Evan Osnos has a long dispatch from North Korea in the most recent New Yorker. It includes this passage:
Pyongyang is the emptiest, quietest capital in Asia, but it is changing, slowly, driven by the legacy of famine. Between 1994 and 1998, a combination of mismanagement, droughts, and flooding paralyzed North Korean food production, killing up to three million people. Hundreds of thousands went to China in search of food and work, and many returned to their families having seen a better quality of life.
Since the famine, "the majority of today's North Koreans have learned to lead an economic double life in order to make ends meet," according to "North Korea Confidential," a study of markets and daily life, by Daniel Tudor and James Pearson. North Koreans, outside their state-assigned jobs, sell homemade noodles in thriving markets; they drive private buses; they rent out apartments by the hour for courting couples. Government insiders import housewares, medicine, and luxury products from China, giving rise to an entrepreneurial élite known as donju—"masters of money." Kim has allowed limited economic reforms, letting people accumulate profits, which has fuelled the growth of black markets, including in real estate. Officially, there is no private homeownership, but, in practice, people pay for better units. An ordinary one-bedroom apartment in Pyongyang costs three or four thousand dollars; the most luxurious offerings sell for hundreds of thousands.
This struck me as remarkable in two ways. First, Communist China is now teaching other, more backward countries about the benefits of capitalism. And second, nothing spawns capitalism more effectively than the drab impossibility of communism. It didn't require some American-funded covert operation or slick think tank video to spread the virtues of free enterprise in North Korea. The incentives are built in to the point of obviousness. If you hustle, you wind up with better stuff.