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Famine in North Korea: Markets, Aid, and Reform

By Marcus Noland, Devin T. Stewart | Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics | April 16, 2007

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In the mid-1990s, as many as one million North Koreans died in one of the worst famines of the twentieth century. The socialist food distribution system collapsed primarily because of a misguided push for self-reliance, but was compounded by the regime's failure to formulate a quick response—including the blocking of desperately needed humanitarian relief. As households, enterprises, local party organs, and military units tried to cope with the economic collapse, a grassroots process of marketization took root. However, rather than embracing these changes, the North Korean regime opted for tentative economic reforms with ambiguous benefits and a self-destructive foreign policy. As a result, a chronic food shortage continues to plague North Korea today.

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Read More: Agriculture, Aid, Governance, Health, Human Rights, Poverty, Trade, Korea (North), Asia

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