Archive for the ‘GDP statistics’ Category

Bank of Korea on DPRK economy in 2013

Friday, June 27th, 2014

The South Korean central bank, the Bank of Korea, publishes an annual summary of the DPRK’s economic performance the previous year. The 2013 report is out. You can also download it on my DPRK Economic Statistics Page.

Here is a summary in Yonhap:

The Bank of Korea (BOK) estimated that the country’s economy expanded 1.1 percent in 2013, slowing from a 1.3 percent on-year expansion in the previous year.

In 2012, the North Korean economy was estimated to have grown at the fastest pace in four years, after contracting 0.9 percent and 0.5 percent in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

A BOK official explained that while the North’s construction sector shrank last year, its agricultural output improved on favorable weather conditions.

An expansion in production of coal and iron ore also lent support to growth, the official added.

Pyongyang’s construction industry contracted 1 percent on-year, compared with a 1.6 percent decline in 2012, as an increase in the number of residential buildings failed to offset falling demand for road construction works.

Its agricultural and fishery industry, which accounts for 22.4 percent of its total output, expanded 1.9 percent last year, slowing from a 3.9 percent growth in 2012.

Growth in its mining and manufacturing industries, which account for 35.7 percent of overall output, gained traction to reach 1.5 percent, up from 1.3 percent a year earlier.

The data, meanwhile, showed that North Korea’s nominal gross national income (GNI) came in at 33.8 trillion won (US$33.3 billion) last year, which is roughly 2.3 percent of South Korea’s 2013 GNI of 1,441.1 trillion won.

The Wall Street Journal’s Korea Real Time notes the following:

“North Korea has neither the capability to collect and analyze all the relevant data necessary to measure its own GDP growth nor the willingness to disclose them to the outside world,” says Mr. Cho.

Marcus Noland published a graph of korean growth rates from 1990-2013 and offered comments on the BOK’s methodology:

Noland-Koreas-GDP-growth-2013

And Noland’s comments:

According to the report, BOK constructs its national income account estimates “using basic data on North Korea’s economic activities supplied by relevant institutions…GDP at current prices is estimated with the use of South Korean prices and value-added ratios.”

What this means in non-economist speak is that someone (the NIS?) gathers data using some sources and methods which presumably put an emphasis on physical indicators that are easily countable. So that, as a practical matter, the South Korean authorities may have a better grasp of output in some sectors (like coal, where it’s easy to count railcars leaving a limited number of mines) and less on say services such as education where both the quantity and quality are more difficult to observe. Not surprisingly, the agricultural and industrial sectors of the economy show more output variability than does services. Whether this reflects reality or just problems counting physical indicators for services is unknown.

Then, having obtained these physical measures of output, we need prices and value-added weights to aggregate them into a single measure of the value of output. According to the BOK report they use South Korean prices and value-added weights. There are two problems here, though one problem may be diminishing over time. The first problem is that the relative price structures of the North and South Korea economies are not the same. However, over time it appears that the structure of domestic prices in both economies is getting more like world prices, and hence more like each other. So differing relative prices is probably less of an issue today than say 20 years ago.

Its less clear that the problem is disappearing with respect to the use of South Korean value-added weights that reflect the underlying techniques of production which remain vastly different across the two economies. Bottom line: we know there are some non-trivial problems with using the South Korean data to construct the North Korean GDP estimates.

Rumors have long circulated that the South Koreans either obtained or constructed a North Korean input-output table which they could use for these calculations, and contrary to the statement in the BOK report, weights derived from this source are used to construct the North Korean national income estimates, not the South Korean value-added weights. I personally do not know whether these claims are true or not.

Here is analysis by the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) (2014-7-4):

Real GDP of DPRK Grows in 2013, Marking Third Consecutive Year

On June 27, 2014 the Bank of Korea announced that North Korea’s real GDP grew 1.1 percent over the previous year (2013). Despite intense sanctions imposed by the international community, North Korea’s GDP grew by 0.8 percent in 2011 and 1.3 percent in 2012, showing that North Korea has been able to maintain a positive GDP growth rate for three years running.

