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Labor Standards and South Korean Employment Practices in North Korea

By 2012, South Korean firms employed more than 50,000 workers in North Korea. Survey data indicate that the North Korean government has successfully circumscribed exposure of North Korean citizens both to South Koreans and to more market-oriented economic practices. South Korean investment in North Korea may well be beneficial both for the firms and the workers involved, but evidence of the sort of broader spillovers that proponents of engagement sometimes assert is not evident.

In the new USKI report, “Labor Standards and South Korean Employment Practices in North Korea,” Marcus Noland, Executive Vice President and Director of Studies at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and Adjunct Professor of Korea Studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS, examines key questions about the nature of South Korean employment practices in North Korea both inside and outside the Kaesong Industrial Complex and whether this interaction is likely to encourage North Korean economic transition. He also examines the international legal obligations of both Koreas to implement fair and equitable labor standards and suggests ways to encourage better labor practices by South Korean government and firms in North Korea.

Video of the report launch event featuring Marcus Noland and Keith Krulak, can viewed below:


Marcus Noland, PhD


PhD. from Johns Hopkins University


Marucs Noland is a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and at the East-West Center, and previous senior economist at the Council of Economic Advisers in the Executive office of the President of the United States.He is an American economist.


North Korea and the prospects for Korean unification

Selected Publications:

Korea after Kim Jong-il (2004), and Avoiding the Apocalypse: The Future of the Two Koreas (2000). He has also written extensively on the economies of Japan, Korea, and China and received fellowships sponsored by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Council for the International Exchange of Scholars, and the Pohang Iron and Steel Corporation (POSCO).