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  • Author: Marcus Noland
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: In recent years, despite a history of enmity and armed conflict that never really ended after the Korean War more than 60 years ago, South Korea has been a major investor in North Korea, and South Korean firms have employed more than 50,000 North Korean workers. South Korea's stated goal has been to encourage sufficient economic progress by North Korea, emboldening it toward establishing a meaningful basis for reconciliation and, ultimately, national unification. The expectation, or at least the hope, has been to use economic engagement to lessen the North's direct state control over the economy and to encourage the development of a middle class that might demand greater internal opening. The goal, as enunciated by former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, has also been to foster a rise of interest groups with an enhanced stake in peaceable external relations.
  • Topic: Economics, Human Rights, International Trade and Finance, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Stephan Haggard, Marcus Noland
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: This paper uses a survey of 300 North Korean refugees to examine the experience of women in North Korea's fitful economic transition. Like other socialist states, North Korea has maintained a de jure commitment to women's rights. However, the authors find that women have been disproportionately shed from state-affiliated employment and thrust into a market environment characterized by weak institutions and corruption. As a result, the state and its affiliated institutions are increasingly populated by males, and the market, particularly in its retail aspects, is dominated by women. Among the most recent cohort of refugees to leave North Korea, more than one-third of male respondents indicate that criminality and corruption is the best way to make money, and 95 percent of female traders report paying bribes to avoid the penal system. In short, the increasingly male-dominated state preys on the increasingly female-dominated market. These results paint a picture of a vulnerable group that has been disadvantaged in North Korea's transition. Energies are directed toward survival, mass civil disobedience is reactive, and as a group, this population appears to lack the tools or social capital to act collectively to improve their status.
  • Topic: Corruption, Economics, Gender Issues
  • Political Geography: Israel, North Korea
  • Author: Stephan Haggard, Marcus Noland
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Economic integration between North and South Korea occurs through three modalities: traditional arm's-length trade and investment, processing on commission (POC) trade, and operations within the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC). In order, these three modalities are characterized by decreasing exposure of South Korean firms to North Korean policy and infrastructure. Through a survey of 200 South Korean firms operating in North Korea, the authors find that these modalities of exchange matter greatly in terms of implied risk. For example, firms operating in the KIC are able to transact on significantly looser financial terms than those outside it. The authors find that direct and indirect South Korean public policy interventions influence these different modalities of exchange and thus impact entry, profitability, and sustainability of South Korean business activities in the North. In effect, the South Korean government has substituted relatively strong South Korean institutions for the relatively weak Northern ones in the KIC, thus socializing risk. As a result, the level and type of cross-border integration observed in the survey is very much a product of South Korean public policy.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Infrastructure
  • Political Geography: South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Stephan Haggard, Marcus Noland
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: A central hope of engagement with North Korea is that increased cross-border exchange will encourage the strengthening of institutions, and eventually, a moderation of the country's foreign policy. An unprecedented survey of Chinese enterprises operating in North Korea reveals that trade is largely dominated by state entities on the North Korean side, although the authors cannot rule out de facto privatization of exchange. Little trust is evident beyond the relationships among Chinese and North Korean state-owned enterprises. Formal networks and dispute settlement mechanisms are weak and do not appear to have consequences for relational contracting. Rather, firms rely on personal ties for identifying counterparties and resolving disputes. The weakness of formal institutions implies that the growth in exchange does not conform with the expectations of the engagement model and may prove self-limiting. The results also cast doubt that integration between China and North Korea, at least as it is currently proceeding, will foster reform and opening.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: China, Israel, North Korea
  • Author: Stephan Haggard, Marcus Noland
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: On November 30, 2009, North Korea announced a reform to replace all currency in circulation with new bills and coins. North Korean officials have made no bones about their motivations: The “reform” constitutes a direct attack on the emerging market economy and the independence from state control that it represents. In an interview following the conversion, an official of the North Korean central bank noted that the reform was aimed at curbing private trade and underlined that North Korea is “not moving toward a free market economy but will further strengthen the principle and order of socialist economic management.”