The Bank of Korea’s “Gross Domestic Product Estimates for North Korea in 2013” report identifies favorable weather as a factor in increased agricultural production and higher crop yields, and points to the expanded production of coal, iron and other mineral resources as the keys to North Korea’s extra 1.1 percent growth.

As for individual sectors, crop production increased by 1.1 percent, the mining industry expanded by 2.1 percent, manufacturing by 1.1 percent, utilities (electricity, gas, water) by 2.3 percent, and the service industry expanded by 0.3 percent. On the other hand, due to a decrease in road construction and other public works projects, the construction sector posted a 1.0 percent decrease despite growth in homebuilding.

According to the Bank of Korea, North Korea’s 2013 gross national income (GNI) was 33.8 trillion won, approximately 1/43 of South Korea’s GNI for the same year. Furthermore, it was reported that North Korea’s GNI per capita in 2013 was 1.379 million won, approximately 1/21 of the GNI per capita of South Korea.

The scale of North Korea’s foreign trade (excluding inter-Korean trade) reached 7.34 billion USD (combined imports and exports) in 2013 — a 530 million USD increase over the previous year.

Exports saw an increase of 11.7 percent compared to 2012, reaching 3.22 billion USD, with exports of minerals and textiles seeing the highest increases of 14.4 percent and 31.2 percent, respectively. Imports in 2013 rose to 4.13 billion USD, an increase of 5 percent. Imports of machinery (-6.4 percent) and mineral production equipment (-3.6 percent) saw decreases, but North Korea saw large increases in textile (20.4 percent) and plastic products (27.5 percent) imports in 2013.

In 2013, the scale of inter-Korean trade decreased by 42.4 percent compared to the previous year, totaling 1.14 billion USD. The suspension of the Kaesong Industrial Complex was responsible for 99.7 percent of the decrease.

The Bank of Korea has estimated North Korean economic growth rates annually since 1991 by acquiring preliminary data through various affiliated agencies related to the North’s economic activities. The System of National Accounts (SNA) of the United Nations is used to estimate North Korean growth from the South.

Share

Hyundai Research Institute: DPRK economic report for 2013

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

The North’s per-capita GDP for last year is estimated at US$854, up $39 from a year earlier, according to the report released by the Hyundai Research Institute (HRI), a South Korean private think tank.

The North’s 2013 per-capita GDP amounts to a mere 3.6 percent of South Korea’s per-capita GDP of $23,838 for the same year, it said

North Korea’s grain production improved on the back of favorable weather conditions, while the country also expanded its investment in various industrial sectors, the report said.

The communist state’s grain production is estimated to have grown some 5 percent last year from a year earlier. The country saw an 8.5 percent on-year rise and 10 percent gain in its grain production, respectively, in 2011 and 2012.

Also, the reclusive nation increased its budget spending for railroads, metal and power generation sectors, which contributed in boosting its economy, the report showed.

Trade between North Korea and its strongest ally China jumped 10.4 percent on-year to reach $6.5 billion last year, while inter-Korean trade sank 42 percent to $1.1 billion due to a five-month halt of an jointly run industrial park.

The 2013 inter-Korean trade figure is the lowest since 2005 when the comparable figure was $1.06 billion.

The Kaesong Industrial Complex was shut down in early April 2013 after the North unilaterally pulled out all of its workers at 123 South Korean firms. It reopened in September after Pyongyang agreed not to repeat such a suspension.

Assistance from the international community to the North also dropped 47 percent on-year to reach $63.1 million last year, the report said.

Though the story does not cite the article from which the data is drawn, you can download the original report by the Hyundai Research Institute here (PDF in Korean).

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s per-capita GDP grows 4.8 pct in 2013: report
Yonhap
2014-3-16

Share

Economic gap between the two Koreas

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

According to Yonhap:

Trade and economic levels between South and North Korea remained quite wide last year, data showed Monday, pointing to prolonged lackluster business and economic conditions in the reclusive North.

According to the data by Statistics Korea, South Korea’s total trade volume stood at US$1.07 trillion as of 2012, which is 157 times larger than the North’s $6.8 billion. In particular, the South’s exports came to $547.9 billion, 188.9 times larger than those of the North.

