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A Study on the Economic Reform in North Korea under Kim Jong Un: Focusing on the “Our Style of Economic Management”

Author Lee, Seogki et al. Date 2018.08.14 Page

Since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took power, the North Korean economy has undergone significant changes in many aspects. At the core of these changes in the economy in the Kim Jong Un era is the official approval of state-owned businesses’ participation in the market economy and the adjustment of the roles of the state and business, both changes that were institutionalized through revisions of economic laws such as the People’s Economic Planning Act and Trade Act.  


A new economic management system officially dubbed “Our Style of Economic Management” came into being as result of the aforementioned economic reforms. This new system seeks to revitalize production and investment by recalibrating the roles of the state and businesses. The main focus of the economic reform is to formalize and institutionalize the market activities of state-owned enterprises while maintaining the economic planning system that is inseparable from the existing system of ownership. 


In order to better fathom the transitional North Korean economy, it is essential to have an understanding of the economic management system and its accompanying changes. Thus the primary purpose of this study is to discern the specifics of the economic management system and its changes in the Kim Jong Un era.  


As institutionalization through legal revision is a defining characteristic of these reforms under Kim Jong Un, this study first examines legal or institutional changes in economic planning, enterprise management, foreign trade, agriculture and finance system. Based on an examination of these changes, the study then analyzes and evaluates the operating structure of these sectors. 


The study concludes with an examination of the nature, meaning and limitations of the economic reform of the Kim Jong Un era, and briefly describes the implications these reforms carry for interKorean economic cooperation.