Martin Hart-Landsberg on Korea

Michael Hoover hoov at
Mon Apr 24 19:05:50 PDT 2000

> Martin Hart-Landsberg, "Korea: Division, Unification and US Foreign
> Policy," Monthly Review Press, 1998:
> In the early 1960s, when the Soviets started openly criticizing the
> DPRK for its economic plans and unwillingness to condemn China, Kim
> stood his ground. The result was the sudden withdrawal of Soviet aid
> and technical support and, from 1962 to 1965, a reduction in trade
> between the two countries. Not surprisingly, this had a serious
> impact on the North Korean economy

Despite above, NK continued to outperform SK until mid-1970s in terms of per capita economic growth and until early 1980s in terms of per capita material production. Moreover, North was more successful than South in crop production until recently despite more fertile arable land in latter (NK was exporting considerable amount of agricultural products into early 1990s). Prior to floods of several years ago, visitors to North reported that basic food, clothing, housing, medical care, education needs were met even as they noted lack of 'consumer' variety.

Large investment in machine processing and metal processing helped NK transform from war-decimated agricultural country into relatively strong industrial state in short period of time. Continued high rates of investment in heavy industry eventually resulted in stagnation and problems with, among other things, housing and public transportation conditions (too little attention to road paving, for example).

SK's post-1960s economy (hardly model of free market capitalism given preponderant role of state in economic management) benefitted from earlier period of massive US & UN aid used to run country throughout 1950s, US & Japanese technology transfers that began in 1960s, and preferential access to US markets in 1970s. And 'economic miracle' was - surprise, surprise - grossly unequal, characterized by high urban unemployment & shantytowns, poor social services & education in rural areas, widespread prostitution (common to US military occupation everywhere). Michael Hoover

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