Putting a Price Tag on North Korea’s October 10 Celebrations

I don’t doubt there is an abundance of potential fury in North Korea’s provinces, but it does seem odd that a single parade, fireworks display, and associated banquets and pageantry would eat up an amount equivalent roughly equivalent to 7% of the country’s GDP (source: CIA World Factbook, 2013 GDP est. at 28 billion).

While Pyongyang remains the inevitable epicentre of state expenditure and ostentatious display, the state and Kim Jong-un personally have taken efforts recently to highlight spending on relief for families made homeless by a huge summer flood in Rason, and on efforts to bolster hydropower production on the northern frontier.

At the same time, there are many indications that profligacy with the public purse continues to reign: We can see Kim Jong-un’s fondness for black Mercedes Benz sedans, and the need of his various minions to present him with such things as barge restaurants that are hemmed in by the city’s bridges, as well as the construction of new apartments for politically reliable scientists, etc.

Parades and parties take a great deal of fuel and logistical work, but you don’t have to pay students in the Kim Il-sung Socialist Youth League to lift their torches, nor do they need special clothing to do their routines.

This post originated as a response to Adam Taylor at the WorldViews blog of the Washington Post, whose 16 October essay included part of my comment. Image: Via Dandong (Liaoning, PRC) city government, 30 September 2015

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