Archive for the ‘Bank of Korea’ Category

Bank of Korea estimate of North Korean economy in 2015 published

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

I have added the report to my DPRK Economic Statistics Page. You can download the PDF here.

The Bank of Korea claims the DPRK economy shrank in 2015 by 1.1%

This number has numerous drawbacks which I have discussed before.

According to the Yonhap:

North Korea’s economy is estimated to have contracted 1.1 percent last year amid negative growth in most industries, South Korea’s central bank announced Friday.

The Bank of Korea (BOK) has issued an annual report on the estimated gross domestic product (GDP) of one of the world’s most secretive nations.

It said the communist country’s GDP shrank 1.1 percent in 2015 from a year earlier, the first negative growth since 2010.

The bank cited a drop in crop and mining output by 0.8 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively.

The manufacturing sector suffered a 3.4 percent decline. The electricity, gas and tap water business also tumbled 12.7 percent due to a fall in hydroelectric power production attributable to a drought, according to the BOK.

But the construction field posted a 4.8 percent rise, and the service sector grew 0.8 percent.

The North’s mining and manufacturing industries accounted for 32.7 percent of its GDP, down 1.7 percentage points from 2014.

The BOK put the North’s gross national income (GNI) at 34.5 trillion won ($30.3 billion), 45 times less than that of South Korea. The North has around 25 million residents, half of the South’s population.

The data also showed that the North’s trade volume totaled $6.25 billion, down 17.9 percent on-year.

Exports slipped 14.8 percent to $2.7 billion, and imports shed 20 percent to $3.56 billion.

The North is under heavy U.N.-led economic sanctions for its nuclear and missile activities.

Since no accurate economic data from North Korea are available, the BOK said the statistics are based on estimates using methodologies applied to gauge South Korea’s own economy. Thus, it’s not desirable to directly compare the data with those of other foreign nations, added the bank.

Here is coverage in the Wall Street Journal:

North Korea’s economy likely shrank last year for the first time in five years, South Korea’s central bank said, potentially increasing the ruling challenge for leader Kim Jong Un, who has promised to boost prosperity while confronting the U.S. and other nations with nuclear weapons.

The Bank of Korea said Friday that it estimated North Korean gross domestic product fell 1.1% in 2015, the first decline since 2010 and the largest fall since a 1.2% contraction in 2007.

North Korea doesn’t release official statistics or allow outsiders to make assessments of its economy from within the country. As a result, the BOK’s estimate of North Korean GDP is often cited as the best guess. It bases its calculations on information from Seoul’s spy agency and other authorities that study North Korea.

The biggest recent economic setback for North Korea has come from a sharp fall in the price of coal, its main export product, and a slowdown in China, its sole major trading partner. The South Korean central bank said the North’s external trade was valued at $6.25 billion in 2015—down 18% from a year earlier.

New international sanctions on North Korea following its nuclear bomb test in January this year and long-range rocket launch in February may increase the economic pressure on Pyongyang. For the first time, United Nations sanctions target North Korea’s commodities trade, while the U.S. has sought to cut off Pyongyang’s links to the international financial system.

North Korea insists it will continue to pursue twin policy priorities of nuclear weapons development for its defense while seeking to boost its economy. In his first speech in 2012, Mr. Kim said North Koreans should “not have to tighten their belts again” and has regularly visited economic projects such as factories and farms.

However, output in nearly all North Korean industries contracted last year, including agriculture, fishing, mining and energy, the South Korean central bank said in its report.

Construction was a rare bright spot, growing an estimated 5%, as Mr. Kim has pursued the redevelopment of areas of central Pyongyang, including major new housing projects. The Bank of Korea also estimated a 0.8% increase in service-sector output, reflecting the emergence of unofficial market trading and underground financial services.

The North’s per capita income was around $1,224 in 2015, the bank said, compared with South Korea’s $27,200.

Here is coverage in Reuters:

North Korea’s economy contracted in 2015 at the sharpest pace in eight years, an estimate from the Bank of Korea showed on Friday, as low global commodity prices landed a blow to exports, a key driver for the impoverished country’s economy.

The gross domestic product in North Korea last year fell a real 1.1 percent, South Korea’s central bank said, which was the first fall since 2010 and compares with a 1.0 percent gain in 2014. It also marked the fastest decline since a 1.2 percent drop in 2007.

Isolated North Korea does not publish economic data.

All sectors except construction and services declined, a likely burden for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un already under pressure from international sanctions against multiple provocations including a nuclear test in January.

“The key reason for the GDP contraction looks to be trade as global commodity prices fell while China demand also declined,” said a Bank of Korea official, who declined to be named as he was unauthorized to speak to media.

