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North Korea has survived the end of the Cold War, massive famine, numerous regional crises, punishing sanctions, and international stigma. In A Most Enterprising Country, Justin V. Hastings explores the puzzle of how the most politically isolated state in the world nonetheless sustains itself in large part by international trade and integration into the global economy. The world's last Stalinist state is also one of the most enterprising, as Hastings shows through in-depth examinations of North Korea’s import and export efforts, with a particular focus on restaurants, the weapons trade, and drug trafficking. Tracing the development of trade networks inside and outside North Korea through the famine of the 1990s and the onset of sanctions in the mid-2000s, Hastings argues that the North Korean state and North Korean citizens have proved pragmatic and adaptable, exploiting market niches and making creative use of brokers and commercial methods to access the global economy.North Korean trade networks—which include private citizens as well as the Kim family and high-ranking elites—accept high levels of risk and have become experts at operating in the blurred zones between licit and illicit, state and nonstate, and formal and informal trade. This entrepreneurialism has allowed North Korea to survive; but it has also caused problems for foreign firms investing in the country, emboldens the North Korean state in its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and may continue to shape the economy in the future.
Hastings Justin V. :
Justin V. Hastings is Senior Lecturer in International Relations and Comparative Politics at the University of Sydney. He is the author of No Man's Land: Globalization, Territory, and Clandestine Groups in Southeast Asia and A Most Enterprising Country: North Korea in the Global Economy, both from Cornell.
Nicholas Eberstadt, Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy, American Enterprise Institute:
"This fresh and most original book casts important light on the way the North Korean system today actually operates; it is an impressive achievement."
Charles K. Armstrong, Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies in the Social SciencesColumbia University, author of Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950–1992:
"A Most Enterprising Country is an engaging study of North Korean trading networks and an important addition to the growing body of work on contemporary North Korean society and economy. Challenging the stereotype of North Korea as a closed and isolated regime cut off from the world economy, Justin V. Hastings convincingly argues that North Korea is in fact deeply involved in a variety of trade networks ranging from large-scale state-sponsored exports to small-scale individual merchants. Amid an environment of hyperbole and sensationalism regarding North Korea in the mass media and much of the scholarly literature, the balanced, measured tone of this book is one of its greatest strengths."
Geoffrey See, Chairman and Founder of Choson Exchange and Kauffman Fellow:
"I visit North Korea regularly to train entrepreneurs and often read studies that fail to reflect the realities our participants face. Never has a book come this close to telling the inside story of the world's most hidden business community. Justin V. Hastings’s insights inform the business training our nonprofit does in this country."
"[I]t is refreshing to have a volume examining the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) that does not contain the biased impressions of a journalist, but instead applies the rigorous research and analysis of a scholar. Justin Hastings traces the role of entrepreneurship in the evolution, structure, and operation of North Korean trade networks from the end of the Cold War to the present. Like Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland's valuable analysis of social and economic change in Witness to Transformation: Refugee Insights into North Korea (2011), Hastings delves into a hard-to-reach subject with creative methods and considerable sophistication. He embeds his descriptions and insights in a theoretical framework he derives from Global Value Chain analysis, but instead of adding value to the product itself, each node in an often managerially complicated and logistically circuitous trade network takes a cut of the profit.... This is a terrific book that is well written and makes an important contribution to political-economic scholarship on North Korea."
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