A podcast from NPR called Planet Money did a twenty-minute podcast last summer on the North Korean economy. I thought they did a great job, covering its size, its challenge of getting hard currencies other countries will accept, and its solutions. Since the country can’t feed its people or fuel its army, the leaders have had to solve how to get themselves luxury goods.
The solutions include leasing land rights, water rights, and its citizens’ labor to China, Russia, and South Korea; selling statues to despotic regimes; and some exports on the legal side.
On the illegal side it covers how North Korea sells weapons, drugs, and counterfeit money. The story interviewed a one-time North Korean cop who defected who helped the North Korean government’s drug trade. If the government promotes it, it doesn’t seem obvious they are breaking the law, but I guess the smuggling and money laundering outside the country breaks other countries’ laws.
Anyway, the story also interviews the guy who writes the North Korean Economy Watch blog, which many hold in high regard, including me.