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  • Cited by 9
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
September 2021
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Book description

Kevin Gray and Jong-Woon Lee focus on three geopolitical 'moments' that have been crucial to the shaping of the North Korean system: colonialism, the Cold War, and the rise of China, to demonstrate how broader processes of geopolitical contestation have fundamentally shaped the emergence and subsequent development of the North Korean political economy. They argue that placing the nexus between geopolitics and development at the centre of the analysis helps explain the country's rapid catch-up industrialisation, its subsequent secular decline followed by collapse in the 1990s, and why the reform process has been markedly more conservative compared to other state socialist societies. As such, they draw attention to the specificities of North Korea's experience of late development, but also place it in a broader comparative context by understanding the country not solely through the analytical lens of state socialism but also as an instance of post-colonial national development.


‘In a major and highly original contribution to our understanding of North Korea, Kevin Gray and Jong-Woon Lee demonstrate that its development has been profoundly influenced by its challenging geopolitical context. Essential reading for anyone interested in this enigmatic nation.'

Mark Beeson - author of Rethinking Global Governance

‘Economic development has long been an aspiration for North Korea, even as it is left far behind its neighbors. Despite the catastrophic famine, food-shortage, and economic sanctions, North Korea continues its search for a model of economic development that squares the circle: a market economy without a significant market. This book puts North Korea's difficult quest for power and plenty in historical context, and is a welcome addition to the field.'

Meredith Woo - author of Race to the Swift: State and Finance in Korean Industrialization

‘[…] a compelling and interesting new narrative rich with detail that will be of interest to people who want to better understand North Korea’s economic history.’

Peter Ward Source: NK News

‘This book will be very useful for students, journalists, and others who need a detailed yet concise summary of what is known about North Korea’s economic development. It is well suited as the main textbook for an introductory course on that subject. Long-term experts with a more focused interest in North Korea will appreciate the book’s value as a reference work.’

Rüdiger Frank Source: Pacific Affairs

‘This thought-provoking and deeply researched volume is a valuable addition to the field.’

Jihyun Kim Source: Journal of Contemporary Asia

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