funds&Spot Guidance issues. I regret no enlarged information concerning the Public Distribution System. The third chapter is more contemporary as it treats about the transition of the North Korean economy (pp. 217-300) focusing on the stabilization of its economy through liberalization and potential integration with South Korean partners. As a piece of evidence (p. 92), the author stipulates that 90 per cent of total household expenditures are made in these (unformal) markets.

The book deals with several different eras in the history emphasizing in English, elements of the North Korean economy which were rarely discussed by North Korean scholars. For instance, combined North Korean firms, known as Yeonhap Giupso, (p. 123), the News System of Foreign Trade established in 1991 (p. 124), and the Juseok Fund (pp. 130-31). Some of these elements were discussed on the other best-seller related to the North Korean economy written by Hazel Smith Markets and Military Rule.

There are some points which seems to indicate that the research of the author is somehow outdated. For example, many research surveys done by the author (pp. 185). Were done six years before the publication of the book. Also data seems to be slightly old taking in account the publication date (2017). Due to the old data, conclusion related to the relation between markets, bribery, and regime stability in North Korea may weaken over the time (p. 187) as the survey was done in 2009 (Main Bribe-Takers).

On page 164, data related to the trade of North Korea are updated to 2014, p. 169 imports of North Korea are dated till 2012. may provide more outdated examples. The author also consider the province Hamgyung (known as Hamgyungdo) as a whole in spite of its division in Hamgyongdo North (Hamgyungpukdo) and Hamgyungdo South  (Hamgyungnamdo), for example on page 96. I would like to clearly indicate that in any case, the contribution of the author to the gathering of data concerning the North Korean economy is fantastic. The author also minimize the results of the North Korean economy in the 70’s, indicating that the North Korean GDP per capita was higher thatn that of South Korea. The author considers that Growth rates were overestimated in the statistics supplied by North Korean authorities (pp. 80-81).

Concerning bribes and corruption, the author indicates that bribery may have a negative, but also a positive impact. According to Frossman quoted on page 181, as “good corruption may contribute to the stability of the regime because it adds to the aggregate supply of goods and services, while bad corruption does not. Finally, the author defends, what I agree with him, that “the current situation regarding the informal economy and bribery may be characterized as an equilibrium…Given resource constraints that make it difficult for the dictator to pay his officials appropriate salaries, he implicitly allows officials to receive money from market participants.”.

Furthermore, the book has also other limitations. I consider that the author didn’t provided enough data concerning the emergence of a new social class in North Korea: the donjus. These “money owners” are barely mentioned page 64 as being “private financiers…to be financing the construction of flats”. As it wasn’t probably the purpose of the author, this social class was barely mentioned in spite of its key role in the development of the North Korean economy. The author used also few western publications (only one publication or Marcus Noland was quoted – p. 319) and no Russian sources in spite of the connections of this country to North Korea. Probably for linguistic reasons, sources in Chinese were also omitted. It would have maybe valuable to indicate it in the introduction of this monograph.

Kim Byung-Yeon. Unveiling the North Korean economy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017, 329 pages. ISBN: 978-1-316-63516-2

Nicolas Levi

Analyst on North and South Korea. He is an assistant professor at the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Author of 7 books, more than 20 academic articles, and over 50 analytical reports on the Korean Peninsula, Poland, and related issues. He conducts lectures at top universities in Poland and abroad.

czytaj więcej

Charitable activities of the Vietnamese in Poland: their scope and sources

The scale of assistance provided to medics by the Vietnamese community during the 2020 pandemic inspires admiration and gratitude. It stems from the sense of belonging to Poland and deeply rooted in the culture order to help those in need and repay the debt incurred at the time when they themselves needed such help.

Development strategies for Ulaanbaatar according to the conception for the city’s 2040 General Development Plan- part 1

In the first part of this analysis of Ulaanbaatar’s winning 2040 General Development Plan Conception (GDPC) I look into the historical preconditions for the city’s planned development as well as present the legislative climate in which works on Ulaanbaatar’s future development strategies have recently found themselves.

TSRG 2021: The Impacts of the BRI on Europe: The Case of Poland and Germany

It is important to contribute to the understanding of what the New Silk Road can mean in economic, political, leadership and cultural terms for the European countries involved. This analysis should reveal the practical consequences of the Belt and Road Initiative for Europe in the case of Poland and Germany, as well as their respective social effects.

Patrycja Pendrakowska for Observer Research Foundation: “The Polish example: Defending the castle in the European East”

We would like to inform, that Observer Research Foundation has published article of Patrycja Pendrakowska - the Boym Institute Analyst and President of the Board.

Not only tests and masks: the history of Polish-Vietnamese mutual helpfulness

On the initiative of the Vietnamese community in Poland and Vietnamese graduates of Polish universities, our country received support from Vietnam - a country that deals with the threat posed by Sars-Cov-2 very effectively.

Paweł Behrendt for 9DASHLINE: The South China Sea – from colonialism to the Cold War

We would like to inform, that 9DASHLINE has published article of Paweł Behrendt - the Boym Institute Analyst, in which he wrote about history of the South China Sea dispute over the 20th century.

