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The North Korean Enigma
North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (dprk), is an isolated enigma in Northeast Asia.  No state in the world lives with such a wide gap between its own self-image and self-presentation as a socialist ‘paradise on earth’ and the view of most of the rest of the world that it is a bleak, backward work-house ruled by a megalomaniac tyrant, Kim Il Sung. This gap demands explanation—and needs to be bridged. The dprk has largely been excluded from discussion of transformation in the Third World and from debate on questions of socialism. Yet its experience is important. It has achieved remarkable economic growth and advances in social services. It raises important issues concerning industrialization and self-reliant high growth for a medium-sized Third World country (1980 population: 18 million, est.). At the same time, it is generally agreed that the political system is one of the most dreadful ever constructed in the name of socialism: this, too, raises major issues, especially concerning the cult of personality. This text is an attempt to look at both parts of the equation and at the relationship between the regime’s political practice and its economic success, within the terms of socialism.
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