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: North Korea
  • Author: Stephan Haggard, Marcus Noland
  • Publication Date: 03-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The penal system has played a central role in the North Korean government's response to the country's profound economic and social changes. As the informal market economy has expanded, so have the scope of economic crimes. Two refugee surveys—one conducted in China, one in South Korea—document that the regime disproportionately targets politically suspect groups, particularly those involved in market-oriented economic activities. Levels of violence and deprivation do not appear to differ substantially between the infamous political prison camps, penitentiaries for felons, and labor camps used to incarcerate individuals for a growing number of economic crimes. Such a system may also reflect ulterior motives. High levels of discretion with respect to arrest and sentencing and very high costs of detention, arrest, and incarceration encourage bribery; the more arbitrary and painful the experience with the penal system, the easier it is for officials to extort money for avoiding it. These characteristics not only promote regime maintenance through intimidation, but may facilitate predatory corruption as well.
  • Topic: Crime, Economics, Markets, Prisons/Penal Systems
  • Political Geography: North Korea
  • Author: Stephan Haggard, Marcus Noland
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The state is often conceptualized as playing an enabling role in a country's economic development—providing public goods, such as the legal protection of property rights, while the political economy of reform is conceived in terms of bargaining over policy among elites or special interest groups. We document a case that turns this perspective on its head: efficiency-enhancing institutional and behavioral changes arising not out of a conscious, top-down program of reform, but rather as unintended (and in some respects, unwanted) by-products of state failure. Responses from a survey of North Korean refugees demonstrate that the North Korean economy marketized in response to state failure with the onset of famine in the 1990s, and subsequent reforms and retrenchments appear to have had remarkably little impact on some significant share of the population. There is strong evidence of powerful social changes, including increasing inequality, corruption, and changed attitudes about the most effective pathways to higher social status and income. These assessments appear to be remarkably uniform across demographic groups. While the survey sample marginally overweights demographic groups with less favorable assessments of the regime, even counterfactually recalibrating the sample to match the underlying resident population suggests widespread dissatisfaction with the North Korean regime.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Fragile/Failed State
  • Political Geography: North Korea
  • Author: Stephan Haggard, Marcus Noland
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: As a small country dependent on foreign trade and investment, North Korea should be highly vulnerable to external economic pressure. In June 2009, following North Korea's second nuclear test, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1874, broadening existing economic sanctions and tightening their enforcement. However, an unintended consequence of the nuclear crisis has been to push North Korea into closer economic relations with China and other trading partners that show little interest in cooperating with international efforts to pressure North Korea, let alone in supporting sanctions. North Korea appears to have rearranged its external economic relations to reduce any impact that traditional sanctions could have.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: China, North Korea, United Nations
  • Author: Stephan Haggard, Marcus Noland, Yoonok Chang
  • Publication Date: 12-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Results from a survey of more than 1,300 North Korean refugees in China provide insight into changing economic conditions in North Korea. There is modest evidence of slightly more positive assessments among those who exited the country following the initiation of reforms in 2002. Education breeds skepticism; higher levels of education were associated with more negative perceptions of economic conditions and reform efforts. Other demographic markers such as gender or provincial origin are not robustly correlated with attitudes. Instead, personal experiences appear to be central: A significant number of the respondents were unaware of the humanitarian aid program and the ones who knew of it almost universally did not believe that they were beneficiaries. This group's evaluation of the regime, its intentions, and accomplishments is overwhelmingly negative—even more so than those of respondents who report having had experienced incarceration in political detention facilities—and attests to the powerful role that the famine experience continues to play in the political economy of the country.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Politics
  • Political Geography: China, North Korea, Korea
  • Author: Stephan Haggard, Marcus Noland
  • Publication Date: 04-2005
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: It is an honor to be invited to testify before this committee. We would like to begin our testimony by restating a simple yet compelling point: The absence of human, civil, and political rights in North Korea and the humanitarian disaster that afflicts its population are inextricably linked.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Human Rights
  • Political Geography: Asia, North Korea