Economic Crimes in North Korean Criminal Law: Changes and Continuities

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This dissertation is the first to thoroughly investigate how North Korea’s penal code—especially the parts on economic crimes—have changed throughout North Korean history and what the political and economic reasons for the changes and the implications of these changes are. The North Korean penal code is the first substantive law of North Korea other than its constitution and known to be the most frequently revised North Korean law. This suggests that the penal code has been one of the most important laws in the socialist country. By analyzing the provisions on economic crimes in the North Korean penal code, this dissertation establishes the following: First, the clear distinction between crimes against state property and private property and harsher punishment for the former has been maintained, unlike in the penal codes of Russia and China. Second, many nonproperty, economic crimes originate from ostensibly strict adherence to a socialist economic model, including a planned economy. Third, definitions of economic crimes are often vague and leave room for arbitrary interpretation and implementation of the penal code. These traits lead to huge discrepancies between the written penal code and the ongoing, but informal, marketization in North Korea, contributing to the growth of the black market. This dissertation is also the first to examine the legal transplants in North Korea, centering on the amendments to the North Korean penal code since 1974. Although the North Korean penal code was initially modeled after the Russian penal code, the level of Soviet influence decreased, especially due to Russia’s transition into a democracy and market economy. Although the Chinese influence on North Korea’s penal code has surpassed that of Russia, its level of influence is still more limited regarding provisions on economic crimes as compared to non-economic crimes, mainly due to the fundamental differences in their approaches to the market economy. This dissertation contributes to the literature by establishing how North Korea has tried to control its economy by its penal code and what such attempts imply for the future of the economy of the most secretive country in the world.

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427 pages


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Criminal Law; Economic Crime; Legal Transplant; North Korea; Penal Code; The DPRK


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Union Local


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Ndulo, Muna B.

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Yu, Xingzhong
Lasser, Mitchel

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J.S.D., Law

Degree Level

Doctor of Science of Law

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Government Document




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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


dissertation or thesis

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