“North Korea’s main commodity exports are coal and iron ore, which likely all declined last year.”

Neighboring China is North Korea’s chief trading partner.

The Bank of Korea data showed exports in North Korea fell 14.8 percent last year in annual terms as mineral product shipments slumped 14.7 percent. This was far worse than a 1.7 percent decline seen in 2014.

Imports dropped a faster 20.0 percent last year, compared with a 7.8 percent increase in 2014.

The central bank official said trade is expected to worsen this year as it becomes difficult for North Korea to boost shipments with other countries with international sanctions likely to grow heavier following Pyongyang’s continued missile launches and nuclear threats.

Construction rose 4.8 percent last year, accelerating from a 1.4 percent gain in 2014, the same data showed.

Meanwhile, a 0.8 percent gain in services last year reflects North Korea’s economic shift towards capitalism as the black market there has become more pervasive. Financial services have also grown, which likely contributed to the gain, the BOK official added.

The Bank of Korea has released GDP data on North Korea every year since 1991 based on information received from related sources, including the Ministry of Unification.

Here are comments from The Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES):

North Korean GDP Dropped Estimated 1.1% in 2015

The Bank of Korea (BOK), South Korea’s central bank, released data on July 22, 2016 indicating that the North Korean economy shrunk by 1.1% in 2015. If this estimate is correct, this would mean that the North Korean economy contracted for the first time since Kim Jong Un came to power in 2012. At the same time, these estimates also indicate that the gap in per capita GDP between North and South Korea widened from 21.3 times in 2014 to 22.2 times in 2015.

The last time North Korea’s annual growth rate was below zero in BOK statistics was five years ago. Back in 2009, it was estimated to be -0.9%, edging up to -0.5% in 2010. However, the last four years have been a time of continued expansion according to the BOK with North Korea’s economy estimated to have grown 0.8% in 2011, 1.3% in 2012, 1.1% in 2013 and 1.0% in 2014. The estimated growth rate for 2015 was the lowest since the -1.2% of 2007.

The BOK’s data indicates that while growth sped up in North Korea’s construction sector in 2015, the performance of the agriculture, fisheries, mining, manufacturing, and public service (electricity, gas and water) sectors was poor.

In the mining sector, declining magnesite and iron ore production resulted in a 2.6% loss of output, while in manufacturing, both light and heavy industrial saw production decline and consequently the sector contracted by an estimated 3.4%.

Output in the public service sector fell by a dramatic 12.7%. The BOK highlighted a drought in 2015 as being a key contributory factor in this regard: reducing hydroelectricity output, as well as exerting a negative influence on steel and machine tool production. At the same time, gains in agricultural and fisheries sector, which had been estimated to be 1.2% in 2014, was partially reversed in 2015, with the sector believed to have contracted by -0.8%. Although output in the livestock and fisheries sector expanded rapidly, this was offset by declines in cereals production including rice and corn due to drought.

Conversely, the construction sector expanded by 4.8% as both output in building and public works-related construction rose. The service sector, principally public services, the wholesale and retail service sector, and communications, grew by an estimated 0.8%.

North Korea’s nominal Gross National Income (GNI) was estimated to be 34.5 trillion South Korean won (KRW), i.e. 2.2% of South Korea’s nominal GNI. Per capita GNI rose to 1.393 million KRW, an increase on the 2014 figure of 1.388 million, but still only 4.5% of South Korea’s per capita GNI.

The gap between North and South Korean per capita GNI rose from 21.3 times in 2014 to 22.2 times 2015. At the same time, combined North Korean commodity imports and exports declined by 17.9% to $6.25 billion (excluding North-South trade) compared to the previous year ($7.61 billion).

The year 2015 saw a decline in the price of minerals, including iron ore, internationally. Reduced demand for North Korean anthracite in China had an impact, with North Korean exports declining to $2.7 billion, a 14.8% decline year-on-year. Textile exports increased by 5.3%, but mineral product exports fell by 14.7%. Income (totaling $3.56 billion), chiefly from mineral products and textiles, thus shrunk by a dramatic 20%.

The difference in the scale of North Korean and South Korean trade volumes rose to 154.1 times in 2015 (an increase from 144.3 times in 2014). At the same time, according to South Korean Ministry of Unification statistics, inter-Korean trade rose by 15.7% year-on-year to $2.71 billion.

Here are comments by Marcus Noland.

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Kim Jong-un announces need for financial reform

Monday, December 14th, 2015

(Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein)

The first meeting for 25 years of North Korean banking and finance officials was held a few weeks ago, Yonhap reported:

The Third National Conference of Financial and Banking Officials held on Sunday at the People’s Palace of Culture in Pyongyang was reported by the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and Korean Central TV, monitored in Seoul.