The nominal gross national income (GNI) levels between the two Koreas also remained wide.

The GNI for the South was estimated at 1,279.5 trillion won ($1.21 trillion) last year, 38.2 times larger than the North, the data showed. On a per-capita basis, South Korea’s GNI was 18.7 times larger than that of the North.

South Korea also outperformed the North in infrastructure and other social overhead capital spending.

The South’s road network totaled 105,703 kilometers, which compared with the 26,114 km for the North, the data showed. The South had the power generating capacity of 81.8 million kilowatts a year, which is 11.3 times larger than the North.

The only category that the North outperformed the South was in coal production. It produced a total of 25.8 million tons of coal last year, about 10 times the amount of coal produced by the South, according to the data.

The two Koreas had a combined population of 74.4 million, with the South holding a population of about 50 million, the data showed.

The statistics agency has been providing such information on the North every year since 1995 as a way to provide a glimpse into the economic and industrial conditions of the reclusive country.

Read the full story here:
Trade, economic gaps between 2 Koreas remain wide: data
Yonhap
2013-12-23

Share

Bank of Korea publishes DPRK economic statistics

Friday, July 12th, 2013

The Bank of Korea has published its estimated aggregate data on the North Korean Economy for 2012.

You can download the report in English here.

You can download the report in Korean here.

It has been cataloged with previous reports (and many others) on my DPRK economic statistics page.

Here is what Reuters analysis of the data:

North Korea’s economy expanded for a second successive year in 2012, South Korea’s central bank said on Friday, bolstering the claims of new leader Kim Jong-un to be pursuing economic growth alongside strengthening the country’s nuclear deterrence.

The economy of the reclusive and impoverished nation grew 1.3 percent in 2012 as nearly all sectors saw improvement compared to a 0.8 percent annual growth the year before, said the Bank of Korea, one of the few sources of estimates about the economic performance of the North, which does not publish data.

Agriculture, farming and fisheries rose 3.9 percent last year in North Korea on the back of expanded use of fertiliser and an increase in pig and chicken farms, according to the Bank of Korea data, compared to a 5.3 percent growth in 2011.

Livestock farming rose 12.3 percent on an annual basis.

North Korean industrial output and manufacturing both expanded for the first time since 2008 after shrinking for three straight years, rising 1.3 percent and 1.6 percent respectively in 2012 compared to a year ago.

Despite the rise in output, North Korea remains one of the poorest countries on earth and its economy is around a thirtieth the size of industrial powerhouse South Korea.

The Bank of Korea data showed that North Korea’s total trade was worth $6.81 billion in 2012, with exports up an annual 3.3 percent, mostly on the back of chemical products and animal products. Imports were up 10.2 percent.

Trade with South Korea, which the Bank of Korea exempts from North Korea’s trade statistics, was worth $1.97 billion dollars last year, up 15 percent from a year ago. Almost all of that trade comes from the closed Kaesong industrial park.

Here is coverage by the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES):

The Bank of (South) Korea released a report on the economic growth estimation of North Korea in 2012. North Korean economy recorded positive growth for two consecutive years. Per capita gross national income (GNI) rose by 2.7 percent to 1,371,000 KPW against the previous year. However, the gap between the South and North has not narrowed.

Last year, North Korea’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth was estimated to be 1.3 percent. This is the highest level since the financial crisis of 2008 when it surpassed the South Korean economic growth and reached the 3.1 percent growth.

Agricultural production improvement as well as international aid in heavy oil in 2008 permitted the North Korean economy to rebound brieflybut it began to decline resulting in minus growth in 2009 (-0.9 percent), 2010 (-0.5 percent), and 2011 (0.8 percent).

Agriculture, forestry and fishery industries last year made robust growth as well as manufacturing, engendering the boost in the economy. The construction of the Huichon Power Station was completed last year and it is considered to have attributed to the improvement in the power situation.

In terms of industries that accounted for the growth, agriculture, forestry and fishery made up about 23.4 percent of the nominal GDP, recording a production increase by 3.9 percent. Production of livestock such as swine and poultry husbandry rose by 12.3 percent and rice and corn production also increased due to improved fertilizer supply.

