One of the big ideas of the first two weeks of microeconomics is that everyone has a comparative advantage, and they can make themselves better off by specializing in it.
The propagandists and true believers in North Korea would probably like us to believe that they’ve moved beyond the boundaries of economics. Not so.
What does North Korea specialize in producing, and even exporting? Monumental statues and artwork.
I kid you not.
The top tier artists in Germany simply don’t make realist work anymore. North Koreans on the other hand haven’t experienced the long evolution of modern art; they are kind of stuck in the early 1900s
Like the 164 foot tall stone thingie that’s sorta’ like the one in the end of Star Trek V:
Or the 66 foot tall King Sung:
Senegal’s African Renaissance Monument, unveiled just outside Dakar in 2010, is among Mansudae’s most notable works. At 164 feet … The monument is intended to represent “Africa emerging from darkness, from five centuries of slavery and two centuries of colonialism,” Abdoulaye Wade, Senegal’s former president [said]“Only the North Koreans could build my statue,” he said, adding, “I had no money.”
It gets worse:
“They seem to have developed a small cottage industry,” says Marcus Noland, an expert on North Korea and director of studies at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “The North Koreans are desperate for money, and my guess is that at some point they figured out that essentially exporting their capacity to make glorious monuments to great leaders was something they could do to both win friends and possibly influence people, but also possibly make money.”
Founded in 1959, six years after the Korean War, Mansudae has long defined—or at least produced—North Korea’s aesthetic. The impoverished country, in which 28 percent of children under 5 suffer from malnutrition, according to the United Nations, spends much of its budget on Kim family deification. According to a recent statement by North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly, “44.8 percent of the total state budgetary expenditure for the economic development and improvement of people’s living standard was used for funding the building of edifices to be presented to the 100th birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung.”
What assholes! And that monument in Senegal?
… Foreign government officials say the work of around 150 North Korean artists and laborers cost closer to $70 million.
No doubt they’re accounting for that on their books as goodwill.