Embedded and Autonomous Markets in North Korea’s Fishing Industry: Resource Scarcity, Monitoring Costs, and Evolving Institutions

  • VOL. 21 NO. 1
  • pp. pp.53-74

Peter Ward
Andrei Lankov
Jiyoung Kim

  • Keywords

    North Korea, marketization, embeddedness, resource scarcity, monitoring costs, institutional evolution, fishing industry, case study

  • Abstract

    North Korea today is a most unusual post-socialist state. Market actors and market prices are integral to economic life, but private property remains illegal, and private enterprise outside the household is de jure non-existent. In such an institutional context, some market processes are more autonomous in relation to the state, while others are more embedded within state structures. In this article, we offer a theoretical account of the shape that North Korea’s market economy has taken, developed from a set of fishing industry case studies. We note four broad categories of enterprises: closely embedded, loosely embedded, semi-autonomous, and autonomous. By relative autonomy/embeddedness we mean control over fixed assets, cash flow, and operational decisions such as wage and price setting. We postulate three major determinants of embeddedness/autonomy: (1) relative strategic resource scarcity between state and market actors, (2) monitoring costs, and (3) institutional evolution that reflects these realities, though to varying extents.

  • Author(s) Bio

    Peter Ward (corresponding author) is a PhD Candidate at the University of Vienna in the Department of East Asian Studies. His principal research interests are markets and the state as an economic actor in North Korea.

    Andrei Lankov is a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul. His major research interests are North Korean history and society.

    Jiyoung Kim is a professor at Soongshil University in Seoul. He is interested in post-socialist transitions in Eastern Europe and Asia.