Production in manufacturing (21.9 percent of North Korean GDP) made a 1.6 percent increase. The rate of manufacturing production increased by 2.6 percent in 2008 but began to decline from 2009 at -3.0 percent; 2010, -0.3 percent; and 2011, -3.0 percent.

Production improved in food, tobacco and light industries by 4.7 percent, and heavy chemical industries rose by 0.2 percent. Mining (14 percent of GDP) also rose by 0.8 percent due to improvement in coal production. Electricity, gas and water supply (3.5 percent of GDP) also increased by 1.6 percent from the expansion of hydroelectric and thermal power generation. Service industry (29.4 percent of GDP) rose by 0.1 percent. Government services dropped by 0.2 percent but transportation and communication, wholesale and retail, food and lodging services increased by 2.0 and 2.2 percent, respectively. However, construction (7.8 percent of GDP) fell by 1.6 percent due to the decrease in the civil construction such as road works.

Last year, North Korea’s gross national income (nominal GNI) was estimated to be 33.5 trillion KPW. Compared to South Korea’s 1.28 quadrillion KRW, this is a ratio of about 1 to 38.2. By dividing the GNI by North Korean population, per capita gross national income is calculated to be 1,371,000 KRW. Compared to South Korea’s (25,589,000 KRW) it is 1 to 18.7. This is comparable to the figures recorded in 2011 (1 to 18.6).

North Korea’s foreign trade volume (based on only import and export excluding the inter-Korean trade) increased 7.1 percent to 6.81 billion USD. North Korea’s exports (2.88 billion USD) increased by 3.3 percent, mainly in chemical products (38.0 percent) and animal products (23.6 percent). As for imports (3.93 billion USD), textiles (17.6 percent) and transport equipment (6.2 percent) increased by 10.2 percent.

Last year, the size of trade between North-South Korea rose by 15.7 percent over the previous year at 1.97 billion USD. Import and export to and from the Kaesong Industrial Complex accounted for 99.5 percent of the total amount. North Korea’s export increased 12.1 percent — mainly machinery (28.2 percent) and electrical and electronic equipment (16.1 percent) — and imports to South Korea increased by 17.5 percent — electrical and electronic products (25.8 percent) and textiles (12.8 percent).

Here is additional coverage in the Wall Street Journal‘s Korea Real Time, Bloomberg, Straits Times, Foreign Policy.

Read the full stories here:
North Korea posts 2nd successive year of growth-Bank of Korea
Reuters
Christine Kim
2013-7-12

 

Share

ROK reports DPRK economy little changed in the last year

Friday, April 12th, 2013

According to Yonhap:

According to the data compiled by the Ministry of Unification and based on information provided by foreign institutions, there were minor improvements in grain production and electricity output, but the difference was minimal and may have actually fueled inequality.

“Personally, I see almost no change from a year earlier,” said a ministry official, who did not want to be identified.

The data was released to the press to coincide with the first anniversary of the North Korean leader having assumed the country’s top job. Kim inherited the communist country after the death of his father in late 2011, but became the first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea on April 11 of last year.

North Korea’s food production is estimated to have increased 10.5 percent on-year to 4.92 million tons in the 2012-2013 grain year, the official said, adding that this translates into a shortage of 210,000 tons, down from 300,000 tons from the previous year.

The official, however, said foreign data is based purely on information given by Pyongyang, and is not reliable.

“There may be a need to carefully look at the data on grain,” he said, hinting at the fact that there have been numerous cases over the years where official information was not supported by facts.

On power production, the recent opening of the Huichon power station has increased output by 21.1 billion kilowatts, but the benefits are mostly being felt by the elite in Pyongyang. Outside the capital city, other regions are still affected by power shortages, he claimed.

The official added that while Kim has been calling for the bolstering of its agriculture and light industries, funds earmarked for these sectors grew at a slower pace than the overall growth of the budget.

The 2013 budget grew 5.9 percent from the year before, but funds for the light industry and farming sectors gained 5.1 percent. Defense spending on the other hand gained 16 percent on-year.

