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Tobin Harshaw

The North Korean Economy Is Growing More Capitalist

The question is just how close will it get – the East Germany model or the Vietnam approach? Stephan Haggard explores the possibilities.

The times they are a-changing.

The times they are a-changing.

Photographer: Kim Won Jin/AFP, via Getty Images

What won the Cold War? Stipulating that the West did indeed “win,” there are a lot of answers to that question: Ronald Reagan’s “Tear down this wall”; Mikhail Gorbachev’s Glasnost; George F. Kennan’s containment; the Helsinki Accords; Pershing missiles; the slow rot of a corrupt leadership; etc. To that list I’d like to add … blue jeans.

There was a long history of smuggling American jeans, particularly Levi 501s, in the Soviet Union, but by the last decade of its existence it became a mania. And the only way to get them was the underground market; as Niall Ferguson once wrote: “Why could the Soviets not replicate Levi 501’s the way they had replicated the atomic bomb?”