Kim Jong Un’s government is focused on this – CNBC
A recent white paper from the U.S.-Korea Institute at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) includes research that used Google Earth’s “yardstick” function and satellite imagery to measure the growth of markets in 12 cities. The study was released last month, and led by Ben Silberstein, a researcher and expert on the North Korean economy.
Markets, sometimes called black markets, have flourished in number and size in North Korea’s capital Pyongyang and smaller cities. A key trigger was a massive famine in the 1990s that killed around 2 million people, though estimates vary widely. The country became unable to feed its own people, and the markets became an established source of food and income.
Silberstein found that markets grew in all cities analyzed, although in most cases the growth has been marginal and the result of restructuring or minor enlargements. Plus, periods of market repression by the government, including from 2009 to 2010, have not triggered smaller market sizes as observable through satellite imagery.
Market spaces and their sizes were measured from around the mid-2000s to roughly 2013 and 2014.
Cities with large market-size gains included seaport cities close to China. And such key cross-border trade flows between China and North Korea may be giving select local government officials greater autonomy and flexibility when it comes to market policies.