The latest data showed that consumer prices have generally been moving up since last year, potentially putting a greater burden on many people whose salaries have not changed in years, the official said.

Read the full story here:
N.K. economy remains unchanged under new leader: data
Yonhap
2013-4-12

Share

DPRK – China trade in 2011

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

According to Bloomberg:

North Korea’s trade with China expanded more than 60 percent to $5.63 billion in 2011 [...]

Commerce with China accounted for 70.1 percent of the North’s total $8 billion trade in 2011, up from 57 percent in the previous year, South Korea’s national statistics office, Statistics Korea, said in its annual report today in Seoul. North Korea does not report economic data. Inter-Korean trade amounted to about $1.71 billion in the same year.

Excluding a dip in 2009, trade between the two countries has increased every year since the start of 2000, when the statistics bureau started releasing estimates. Data for 2012 will be released around the end of next year.

North Korea’s economy expanded 0.8 percent in 2011 and gross national income per capita was 1.33 million won ($1,239), nearly one nineteenth that of South Korea’s 25 million won, according to the Bank of Korea. South Korea’s total nominal gross national income was 38.2 times that of the North’s 32.44 trillion won.

The regime imported 3.8 million barrels of crude oil for 2011. Power generation capacity was 6.9 million kilowatts, less than one-10th that of South Korea. Steel production was 1.23 million tons and production of chemical fertilizer production was 471,000 tons.

North Korea’s population rose to 24.3 million in 2011 from 24.2 million the previous year — about half of South Korea’s. Population estimates were based on North Korea’s 1993 and 2008 censuses.

The Los Angeles Times also reported on these findings.

Here is coverage in Business Insider.

The Statistics Korea page for North Korea can be found here.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s 2011 China Trade Grew More Than 60 Percent
Bloomberg
Sangwon Yoon
2013-1-2

Share

North Korea Lauds Its Economic Achievements One Year After Kim Jong Il’s Death

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2012-12-14

In preparation for the first anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s death, North Korea is calling attention to its economic achievements.

North Korean media announced that workers in each production sector met the goals of this year to commemorate the death of Kim Jong Il.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on December 7, “To honor the oath of bloody tears made before our Dear Leader Kim Jong Il, with burning hopes to charge ahead to meet the annual People’s Economic Plan, industrial production output reached 100 percent and production of daily necessities reached 113.7 percent, as of December 5.”Specifically, the machinery industrial sector was said to have reached its annual production goal by 107 percent as of the end of November.

Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), also mentioned that a product exhibition was held from December 3rd to 6th in the Pyongyang Department Store No. 1.

In addition, KCNA reported that many hydroelectric power plants across the nation have already exceeded the annual electricity production plan. The KCNA claimed that Sodusu power plant exceeded the annual goal by 120.3 percent, while the Hochon River power plant and Jangjin River power plant reached 107.6 and 109.3 percent, respectively.

North Korean media boasted its economic development and spoke of its economic revitalization strategy. In the KCNA commentary: “We have developed our own economic revitalization strategies for economic development and devotion for this goal is deepening with time.”

North Korea’s recent announcement and actual launch of the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite is also claimed to be an essential process for North Korea’s economic development.

“Unha-3rocket carryingthe satellite Kwangmyongsong-3, was developed by North Korean scientists and engineers by its own technology, and it is a noble achievement for its scientific and technical advancement to realize the goal of economic revival,” stated Choson Sinbo, a Japan-based pro-North Korean newspaper.

Analysts see North Korea’s recent moves (that is, its stressing of economic achievements and the rocket/satellite launch) as Pyongyang’s effort to emphasize the Kim Jong Un regime’s intent to uphold the teachings of the late leader Kim Jong Il through strengthening the economy.

The year 2012 was propagated by North Korea to be the first year of its kangsong taeguk (“strong and prosperous nation”). North Korea is trying to prove to its people that, despite Kim Jong Il’s death, this effort is still continuing under the Kim Jong Un leadership.

