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Witness to Transformation: Refugee Insights into North Korea

Author

Listed:
  • Marcus Noland

    (Peterson Institute for International Economics)

  • Stephan Haggard

    (University of California, San Diego)

Abstract

Despite its nuclear capability, in certain respects North Korea resembles a failed state sitting uneasily atop a shifting internal foundation. This instability is due in part to the devastating famine of the 1990s and the state's inability to fulfill the economic obligations that it had assumed, forcing institutions, enterprises, and households to cope with the ensuing challenges of maintaining stability with limited cooperation between the Korean government and the international community. The ineffective response to the humanitarian crisis triggered by the famine resulted in the outflow of perhaps tens of thousands of refugees whose narratives are largely overlooked in evaluating the efficacy of the humanitarian aid program. Witness to Transformation: Refugee Insights into North Korea uses extensive surveys with refugees who now reside in China or South Korea to provide extraordinary insight into the changing pathways to power, wealth, and status within North Korea. These refugee testimonies provide an invaluable interpretation of the regime, its motivations, and its capabilities and assess the situation on the ground with the rise of inequality, corruption, and disaffection in the decade since the famine. Through the lens of these surveys, preeminent North Korean experts Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland carefully document the country's transition from a centrally planned economy to a highly distorted market economy, characterized by endemic corruption and widening inequality. The authors chart refugees' reactions to the current conditions and consider the disparity between the perceived and real benefit of the international humanitarian aid program experienced by this displaced population. Finally, the book examines these refugees' future prospects for integration into a new society.

Suggested Citation

  • Marcus Noland & Stephan Haggard, 2011. "Witness to Transformation: Refugee Insights into North Korea," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 4389.
  • Handle: RePEc:iie:ppress:4389
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    1. repec:taf:ceasxx:v:68:y:2016:i:3:p:487-507 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:eee:jcecon:v:45:y:2017:i:4:p:865-888 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Kim, Byung-Yeon & Choi, Syngjoo & Lee, Jungmin & Lee, Sokbae & Choi, Kyunghui, 2017. "Do Institutions Affect Social Preferences? Evidence from Divided Korea," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(4), pages 865-888.
    4. Haggard, Stephan & Lee, Jennifer & Noland, Marcus, 2012. "Integration in the absence of institutions: China–North Korea cross-border exchange," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 130-145.

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