London Korean Links

Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

SOAS lecture series – spring term 2011

SOAS logoHere’s the schedule for the coming couple of months. I’ll update this post with the detailed abstracts and speaker biographies as and when I receive them. All lectures are in room G50 of the SOAS main building unless otherwise stated.

Friday, January 21st, 5pm
Prof. HAZEL SMITH, Cranfield University
“The political economy of poverty in the DPRK”

The now well-known transformation of the North Korean political economy from state to market – which I have previously termed ‘marketisation without liberalisation’ – is a bottom up process and has not been accompanied by political liberalisation from the government downwards. We have little understanding however of how and why economic transformation from a command economy to a market economy has become embedded in the way it has (and not in any other way). In this talk I analyse how and why poverty outcomes are different for different social groups within today’s North Korea. I use the province as the unit of analysis as there is sufficient data at the provincial level to make the analytical exercise viable. I use nutritional status as a proxy indicator for poverty because of the data availability but more importantly because of the continued food insecurity that provides the pivotal experience of life of the vast majority of the population. Given data availability however there is no reason why the method employed in this paper could not be used to examine poverty outcomes for other social groups as categorised for example by gender, age, or occupation.
As with so many other states that lost economic subsidies after the Soviet Union collapsed, the North Korean state lost the resources on which it had depended, and it inability to make an adequate policy response to these altered circumstances led to the famine of the mid-1990s. In the vacuum generated by state incapacity, it is hardly surprising that those regions that could find ways to look after themselves recovered economically and those with less capacity did not; thus generating inequality between provinces. What is perhaps surprising is that this paper shows that post-famine differences between provinces were not a direct function of relative agricultural self-sufficiency. This conclusion challenges the conventional assumptions of the policy community. As recently as 2004, for instance, the FAO was arguing that farmers should not receive humanitarian food aid because ‘[t]hanks to farmers’ relatively high rations, better access to kitchen gardens and hill side plantations, as well as their individual share of the farm’s income resulting from the sale of surplus food to the Government or on the local markets, their food situation is far better than that of PDS dependent households.’

I show that it is market opportunity as much as agricultural productivity that determines poverty outcomes. Provincial agricultural capacity was not the only or even in some cases the major determinant of differences in nutritional status between the provincial populations. The ability of provincial authorities to feed populations could not be taken for granted even if the province was agriculturally self-sufficient. The extreme example is the bread-basket province of South Hwanghae, where provincial agricultural self-sufficiency was not reflected in better (against other provinces) or good (in terms of the provincial population) nutritional outcomes. Market opportunities matter as much as provincial agricultural capacity in explaining economic well-being in today’s DPRK.

Speaker Bio:
Professor Hazel Smith is Professor of Security and Resilience and Head of the Resilience Centre at Cranfield University, UK. She has published extensively in the DPRK including Hungry for Peace: International Security, Humanitarian Assistance and Social Change in North Korea (USIP Press, 2005); Reconstituting Korean Security, (United Nations University press, 2007), and is currently working on another monograph for Cambridge University press on social change in the DPRK in the last two decades, provisionally entitled The Transformation of North Korea. Professor Smith lived and worked in the DPRK for two years, working for UNICEF and the UN World Food Programme. She has carried out numerous consultancies for various governments, international organisation and NGOs on the international, regional, human and food security issues pertaining to North Korea. Professor Smith regularly broadcasts for the international media on the subject of the DPRK and Korean and East Asian security.

Friday, March 4th, 5pm
Dr. REMCO BREUKER (Leiden University)
A crucial factor in the creation of a nation: The forgetting of the Vietnam War in South Korea

Friday, March 11th, 5pm
Dr. JIEUN KIAER, University of Oxford
Pragmatially-motivated Syntax: the case of Korean

Friday, March 18th, 5pm
Dr. LUCAS POKORNY (Aberdeen University)
Millenarianism and the Pursuit of World Peace

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