In the December 7th article of the KCNA, annual evaluation was made of the various economic achievements. The article called the past year “a historical miracle of a new era,” and “first year of new centennial of juche.” It also stated that a “new historical miracle was created to mark the new era of strong Korea (Chosun) upholding the great teachings of General Kim Jong Il.”

The KCNA mentioned the ‘Day of the Sun’ celebrations and other various celebrations, WPK conference, Kim Jong Un’s onsite visits to military bases, completion of the Huichon Power Station, Pyongyang city park construction, and Moranbong band performances as major achievements of the year.

In addition, the new 12-year compulsory education policy, outstanding performance by North Korean athletes at the 2012 London Olympics (i.e., four gold and one bronze medal), and the commissioning of the new State Culture and SportsGuidance Commission were also mentioned as main accomplishments of the year.

Share

Cabinet meeting discusses economic performance

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

UPDATE (2012-11-1): The Institute for Far Eastern Studies issues a summary of the Cabinet meeting:

North Korean Cabinet Standing Committee Meeting Held, Results for Third Quarter People’s Economy Announced

North Korea announced the results of the people’s economy plan for the third quarter and named construction as its major accomplishment. In particular, many monumental edifices of the Songun era were built and recognized to have strengthened the material and technical foundation of its national economy.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on October 22 that such economy achievement was reported at the extended meeting for the Cabinet Standing Committee.

According to the KCNA, evaluation of the major sectors of people’s economy was made at the Cabinet meeting, commending the construction of thousands of new factories and companies.

In particular, construction of various new buildings were introduced including the new National Gift Hall, along with Pyongyang Folk Village, Rungna People’s Pleasure Ground, Rungna Dolphinarium, Sunrise Restaurant, and other modern cultural and service facilities. In addition, new buildings were built in campuses of Kim Hyong Jik University of Education and Koryo Songgyungwan University as well as other monumental edifices and major light industry factories. Such constructions are attributed to the improvement of consumer goods production and accredited to be advancing the modernization of people’s economy.

Additionally at the meeting, power and coal production was reported to have improved and production for major industrial products such as air compressors, transformers, jack hammers, coal wagons, power cables, cement and salt were also specified to have increased, contributing to the development of local industries.

Specific cases from Changsong County and Hoeryong City were presented to emphasize the improvement of local industries. The industrial production volume was claimed to have exceeded by 107 percent for the local industrial development plan for the quarter and adding strength to the modernization process for the local industries.

In the agricultural sector, considerable damage was reported for the third quarter as the North experienced floods and typhoon but asserted repair efforts for the damages took place appropriately.

The national budget income plan for the third quarter was recorded at 109.6 percent while local budget income plan was explained to have exceeded by 113.4 percent.

Following the meeting, major tasks for the economy for the fourth quarter were discussed. They included elevating the cities and counties to serve as regional bases, early response system to repair damages caused by natural disasters, and preparation to promptly carry out the 12-year compulsory education plan.

The law for the 12-year compulsory general education was recently adopted by the cabinet at the Supreme People’s Assembly meeting on September 25.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-10-22): The world was watching the most recent Supreme Peoples’ Assembly meeting for announcements of changes to the DPRK’s economic policies. However, little of substance was publicly announced.

According to Yonhap, the DPRK also held a recent cabinet meeting–date unknown. A cabinet meeting is where we would expect more serious deliberation of economic policies taking place. According to the article, however, the meeting featured rather standard agenda items (as best I can tell):

North Korea has held a cabinet meeting to discuss the country’s economic issues, a Chinese state media said Monday, as the communist regime reportedly makes efforts to reform its sickly economy.

The People’s Daily reported on its Chinese-language Web site that North Korea’s cabinet members recently gathered to review the country’s third-quarter economic performance and discuss targets to be achieved in the fourth quarter.

The meeting was presided over by North Korean Prime Minister Choi Yong-rim, the report said, citing the cabinet’s mouthpiece “Democratic (North) Korea”.

The report did not disclose when the meeting was held.

In the third quarter, North Korea saw a substantial increase on-year in its output of electricity and coal, the report said.

It also boosted production of air compressors, transformers, mining machines, wire, cement and other industrial products in the July-September.

