N. Korea's Hidden Market

On a tour of North Korea, "silly white folks 'working with the people.' " North Korean Economy Watch hide caption

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On today's Planet Money:

— When you arrive as a tourist in North Korea — yes, it's been done — they don't tell you the news, says Curtis Melvin. They tell you the state of the economy. And yes, they do have one. Melvin knows because he tracks it on his blog, North Korean Economy Watch. His biggest boosts come from YouTube and Google Earth, which let him watch what passes for economic development.

— The "efficient market" hypothesis holds that everyone trading stocks is generally trying to take in the same information about companies, and the result of all that thinking is the price of stock. The efficiency of the market makes it hard for any individual to beat the market over the long haul. So why would anyone pick stocks at all, or listen to a professional stock picker like CNBC's Jim Cramer? (Further fun: Video of Cramer rebutting an academic study of his performance.)

Bonus: Paycheck bounces, life falls apart and video of a North Korean market

Download the podcast; or subscribe. Intro music: Metric's "Sick Muse." Find us: Twitter/ Facebook/ Flickr.

Rebecca writes:

My personal Planet Money indicator is $490. That is how much my bounced paycheck cost me.

I have worked for the same small multi-media company for over 10 years. My monthly paychecks were always directly deposited into my checking account on the first of the month until this past December. That is when the president of the company told me that my paycheck would be late. I received it via mail on the 5th of the month, still in time to pay my mortgage by the 15th. The checks have been consistently late since.

This past month, I received my paycheck in the mail on the 7th. I deposited the check the next day and waited yet another day before mailing out all of my monthly bills. When I went to check my balance the following week, it showed that I was overdrawn by over $2000. Thinking this was an error, I called my bank and was informed that my paycheck had been returned for insufficient funds. As a results, I was being charged a $15 fee, plus 6 checks I had written were being returned and I was being charged an additional $35 for each check. I was charged $175 fee for being late with my mortgage. I incurred another $90 in fees for various penalties.

Straightening this all out was a nightmare. One of the checks was written to a couple I know personally that I hired to redo my kitchen floor. They had already prepaid for the materials when I bounced their check. I felt awful!! I spent a total of 3 1/2 hours at the bank over 2 days, for which I had to take off work. At one point, I found myself, a grown, professional, educated woman, standing in the middle of the bank crying.

I am being told by the president of the company that it was just an error and not indicative of the health of the company, but I find this hard to believe. My paychecks were never late before 12/08. I am been told I will be reimbursed for my expenses in my next check. And I still have a job so guess I am better off than many people, but I have never met anyone whose paycheck bounced before.


In Omaha: Take one, if there are any. Paul Eriksen hide caption

toggle caption Paul Eriksen


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