Press Release

KIHASA Publishes August Issue of Health and Welfare Forum, No. 298

  • Date 2021-08-18
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KIHASA has published this year's August issue of Health and Welfare Forum, No. 298 with a focus on changes in the lives of North Koreans and their implications.

Foreword: “The Change of North Korea and the Need for Solidarity and Cooperation” by Kim Yeon-Chul, Professor of Reunification Studies, Inje University


Article I: “Changes in North Korean Consumer Life and Their Policy Implications” by Cho Sungeun, Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs

The North Korean government is regarded to have chosen, in and after the 2000s, a dual economic structure, leaving the consumer goods sector such as the light industry and material distribution to the market, while still maintaining its direct control over the military and heavy industry sectors. Also, in line with its governance strategy for furnishing all people with a “civilized living” by “building a socialist economy,” the North Korean government has attempted to foster the light industry and modernize the health care sector. Accordingly, changes have been observed in the consumer life of North Koreans, including the diversification of clothing style, the emergence of clothing brand names, the increase in the use of home appliances and mobile phones, the expansion of transportation use, and the increase of recreational facilities for leisure use. However, the trend of marketization in North Korea has led to increased income inequality and in turn has made life difficult for the lower classes whose labor is being commercialized. Meanwhile, the upper classes have no culture of leisure and find themselves unable to find places to take rest. Considering this situation, inter-Korean bridging and cooperation for the future needs to be planned and promoted from a long-term and macro perspective, seeking the wide-ranging development of North Korea's underdeveloped regions and the improvement of North Korean human capital, beyond simple humanitarian aid.

Article II: “Dietary Life of North Korean People” by Jeong Eunmee, Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs

During the nine years of Kim Jong Un’s regime, the dietary life of North Koreans have improved quantitatively and remained stable, and this change is able to be indirectly confirmed through a survey of North Korean defectors and domestic and foreign statistics. The majority of the population eat three meals a day, and rice and meat consumption gradually increased. Although the domestic grain production in North Korea is not high enough to meet domestic demand, the increase in imports of grains and food, the increase in market purchasing power, and the possession of household appliances have had a positive impact on stabilizing the diet of North Koreans. However, since 2020, North Koreans’ diet has been unstable and, as the North Korea authorities have officially said, they are suffering from food shortages this year. North Korea’s food security has been vulnerable to the effects of exogenous variables such as natural disasters and the pandemic of COVID-19, and the sharp decline in foreign trade due to border blockade is a major factor in the instability of North Koreans’ diet. In order to increase the accessibility of food to North Koreans, it is necessary to provide food support as well as COVID-19 vaccine support.

Article III: “The Current Status of Housing Construction and Residential Environment in North Korea” by Park Hee-Jin, Research Professor, Institute for North Korean Studies, Dongguk University

This study examines recent changes in the housing and residential environment in North Korea and explores whether these changes mean increased separation of social classes. The Kim Jung-un government in North Korea has overcome all at once the financial difficulties they had in the 90’s and attempts to achieve ‘economic improvement’ with scientific technology and promotes the constructionsector as a pump-priming policy. However, the North Korean government’s policy to boost the construction business has brought both positive and negative impacts on the residents. For the positive impact, the residents who have their ‘right to their own homes’ are encouraged to change their own living space, while the negative impact is that there have been disparities in the living environment between groups of people as ‘housing has become commercialized.’ Therefore, this study aims to discover how North Koreans with home ownership are taken to decorating their homes on their own and takes a look at how changes in their residential and living environment have taken place, giving rise to social disparities.

Article IV: “Measurement and Tasks of Living Costs of North Korean Residents” by Min Kichae, Hyun Inae, Kim Hyoju 

The purpose of this article is to understand the cost of living for North Koreans in an exploratory level by paying attention to the “consumption” and to derive the tasks posed by the measurement. To this end, the ‘Basic Survey for Measuring the Standard Cost of Living for North Koreans’ was conducted on 37 North Korean defectors through the snowball sampling method. Our analysis found that the sources of income include business, remittance, employment, side job, and social benefits (pension) in order of descending importance. The the average monthly household expenditure was 147,000 won (South Korean won). Food expenditures accounted for 58.3% of household expenditure, followed by clothing and footwear expenses at 9.9%, housing, heat and water expenses at 8.4%, cultural entertainment expenses at 5.2%, transportation and communication expenses at 2.5%, health and medical expenses at 2.0%, and education at 1.7%. It was also found that North Koreans were using many of South Korea's minimum cost of living items. However, additional items used by North Koreans were identified differently from South Koreans in terms of heat and water expenses, education expenses, culture and entertainment expenses, and non-consumption expenses. As tasks for measuring the cost of living for North Koreans, development of items suitable for daily life in North Korea, a survey according to the number of household members, and precise price conversion were presented.

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