Accordingly, the local industry has achieved an output level 7 percent higher than its original plan, while local budget revenues were 13.4 percent higher than original estimates, the Chinese newspaper said.

The North Korean cabinet members shared the view that the fourth quarter will be an important period for the regime to achieve its annual economic target for this year.

In a bid to achieve this year’s target, the country will continue to focus on producing electricity and coal, the report said.

The cabinet also agreed to fully implement universal 12-year compulsory education, promulgated at the Supreme People’s Assembly last month.

Speculation has recently risen that the secretive regime will take legal steps to start economic reforms as new leader Kim Jong-un is seen to be seeking to consolidate his power partly through fixing the broken economy.

Last month, a seminar aimed at attracting foreign investment in North Korea was held in a Beijing hotel.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea holds cabinet meeting to discuss economy
Yonhap
Kim Young-gyo
2012-10-22

Share

Bank of Korea publishes 2011 DPRK economic estimates

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

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.

Share

Noland on the DPRK economy

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Marcus Noland writes for the East-West Centre:

With global attention focused on North Korea’s failed rocket launch today, it’s worth also taking a look at the other claim the Pyongyang regime has long made for the imminent April 15 birth centennial of its founding leader, Kim Il-sung: emergence into economic prosperity.

Originally, the regime had declared that the country would emerge as “a strong and prosperous nation” during this time, but with that aspiration far from attainment, the goal has been relaxed recently to marking the country’s “passage through the gate” to prosperity. In reality, the North Korean economy today is characterized by macroeconomic instability, widening inequality and growing corruption.

No one (including the North Korean government) knows with any true confidence the size or growth rate of the country’s economy, but the consensus among outside observers is that per capita income today is lower than it was 20 years ago, and by some reckonings is only now re-attaining the level it first achieved in the 1970s.

Price data indicate that since a disastrous currency reform in November 2009, inflation, including for basic goods such as rice and coal, has been running at well over 100 percent a year. The black market value of the currency has been falling at a similar rate, meaning that those with access to foreign exchange are insulated from the ravages of inflation while those reliant on the local currency have seen their buying power dwindle. Unlike in the past, when grain prices fell after the harvest – sometimes by quite substantial amounts – prices have continued to rise this year. Analyses by both the U.S. government and international groups indicate that there is not enough food to go around, and some families are going without.

Help was supposed to be on the way in the form of a resumption of U.S. aid, but the unraveling of the “Leap Day” food-for-weapons deal in the wake of North Korea’s announcement of its rocket launch means that conditions for the North’s chronically food-insecure population may not improve.

This picture stands in sharp contrast to numerous anecdotal reports of improved living standards, abundant cell phones, and even traffic jams in Pyongyang, though it is consistent with the less numerous reports of grim conditions in provincial cities. My colleague Stephan Haggard has dubbed this phenomenon “Pyongyang illusion” and believes that it may well go beyond typically observed urban- or capital-bias in governance, and represents an attempt by an insecure regime to forestall any Tahrir Square type activity in the capital city.

Macroeconomic imbalances and shortages have exacerbated the country’s problems with corruption, already assessed by Transparency International as the worst in the world. The situation not only represents a drag on growth, but could impair the regime’s capacity to govern, as the parochial interests of corrupt officials diverge from the policy preferences of Pyongyang. In the wake of the December death of leader Kim Jong-il, the state has responded with heightened control measures, including purging the security units who were supposed to pursue corrupt officials but who had evidently themselves been corrupted. But there are limits to the effectiveness of repression when the underlying problems remain unresolved.

In short, the country is beset with macro instability, deepening inequality, rising corruption, and a political leadership that appears to lack the vision or capacity to respond. Some current policies have allegedly been ascribed to Kim Jong-il’s “dying wish,” and it would not be surprising if the regime uses this rationale for some time. But at some point Kim Jong-un and the new leadership will have to take ownership of policy. That transition could well begin on the centennial of his revered grandfather’s birth.

Read the full article here:
Behind North Korea’s rocket launch, economic turmoil
East-West Centre
Marcus Noland
2012-4-12

Share