David R. Henderson  

Markets For Everything: North Korean Edition

One-Sentence Macro Policy ... First They Separated the Twins...

It turns out that the people in red who were cheering for North Korea in their soccer game against Brazil weren't North Koreans at all, but Chinese actors. According to Hunter Stuart in the Huffington Post, the North Korean government paid them to show up and cheer.

It makes sense. If the North Korean government had let a few hundred North Koreans out of North Korea to go to South Africa, odds are that some of them would have defected from that Communist hellhole. Sure, the government could have threatened to kill or at least badly punish the families of the defectors, but they would still have had something else to worry about: that the North Koreans who were let out of their cage would see how other people live and would go back with those stories.

Here's what I wrote in a (still unpublished) article a few years ago, in which I referenced a story from Daniel Yergin's and Joseph Stanislaw, Commanding Heights:

Another such convert was the head of the propaganda department of the Chinese Communist Party. After visiting Japan in the mid-1980s, he wrote a report on his visit. He noted that half of Japanese households owned a car and that over 95% of households owned TV sets, refrigerators, and washing machines. What also hit him over the head was the variety of clothing people wore: "One Sunday we went out to a busy street. Of all the women we saw, no two wore the same style of clothes." Then he added, "The female workers accompanying us also changed clothes every day."

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COMMENTS (4 to date)
david writes:

Some evidence that has leaked out of North Korea suggests that South Korean soap operas are already frequently pirated in the NK underground economy; the mechanism here is due to South Korean 'sunshine policy' encouraging the production of DVD players in North Korea (under South Korean ownership and supervision). And with DVD players smuggled out of the production line, came DVDs.

This isn't the 1970s any more, really. North Korean information control is now, well, actually about as airtight as you might expect it to be, if you think about it. How is Pyongyang supposed to control all the ways in which information seeps in?

Presumably a significant number of North Koreans are already aware of how other people live (they would have to, or the number of people who try to escape via the Yalu River would be far less). Sadly this hasn't changed matters.

John Fast writes:

As I understand it, the PRC is worried about what will happen if North Korea collapses due to a military defeat. This gives us an opportunity to push the envelope. Sad that our government is too incompetent/unmotivated to do this. Sad, and I ought not to be surprised, since I specialize in public choice. :-/

David R. Henderson writes:

Good point.
@John Fast,
I'm curious. How would you have the U.S. government "push the envelope?"

Seamus Coffey writes:

There won't be too many cheering now, even if they are paid

North Korea 0 Portugal 7

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