Witness to Transformation: Refugee Insights into North Korea

Stephan Haggard, University of California, San Diego
Marcus Noland, Peterson Institute

Peterson Institute for International Economics, Washington, DC

January 31, 2011

The Peterson Institute released the book Witness to Transformation: Refugee Insights into North Korea, by Deputy Director Marcus Noland and Advisory Board member Stephan Haggard, on January 31, 2011. This extraordinary book is based on large-scale refugee surveys conducted in China and South Korea and uncovers powerful social changes underway in North Korea, including increasing inequality, corruption, and changed attitudes about the most effective pathways to higher social status and income.

Authors Noland and Haggard presented the main findings of their book. Engaging in market activities, as well as in corruption and other illegal acts, are emerging as the dominant ways of getting ahead in North Korea. State and party positions have become platforms for extortion as officials exploit a vast prison system for economic predation. North Koreans hold their government in low regard and are increasingly disinclined to believe official rationalizations of their misery. An overwhelming majority of refugees surveyed support unification with the South and report that their peers remaining in North Korea hold similar views.

Marcus Noland is author of the award winning book, Avoiding the Apocalypse: the Future of the Two Koreas. Stephan Haggard is the Lawrence and Sallye Krause Professor of Korea-Pacific Studies and Director of the Korea-Pacific Program (KPP) at the University of California, San Diego, and coauthor with Noland of Famine in North Korea: Markets, Aid, and Reform.

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