By the Numbers | A View Inside North Korea: Emerging Autonomy from the Command Economy & Information Control

By Mi Yeon Kim —

“A View Inside North Korea” is a research series carried out by Beyond Parallel of the CSIS Korea Chair, which looks at the perspective of North Koreans living in North Korea regarding critical issues such as market activity and information access in the country. Although much is regulated by the North Korean government, here are the key findings by the numbers which suggest emerging autonomy from the command economy and information control.

Market Activity in North Korea

In North Korea, the government controls the labor market and sets income levels. The government’s State Planning Committee is in charge of determining the number of jobs available in each economic sector. The government then decides who gets what jobs and what wages they will be paid. However, a study and survey commissioned by Beyond Parallel found that:

35 of 36

North Korean respondents said at least 75 percent of their household income came from markets

26 of 36

North Korean respondents said they received almost all of their household income from markets

21 of 30

North Korean respondents who said the outside world had a greater influence on their lives than North Korean government decisions said they received almost all of their household income from markets.

81 percent

Of North Korean women respondents said almost all of their household income came from markets.

Crucially, this market activity is not limited to the China-North Korea border. Respondents in provinces further away from the border were as likely as those proximate to China to state that almost all of their income came from markets rather than the government.

An earlier study commissioned by Beyond Parallel also found that

100 percent

Of North Korean respondents think the public distribution system does NOT provide what they want for a good life and expressed the most animosity toward the government when it undercut their entrepreneurial activities.

Information Access in North Korea

Information control is a tool of repression the North Korean regime utilizes to control the mind, expression, and thoughts of the citizens. History, current news, and the state of world affairs are all filtered through state controls to align with the ideology of the regime. In spite of that, a Beyond Parallel study found that

91.6 percent

of North Korean respondents consume foreign media at least once each month

83 percent

Of respondents said they found outside goods and information to be of greater impact on their lives than decisions by the North Korean government

These results, the first of their kind, suggest a growing gap between North Korean society and government.

Indeed, in another study by Beyond  Parallel, which looked at how North Koreans think and talk about the government in non-public spaces, found that

35 of 36

Respondents said that their family, friends, or neighbors complain or make jokes about the North Korean government in private.

Find more information on our Beyond Parallel “A View Inside North Korea” studies here:

Ms. Mi Yeon Kim is researcher with the Korea Chair at CSIS.

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