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Growth and Geography of Markets in North Korea


Markets have grown to become an integral part of the North Korean economy ever since the famine of the 1990s and the breakdown of the planned economy. Across the country, most cities have several of these markets, and North Koreans are dependent on them for a significant part of their food consumption. Markets first sprang up illegally as a response to the breakdown of the public distribution system. Since then, many markets have been formalized and integrated into the public finance system through taxes and administrative permits.

“Growth and Geography of Markets in North Korea: New Evidence from Satellite Imagery,” focuses on these formalized markets in North Korea. It relies on a dataset specifically created for this research to understand the growth of the markets over time and patterns in their geographical distribution. The purpose of this study is to build an understanding of how the markets have developed and why they are seemingly more prominent in some cities than in others.

This report was the first in a series of reports that USKI will publish as a part of our “New Voices on the DPRK Economy” program, designed to promote new research and the professional development of young scholars interested in the North Korean economy. Co-developed by the US-Korea Institute at SAIS and the National Committee on North Korea, this program provides a new generation of scholars on the North Korean economy with a singular opportunity to strengthen their analytical skills and increase their visibility. In addition to producing important policy-relevant, practical research, this project will help rising scholars deepen their ability to frame and tackle policy questions by working with senior scholars from research design to completion.