Discussion Papers

No.769 Success and Failure of North Korean Development Strategy

by Masahiko Nakagawa

March 2020


This study seeks to clarify the characteristics of the DPRK development strategy, examining how a self-reliant development strategy led to economic difficulties in the country. The author describes how the strategy to construct a self-sufficient economy negatively affected investment capital, production costs, and the trade balance, causing problems that included a foreign debt problem, a lack of consumer goods in the 1970s and 1980s, and a shortage of food and energy in the 1990s. North Korea’s self-supporting economic structure has persisted, despite food and power shortages. Today’s economic growth, led by personal consumption, is strengthening this structure. It has been argued that a serious challenge to the self-supporting structure will arise during the next stage of economic development.

Keywords: self-reliance, heavy industry, shortage of consumer goods, foreign debt

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