September 16, 2014 08:29
A struggle is underway in North Korea between supporters of the free market and those who back a more planned development scheme, according to an expert in Dandong, China.
The same thing happened in China in the mid-1980s as it attempted to embrace capitalism.
The expert said there are 25 open-air markets in Pyongyang alone with 4,000 stalls. Two traders share each stall taking turns every other day, which means that 8,000 people are selling products in each market or 200,000 in Pyongyang.
Assuming the average North Korean household consists of four people, that would mean some 800,000 people in Pyongyang rely for their income on the nascent market economy, or 40 percent of the capital's total population.
"North Korea is crossing the point of no return," the expert said.
But there are fears that the regime could some day pull the plug on these developments, just as it did following a botched currency reform in 2009, by cracking down on traders.
Hyun Dong-il at Yanbian University said, "Major changes are taking place in North Korea, but the ruling elite says it is still intent on adhering to the planned, socialist economic model."
North Korean academics studying at Yanbian University apparently say that the changes are "temporary" measures aimed at dealing with the problems in the state rationing system and that any signs of a free-market economy will be snuffed out once the system is up and running again.
But other experts have a different take. Lee Jong-rim at Yanbian University said, "North Korean academics probably have to say that to sound loyal to the regime. When I meet them, I talk to them about the path China has taken."
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