DPRK Economic Growth Estimates for 2006

Institute for Far East Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 07-8-22-1

The Bank of Korea released a report on August 17 that details economic estimates on a variety of sectors in North Korea. Overall, North Korea’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell 1.1 percent during 2006, the first time since 1999 that the North has failed to increase its GDP. Inclement weather was one factor that played into a fall in agricultural production, and there also appears to have been little progress in the construction of public works in the country. Overall, North Korean GNI was 2.9 percent of that in the South, with per capita GNI at 1,108 USD, 6 percent of the 18,372 USD per capita GNI in South Korea.

The entire economy of the DPRK is approximately 1/35th that of the South, with the Gross National Income (GNI) a mere 1/17th the level seen in the ROK. This shows a growing divide between the two Koreas, as the comparisons in the previous year were 1/33rd and 1/16th, respectively. Due to the North Korean nuclear issues and other foreign relations problems faced during 2006, a worsening of diplomatic relations with other countries, energy shortages and other economic woes befell the North, putting the entire economy in a difficult situation.

The North showed a weakening of the agricultural and forestry industries, increasing production by a mere 2.4 percent, 2.6 percent down from 2005. Corn and other cereal production grew by 7 percent, but rice was down 6.4 percent, and bean production was down 6.6 percent from the year before, leaving overall grain output down 3.6 percent. On the other hand, shellfish and crustacean harvests grew by 1.5 percent, while timber and livestock harvests remained unchanged.

On the mining front, coal and other non-metal mined resources showed promising increases, but production of lead, zinc, and copper fell by 1.7 percent, compared to the 3.5 percent growth posted in the previous year. Despite promising increases in production of manufactured goods and growth in the chemical and heavy industries in 2005, last year North Korean production growth rates in these fields fell flat at a mere 0.4 percent, increasing production rates of fibers, clothing and shoes, but turning out less kitchenware and food-related products. Coal and fuel products looked favorable, but fabricated metals and machine parts, as well as nonferrous metal products grew at a rate of 1.1 percent, down from 5.4 percent.

Gas-fired electrical generation was up 17 percent, while hydroelectric power grew only 2.7 percent, falling from 4.4 percent in 2005. Other infrastructure projects were also on the decline, with only 49 km of road paved in 2006.

The number of foreign tourists declined, with visitors to Kumgang Mountain falling from 366,000 in 2005 to only 265,000 last year, adding to the 21.8 percent decline in the food and lodging sector, but the transportation and communication sector grew by 5.1 percent, leading to an overall gain of 1.1 percent in the service industry.

The gap in overseas trade between the two Koreas increased from 182-fold to 212-fold as North Korean foreign trade fell off 5.2 percent. Imports in the North were up 2.3%, although seafood imports were down 48.4 percent. The slack was made up by a 34.1 percent increase in the import of plastics, a 31.2 percent increase in imported chemical goods, and a 12.4 percent increase in imported machinery.

During 2006, inter-Korean exchanges grew 27.8 percent, reaching 13.5 billion USD. South Korean exports to the North grew 16 percent as Seoul increased rice and fertilizer aid, and exports to the Kaesong Industrial Complex grew. On the other hand, North-South cooperative projects grew 52.7 percent as South Korea increasingly imported North Korean zinc, sand, and other natural resources.

In order to give some perspective to the North Korean economic data, the Bank of Korea offered the following comparisons:

DPRK/ROK/Ratio
Population (thousand) 23,079/48.297/2.1
Economic Growth (2006) -1.1%/5.0%
Nominal GNI (100 million USD) 256/8,873/34.7
Per Capita GNI (USD) 1,108/18,372/16.6
Exports (100 million USD) 9.5/3,254.6/343.8
Imports (100 million USD) 20.5/3,93.8/151.0
Coal Production (10,000 tons) 2,468/280/0.11
Electrical Use (10,000 kW) 782/6,551/8.4
Electrical Production Capacity (100 mill. KW) 225/3,812/16.9
Petroleum Imports (10,000 bbl) 384/88,843/231.4
Cereal Production (10,000 tons) 448.3/530.0/1.2
Rice Production (10,000 tons) 189.4/468.0/2.5
Seafood Harvest (10,000 tons) 92.3/303.3/3.3
Iron Ore Mining (10,000 tons) 504.1/22.7/0.05
Nonferrous Metals Mining (10,000 tons) 8.6/187.7/21.8
Automobile Production (10,000) 0.44/384.0/872.8
Steel (10,000 tons) 118.1/4,843.3/41.0
Cement (10,000 tons) 615.5/4,920.9/8.0
Fertilizer (10,000 tons) 45.4/318.3/7.0
Chemical Products (10,000 tons) 2.9/145.7/50.2
Railways (km) 5,235/3,392/0.6
Roads (km) 25,544/102,061/4.0
Port Loading Capacity (10,000 tons) 3,700/69,213/18.7
Shipping Capacity (10,000 tons) 90.4/1,180.2/13.1

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