Over the past three decades, market forces have gradually transformed North Korea's economy, empowering a new class of economic actors and undermining the state's capacity to control the movement of people and goods. The North Korean regime has alternated between tolerating and cracking down on markets, but market actors have proven resilient and adaptable—and may be indirectly promoting the "building blocks" of civil society.

To be sure, marketization in North Korea has not led to the development of civil society in the form of an independent associational life. And it would be mistaken to assume that the changes fostered by markets so far will result in a wholesale transformation of North Korea. However, a new report published by the National Committee on North Korea argues that the strategies North Korean market participants have adopted to succeed in a difficult environment may be slowly reshaping social relations in the country. 

Join USIP for a discussion of this report and the broader implications of market participation on North Korean society. The report’s authors will be joined by leading experts on the Korean Peninsula and civil society to discuss how market participation has fostered the beginnings of a public sphere and how linkages between market activities and the building blocks of civil society may help promote the rights and livelihoods of the North Korean people—and shift the ideological framework through which the state must operate.

Join the conversation on Twitter with #NKCivilSociety


Frank Aum, welcoming remarks
Senior Expert, North Korea, U.S. Institute of Peace

Celeste Arrington
Korea Foundation Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University

Jieun Baek
Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Justin Hastings
Professor of International Relations and Comparative Politics, University of Sydney

Andrew Yeo
Professor of Politics and Director of Asian Studies, Catholic University

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