Guidance for Workplaces on Preparing for Coronavirus Spread

Due to the spread of coronavirus, the following workplace recommendations have been issued by the Ministry of Development, in cooperation with the Chief Sanitary Inspector. We also invite you to read article about general information and recommendations for entrepreneurs.

Interview: Why Does Poland Need ‘17+1’?

Interview with Michał Wójcik - Director of the Department of International Cooperation of the Ministry of Marine Economy and Inland Navigation (DWM MGMiŻŚ). In the Ministry, he is leading the  Coordinating Secretariat for Maritime Issues , monitoring the cooperation of Central and Eastern European States with China.

Coronavirus outbreak in Poland – General information and recommendations for entrepreneurs

Kochański & Partners and the Boym Institute engaged in delivering information about latest after-effects of COVID-19 pandemia, which has begun to spread in Poland during the past days.

Drug and Road Initiative, that is the Silk Road of drug

This paper deals with the issue of drug business in post-Soviet Central Asia, a region that plays a key role in the trafficking of banned substances from Asia (mainly Afghanistan) to Europe. The study briefly presents the areas that make up the picture of drug business in Central Asia, paying attention to production and distribution.

We’re Stronger Together – an Interview with Minister Marcin Przydacz

"Cooperation and investments – we are absolutely up for it. However, we prefer to keep a certain degree of caution when it comes to entrusting the transfer of technology and critical infrastructure to external investors. The security of Poland and the EU should be considered more important than even the greatest economic gains..."

Patrycja Pendrakowska for Observer Research Foundation: “Guiding democracy through Covid19: Poland shows us what not to do”

We would like to inform, that Observer Research Foundation has published article of Patrycja Pendrakowska - the Boym Institute Analyst and President of the Board.

Are “Climate Refugees” (Just) About Climate?

As the awareness of the scale and pervasiveness of climate impacts on human societies keeps rising, so does the frequency with which the terms “climate refugees” and “climate migrants” are being used in the public discourse “to describe those who are being displaced due to adverse consequences related to climate change” (Atapattu, 2020).

Patrycja Pendrakowska for Observer Research Foundation: “Managing fear and easing lockdown in Poland”

We would like to inform, that Observer Research Foundation has published article of Patrycja Pendrakowska - the Boym Institute Analyst and President of the Board.

Coronavirus and climate policies: long-term consequences of short-term initiatives

As large parts of the world are gradually becoming habituated to living in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, global attention has turned to restarting the economy. One of the most consequential impacts of these efforts will be that on our climate policies and environmental conditions.

Book review: “Europe – North Korea. Between Humanitarianism And Business?”

Book review of "Europe – North Korea. Between Humanitarianism And Business?", written by Myung-Kyu Park, Bernhard Seliger, Sung-Jo Park (Eds.) and published by Lit Verlag in 2010.

The Dasgupta Review on Women and the Environmental Crisis

Commissioned in 2019 by the British government and published in February 2021, The Dasgupta Review has been likened to the 2006 Stern Review. Where the latter brought to widespread attention the many failings of the world economy in the face of global warming, the former makes similar points as regards biodiversity – and identifies the unique challenges faced by women.

Meeting with Dr. Uki Maroshek-Klarman

It’s a great pleasure for the Boym Institute to organize an open meeting with dr Uki Maroshek who founded the betzavta method. Betzavta is taught across the globe at the Adam Institute for Democracy and Peace in Jerusalem as well as in other institutions in Europe and the Middle East.

Short summary of events at the Boym Institute

We want the Boym Institute to become a valuable platform of exchanging views, making valuable acquaintances and, above all, deepening knowledge. Therefore, we undertake the organization of many events: debates, lectures, and conferences.

Dr Krzysztof Zalewski participates in the Kigali Global Dialogue in Rwanda

A short note and photo gallery from the chairman of the Board of the Boym Institute, who stays in Rwanda at the "Kigali Global Dialogue" conference.

Krzysztof Zalewski for Observer Research Foundation – “Luxembourg faces the same dilemma as the EU: become a bridge or a fortress”

We would like to inform, that Observer Research Foundation has published article of Krzysztof Zalewski - the Boym Institute Analyst, Chairman of the Board and Editor of the “Tydzień w Azji” weekly.

Are Polish Universities Really Victims of a Chinese Influence Campaign?

The Chinese Influence Campaign can allegedly play a dangerous role at certain Central European universities, as stated in the article ‘Countering China’s Influence Campaigns at European Universities’, (...) However, the text does ignore Poland, the country with the largest number of universities and students in the region. And we argue, the situation is much more complex.

Online Course: “Conflict Resolution and Democracy”

The course will be taught via interactive workshops, employing the Adam Institute’s signature “Betzavta – the Adam Institute’s Facilitation Method“, taught by its creator, Dr. Uki Maroshek-Klarman. The award-winning “Betzavta” method is rooted in an empirical approach to civic education, interpersonal communication and conflict resolution.

What connects shamans and generals? On the problem of verification of internal conflicts of North Korea

The number of confirmed executions and frequent disappearances of politicians remind us that in North Korea the rules of social Darwinism apply. Any attempt to limit Kim Jong-un's power may be considered hostile and ruthless.