US Korea Institute
DPRK Economic Forum

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Growth and Geography of Markets in North Korea

BKS Markets CoverMarkets have grown to become an integral part of the North Korean economy ever since the famine of the 1990s and the breakdown of the planned economy. Across the country, most cities have several of these markets, and North Koreans are dependent on them for a significant part of their food consumption. Markets first sprang up illegally as a response to the breakdown of the public distribution system. Since then, many markets have been formalized and integrated into the public finance system through taxes and administrative permits.
Growth and Geography of Markets in North Korea: New Evidence from Satellite Imagery,” focuses on these formalized markets in North Korea. It relies on a dataset specifically created for this research to understand the growth of the markets over time and patterns in their geographical distribution. The purpose of this study is to build an understanding of how the markets have developed and why they are seemingly more prominent in some cities than in others.
This report was the first in a series of reports that USKI will publish as a part of our “New Voices on the DPRK Economy” program, designed to promote new research and the professional development of young scholars interested in the North Korean economy. Co-developed by the US-Korea Institute at SAIS and the National Committee on North Korea,  this program provides a new generation of scholars on the North Korean economy with a singular opportunity to strengthen their analytical skills and increase their visibility. In addition to producing important policy-relevant, practical research, this project will help rising scholars deepen their ability to frame and tackle policy questions by working with senior scholars from research design to completion.
Download “Growth and Geography of Markets in North Korea: New Evidence from Satellite Imagery,” by Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein. Part of the “New Voices” report series published by the US-Korea Institute at SAIS.
Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein is a Ph.D. student in History at the University of Pennsylvania where he focuses on North Korean political history. He graduated from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in 2015 with an M.A. in International Relations and International Economics, concentrating in Korea Studies. He is a non-resident Kelly Fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS and has written on Korean affairs for publications like Jane’s Intelligence Review. He is also co-editor of the website North Korean Economy Watch.

Awkward Engagement: Reflections on Doctors Without Borders’ Work in North Korea

Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014 – Awkward Engagement: Reflections on Doctors Without Borders’ Work in North Korea

Summer Program & Research Internships

The US-Korea Institute at SAIS is currently seeking program and research interns. Multiple positions are open and duties will vary. Some current areas of research include: North Korea political, economic, and social development, North Korean WMD issues, US-ROK nuclear cooperation, US-ROK cooperation in Southeast Asia, US-ROK cooperation nuclear security, US foreign policy to both Koreas, energy security cooperation in Northeast Asia, ROK renewable energy policies, and more.

Interns generally are asked to do a variety of tasks including research assistance, event attendance and reporting, logistical support for events and projects, and other things as necessary. They may work with USKI staff and/or Visiting Scholars on various projects.

Successful candidates should have an interest in Korea and/or East Asia policy and be at least a sophomore in college or higher; graduate students and post-grads are encouraged to apply. Foreign language skills are a plus, but not necessary. Strong writing and editing skillls are preferred. Must be able to multitask, prioitize, meet deadlines, and work well both independently and in small groups.

USKI internships are unpaid and interns are expected to work at least 4 days a week.

To apply, please email cover letter, resume and short writing sample to Jenny Town, Assistant Director at Only those chosen for interview will be contacted. No phone calls please.

DPRK Economic Statistics Report

In March 2009, the DPRK Economic Forum, a program of the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS, released the “DPRK Economic Statistics Project Report,” written by Mika Marumoto. 

Analysts and policymakers are understandably concerned about the availability and reliability of North Korean economic and social statistics data, and face serious challenges to the validity of their analysis, arguments and policymaking. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Economic Statistics Project (April – December 2008) was organized to directly address issues surrounding DPRK statistics. Dr. Mika Marumoto conducted an overall assessment of available databases and identified the most salient DPRK economic and social statistics available in the public domain. She also carried out case studies on different categories of North Korean data such as population data, gross domestic product estimates and trade data, in order to help data users make more sound judgments in their use and interpretation of available DPRK statistics. 

Initiated by the DPRK Economic Forum, a program at the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS, the statistics project was funded by the Korea Development Institute School of Public Policy (KDIS) and administered by the U.S.-Korea Institute. Views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect those of KDIS or the U.S.-Korea Institute, and any errors and omissions are solely the author’s own. Permissions for citations and/or questions should be sent directly to Dr. Mika Marumoto at

Download the full text: DPRK Statistics Project: Full Report 

Download report sections: 

Recommended citation: Mika Marumoto, Project Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Economic Statistics Project (April-December 2008), Presented to Korea Development Institute School of Public Policy and Management and the DPRK Economic Forum, U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University-School of Advanced International Studies. March 2009. 

Mika Marumoto, Ph.D., a development consultant and a former Harvard-Yenching Fellow, is currently managing a joint research project evaluating statistical data on North Korea, drawing on the expertise of a range of practitioners in the United States, South Korea, China and Japan. She holds a Ph.D. in international relations and MAs in economics and public administration. Recent publications include “North Korea and the China Model” (On Korea, Korea Economic Institute 2008). She has also been engaged in translation projects covering topics including individual accounts of World War II experiences and post-war reconciliation. Most recently, Dr. Marumoto co-translated the book, Famine in North Korea (Haggard and Noland 2007) into Japanese (Kita Chosen: Kiga no Seijikeizaigaku, Chuokoron-Shinsha 2009).