“The conference reviewed successes and experience gained by those in the field of finance and banking in the past,” the KCNA said in an English report carried on Sunday.

The meeting also discussed ways to ensure “the financial guarantee for building a thriving nation,” according to the state media.

In a letter sent to the conference, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un highlighted the important role of the financial sector for national development.

“To improve financial and banking work is an inevitable demand for hastening the building of a thriving nation,” Kim was quoted as saying in the letter. “Reliable financial resources are necessary to build the people’s paradise featured by strong national power and great prosperity.”

Kim also ordered “revolutionary measures for steady development” of the financial system, as well as “fluent circulation of currency.”

It was North Korea’s first meeting of its kind since the last second session was held in September 1990 under the leadership of late leader and North Korean founder Kim II-sung.

Read the full article:
N.Korea hosts 1st bankers’ meeting in 25 yrs
Yonhap News
2015-12-14

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DPRK economy shrinks for second year: Bank of Korea

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

North Korea does not publish economic data.  The size of North Korea’s economy is estimated by South Korea’s Central Bank (Bank of Korea), the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and other think tanks such as the Sejong Institute (Lee Jong Seok)

According to a recent report by the Bank of Korea, North Korea sufferd its second full year of economic contraction (as defined by GDP), 1.1% in 2006 and 2.3% in 2007.  The bank estimates North Korea’s 2007 gross national income (GNI/GNP) at $26.7 billion, per capita GNP at $1,152 (assuming population of 23 million).  If you are interested in knowing the difference between GNP and GDP, click here.

Here are some highlights from the report:

Agriculture, forestry & fisheries marked a 9.4% decrease following a 2.6% decrease in 2006

Mining increased 0.4% in 2007, down from 1.9% increase in 2006

Manufacturing increased 0.8%, higher than 0.4% 2006 increase. -1.7% growth in light industry, due to the decrease in food products and beverages. +2.3% growth in heavy industries led by expansion of metal and machinery products.

Electricity, gas & water production increased 4.8%, (+2.7% in 2006), from hydroelectric and steam power generation.

Construction production -1.5%, (-11.5% in 2006), from reduced non-housing construction and civil engineering.

Services +1.7%, (+1.1% in 2006). Hotel, restaurant, transport, post & telecom industry expanded.

Trade volume (goods) fell 1.8% to $2.941 billion, 1/248 South Korea’s. Exports fell 3.0%, imports fell 1.3%.

These estimates are based on trade figures obtained from the Korea International Trade Association, Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency, fuel and food aid figures from aid groups such as the International Red Cross and the World Food Program, as well as information provided by frequent visitors.

More information here:
Full report by Bank of Korea  and data (recomended)

North Korea’s Economy Shrank in 2007, Second Annual Contraction
Bloomberg
Heejin Koo
6/17/2008

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DPRK Economic Growth Estimates for 2006

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

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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3 Million NK Refugees Expected in Crisis: BOK

Friday, January 26th, 2007

Korea Times
Na Jeong-ju
1/26/2007

If at least one member of a North Korean household moves to South Korea after reunification, more than 3 million from the North may head south if the two Koreas are reunited, the Bank of Korea (BOK) said Friday.

According to the BOK’s Institute of Finance and Economy, if such an exodus takes place in North Korea after reunification, the South may face serious economic consequences, the report said.

If Koreas adopt a German model, in which West Germany extended financial support to East Germany before and after reunification, South Korea would shoulder a total of $500-$900 billion in reunification costs. If the money is spent appropriately, it will take 22-39 years for North Korea to top $10,000 in gross national income, the report said.

The institute proposed South and North Korea try to reduce economic gap through economic cooperation programs. If the South supports the North through development programs, using its capital and the North’s cheap labor, it can reduce reunification costs considerably, it said.

“It is desirable for the two Koreas to designate special economic zones to reduce their economic gap and conduct programs to develop the North Korean economy,’’ the report said.

With the development programs, the South can spend much less than adopting the German model, the report said. The reunification costs will be cut to $300-500 billion, while the period for North Korea to see a GNI of $10,000 will be shortened to 13-22 years, it added.

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Investors show new interest in North Korea

Friday, August 12th, 2005

From the Herald Tribune:
Donald Greenlees

In May, Kelvin Chia, one of the first foreign lawyers to receive a license to practice in North Korea, took a party of Indonesian miners on an investment tour.
 
Visiting a coal mine outside Pyongyang, the group was surprised by the welcome from North Korean officials and found that the basic road and power infrastructure serving the mine site was in a better condition than they expected. Chia said the mining company – which he declined to identify for commercial reasons – is likely to soon enter a joint venture with the North Korean operator to further develop the mine.
 
