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The 2020 Parliamentary Session in North Korea: Self-Criticism and Dubious Optimism Concerning Economic Development

Rüdiger Frank

The North Korean Supreme People’s Assembly session took place this Sunday. Here are the main takeaways:

-North Korea’s economy remains inward-oriented. Neither a major crisis nor a major economic breakthrough was reported.

-The term “sanctions” did not appear a single time in the report, reflecting the official, defiant position towards that issue; nevertheless, they seem to have contributed to a greater availability of mineral resources for domestic use.

-Grain production has supposedly increased strongly, allowing the state to shift the focus of its agricultural policy towards a more diverse diet.

-The COVID-19 pandemic did have an impact on North Korea’s economy, although it is still claimed that the country does not have a single infection.

-Self-criticism appears in both reports, including the ominous admission of “some drawbacks in executing the state budget.”

-If we use budgetary revenue as a proxy, the North Korean economy in 2019 grew moderately, but more strongly than in 2017 and 2018.

-Economic planners seem to be cautiously optimistic about the prospects for the development of the economy in 2020; however, the report presents no evidence about which sector or factor is the cause of this optimism.

Department of East Asian Studies
38 North
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
502027 Political economy
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