Bruce Cumings, the University of Chicago academic who is the “left’s leading scholar of Korean history,” believes that “North Korea is a misunderstood land.” He thinks the terrible state of the northern half of the peninsula is at least partly America’s fault and no one can escape the “significant responsibility that all Americans share for the garrison state that emerged on the ashes of our truly terrible destruction of the North half a century ago.”
The problem with that assertion is summarized in a graph of per capita GDP in the Washington Post which shows that the divergence of the two Koreas actually occurred in the early 1970s. Prior to that time “the two countries were roughly comparable — in fact, AEI’s Nicholas Eberstadt argues that, at the time of Mao Zedong’s death, North Korea’s workers were more productive and better educated than China.”
So you can forget the effects of the Korean War. The disaster in the North was entirely self inflicted; it was a catastrophe written and directed in Pyongyang by the Kim family.