A couple of weeks ago, the South Korean Central Bank, the Bank of Korea, published its estimate of the size and composition of the North Korean economy in 2011. You can read the finings (PDF) here. I have posted this and many other estimates of the North Korean economy on my “DPRK economic statistics page“.
Here is coverage of the report in Bloomberg/Business Week:
Gross domestic product in the communist nation increased 0.8 percent in 2011 after a 0.5 percent decline in 2010, according to an estimate published by the Bank of Korea in Seoul. The nation’s economy has contracted during four of the last six years, the bank’s data show.
“The manufacturing sector declined, but the agricultural industry enjoyed better weather and more use of fertilizer,” the Bank of Korea said in an e-mailed statement.
North Korea is projected to keep growing under the new leader as its economic ties with China and Russia develop.
“Mineral exports to China and dollars brought in by North Korean workers sent to China and Russia would have driven the country’s GDP growth,” said Koh Yu Hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul. “North Korea is expected to be economically stronger under Kim Jong Un as it continues to increase transactions with its allies.”
Kim Jong Un has waged a nationwide campaign to “bring about a turn in agriculture” and increase crop yields, according to a June 7 report carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. North Korea’s agriculture and fisheries sector expanded 5.3 percent in 2011 while manufacturing fell 3 percent, according to the BOK report.
North Korea’s nominal GDP totaled 32 trillion won ($28 billion) in 2011, compared with South Korea’s 1,237 trillion won, the BOK said. North Korea’s per capita income was 1.33 million won while South Korea’s was 25 million won, according to its estimates.
After adjusting for inflation, North Korea’s economy remained smaller at the end of 2011 than it had been in 2008, according to the Bank of Korea.
Here is more from Strategy Page:
The North Korean economy is undergoing changes. In fact, last year there was actually some growth, with GDP increasing .8 percent, versus a .5 percent decline in 2010. The North Korea GDP (about $28 billion, compared to $1,100 billion for South Korea). Thus even with a larger population, the average South Korean has 20 times more income as their northern counterparts. Moreover, income distribution is quite different in the north, where about two-thirds of the population is very poor and very hungry. The other third contains the well-fed ruling elite (whose lavish country estates can be seen via commercial satellite photos) and their supporters (secret police, military officers, bureaucrats) plus the semi-legal merchant class that has been allowed to develop over the last six years to avoid total economic collapse.
The economic decline in 2010, was the result of agricultural (floods) and industrial (massive power shortages) failure. But China came to the rescue by offering to set up mining operations in North Korea and buy billions of dollars-worth of minerals each year. China rebuilt railroads to handle the increased traffic from the remote North Korean mines. In addition, China offered legal jobs for North Koreans in China. The only catch was that the North Korean government took most of the pay. Similar deals have long been used with Russia but China offered far more jobs under more comfortable conditions. Competition for these jobs is fierce in North Korea and the government selects those deemed least likely to run away.
Last year North Korea bought more fertilizer for farmers and the weather was pretty good. That, plus the growing income from Chinese run mines and North Korean workers in China made up for the continuing declines in manufacturing. A good year on the farm is a big deal in North Korea, where farming and fishing are 23 percent of the economy (compared to under three percent in the south). But this year all of Korea is suffering from a record-breaking drought. This is hurting the north a lot more than the south. Although the monsoon (jangma) rains recenly arrived, a month late, the damage was already done in the north. Three months of very hot and very dry weather has seriously damaged crops. The rains will save some of them but at least a fifth of this year’s crops will be lost.