Since being granted the right to open an office in Pyongyang last October, Chia, who is from Singapore, says his firm has been approached by about 20 companies from Europe, Southeast Asia and Australia with an interest in investing in communist North Korea’s shaky economy. Chia’s firm was the first wholly owned foreign legal practice in North Korea.
 
“I think there is an upsurge of interest in that country,” said Chia, who is based in Singapore but runs an office of two lawyers in the North Korean capital and has plans to expand.
 
Chia’s recent experience mirrors that of other hardy business people who have persisted with North Korea in the past decade, despite a nuclear crisis and U.S. commercial embargoes. Some business people equate the current level of investor interest with the early 1990s, when foreign companies, including some multinationals, started a spate of investments in the hope that North Korea’s largely self-imposed isolation would end.
 
While the latest round of six-nation talks to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons program remains inconclusive, a handful of Asian and Western investors, some with earlier experience in doing business there, are again considering possibilities in defiance of Washington’s desire to use economic seclusion as a bargaining tool.
 
These investors, mainly manufacturers and miners, are being enticed back by low wages, plentiful mineral resources and a regime that appears increasingly prepared to support foreign investment and open its economy.
 
Pyongyang has signaled plans to open investment promotion offices within its embassies in Singapore and Malaysia, according to Chia, who maintains regular contact with North Korean officials. A revised foreign investment law, passed by the North Korean Supreme People’s Assembly in 2004, relaxed some conditions on foreign investment and permitted full foreign ownership of some ventures. The assembly has also strengthened intellectual property rights laws.
 
A South Korean government official said that Pyongyang also recently started to approve visas for foreign buyers to enter the joint North-South industrial park at Gaeseong, just north of the demilitarized zone. The official said 19 visas had been approved as of mid-July for buyers from Germany, Japan, China and Australia.
 
Investment in Gaeseong is restricted to South Korean companies.
 
Tony Michell, [Korean Associates Business Consultancy]a business consultant based in Seoul, has received permission to take a group of eight investors to North Korea in September in the first of what he said would be monthly investment missions. The first group will comprise European and Asian business people, none of whom are from China or South Korea, the countries with the largest investment in the North.
 
Michell, who introduced a number of companies to North Korea during the last upswing in investment interest from 1993 to 1995, said there had recently been “a revival of interest.”
 
“This comes up to the 1993 level of interest,” said Michell, managing director for Asia of the Euro-Asian Business Consultancy, adding that if the United States dropped its economic embargo “this would be a humdinger of an emerging market.”
 
Still, potential investors in North Korea have to weigh a long history of failure. Of the eight companies Michell introduced during the early 1990s, only one investment survives. An investment bank based in Hong Kong, Peregrine, entered a joint venture to establish Daedong Credit Bank in Pyongyang. Peregrine collapsed, but Daedong is marking a decade in business.
 
The experience of North East Asia Telecom, a Thai firm, is sobering. It set up a mobile phone network, but since May 2004 use of mobile phones has been suspended by the North Korean government as part of a security crackdown.
 
New investment largely dried up after October 2002 when U.S. officials claimed that North Korean officials had admitted during talks to possessing a nuclear weapons program. There is general agreement among investment advisers and economic analysts that if the nuclear impasse can be resolved foreign investment will accelerate.
 
The nuclear crisis erupted as North Korea was implementing a series of measures to open its economy and increase appeal to investors, like giving state-owned enterprises greater freedom to operate commercially, removing price controls and allowing its currency, the won, to be exchanged for the euro, which was adopted in December 2002 for all foreign currency transactions.
 
Analysts of the North Korean economy say those reforms remain largely on track and paved the way for an upsurge of direct investment in 2004 from China, North Korea’s main economic partner. Ahn Ye Hong, who studies the North Korean economy for the Bank of Korea, the South Korean central bank, said that investment from China rose from $1.3 million in 2003 to $173 million in 2004.
 
He said this investment was driven by China’s desire to “obtain as much of North Korea’s resources as it can,” particularly iron ore. He expects a further significant increase in Chinese investment this year.
 
The South Korean government is also seeking to increase direct investment in the North. Although the bulk of South Korean investment has gone into just two projects, Gaeseong and the Mount Geumgang tourism development, recent talks between the two Koreas explored the possibility of investment in upgrading or repairing mines that have fallen into disuse.
 
An official in South Korea’s Ministry of Unification said an inter-Korean economic cooperation meeting in Pyongyang between Sept. 28 and Oct. 1 would discuss the proposal further. The official, who requested anonymity due to restrictions on speaking publicly, said it was likely any South Korean involvement in redevelopment of the mines would be carried out by a joint enterprise between the government and the private sector.

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