DPRK population estimated at 24.7 million

July 13th, 2013

It appears the US Central Intelligence Agency has updated its “World Fact Book” data on North Korea (right after the Bank of Korea published their data on the North Korean economy).

According to Yonhap (via Global Post):

North Korea has a population of 24.72 million as of this month, a media report based on data provided by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) showed Saturday.

The numbers released by Radio Free Asia named the communist country as the 49th most populous country in the world among 239 states checked.

It showed that 43.8 percent of the North’s total population was between 25 to 54 years of age, with those under 14 making up 21.7 percent. The CIA report added that those between the age of 15 to 24 accounted for 16 percent of the all people in the country with those over 65 making up 9.5 percent.

The report said the North’s population grew 0.53 percent on-year and that the rate of increase is generally slower than the other countries it checked. It added the country’s birth rate was below average, although the life expectancy of a North Korean reached 69.5 years, up from 69.2 years in 2012. The average life expectancy of a North Korean man stood at 65.6 years, while corresponding numbers for women hit 73.5 years.

Compared to the average life expectancy of people living in South Korea, which stands at 79.5 this year, a North Korean can expect to live 10 years less than a person living in the South.

The findings by the intelligence agency, meanwhile, counted 300,000 more people than figures provided by the Bank of Korea that estimated the North’s population at 24.42 million.

Pyongyang’s official census released last December showed the population standing at 24.05 million as of 2008.

Here is coverage in the Daily NK:

North Korea’s total population as of this month was 24,720,000, according to the CIA, which publishes regular country studies. The figure ranks the North Korean population 49th out of a global total of 239 states. In December last year, the “2012 Chosun Central Yearbook” cited a population of 24,052,000, a figure that it said was correct as of 2008.

43.8% of the current total population falls into the 25-54 age group, the CIA report notes. The 0-14 age group contains 21.7% of the total, while the 15-24 demographic incorporates 16%. According to the CIA, the North Korean population has risen 0.53% over the last year. This population growth rate ranks North Korea at 148th overall, and its relatively low birth rate puts it at 137th.

The life expectancy of a North Korean citizen grew 0.3 years to 69.5 years over the last year, up from last year’s 69.2 years, indicating a trend of steady upward growth. The life expectancy for North Korean males is now 65.6 years, and females 73.5 years. Compared with 2010, the life expectancy of a male has risen by four years, and six for a female. In comparison, a South Korean male born in 2011 could be expected to live for 77 years, and a female 84 years.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea population estimated at 24.7 mln: report
Yonhap (via Global Post)
2013-7-13

North Korean Population and Life Expectancy Rising
Daily NK
Park Seong Guk
2013-7-15

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Bank of Korea publishes DPRK economic statistics

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

 

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Report: Korean Workers’ Party sets up Economy Department

July 12th, 2013

According to Radio Free Asia:

The party has created a centralized department with branches throughout the nation to formulate and oversee policies ranging from appointment of top economic officials to approval of companies and implementation of foreign exchange controls, a source from Jagang province, near the border with China, told RFA’s Korean Service.

The Party’s Department of Economy was set up last month.

“From last June, each [Party] committee in the provinces and cities established a [a branch of the] Department of Economy,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

“It will further strengthen the control and management of the Party,” he said.

The move by the Workers’ Party Central Committee was part of a shakeup within the Party and led to several branches of existing departments being transferred to the Department of Economy, he said.

A source in Yanggang province, also along the Chinese border, told RFA that the newly-formed department would wield as much power as the Department of Organization Management, which oversees the entire Workers’ Party.

“From now on, all officials in charge of economic matters have to be approved by the Department of Economy, while all companies also require approval from the department when they are established, shut down, or merged,” the Yanggang source said.

The Department of Economy also has the power to punish and appoint officials in charge of economic matters, he said, adding that he expects it to become “the strongest department in the Party.”

Even if the North Korean military, judicial agencies, and the Cabinet—or executive branch of the government—seek to establish new units for earning foreign currency or production, they are required to obtain permission in advance from the department, he said.

“Establishing the Department of Economy is related to the so-called ‘reformed economic management system,” the source in Yanggang province said, referring to a new policy announced in June last year which grants individuals greater authority in the distribution of goods.

“It means the Party never wants to lose its control over the economy, even though the ‘reformed system’ takes place everywhere,” he added.

The source said that the lack of central control had led to situations in which bogus companies and organizations were running businesses and generating foreign currency revenue without reporting them, creating a need for the Party to more efficiently oversee these groups.

For example, he said, several companies and restaurants which were established under the guise of being welfare organizations to feed and clothe the poor are really generating foreign currency for the North Korean Cabinet.

But he noted that even as the Department of Economy sought to rein in these businesses, it would inevitably generate conflict within the Party as it grew in power, leading different factions to jockey for control.

“[Some of] the functions of [the Party’s] Department of the Executives and Department of Organization Management were already taken away by the Department of Economy, and also the Department of Administration has seen interference from the department as well,” the source said.

“In the future, the scope of Department of Economy’s activity will surely conflict with other departments of the Workers’ Party.”

Read the full story here:
North Korea’s Workers’ Party Takes Economic Control
Radio Free Asia
Sung Hui Moon
2013-7-12

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North Korea attempting to revive the food ration system

July 11th, 2013

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2013-7-11

North Korea is attempting to restart its halted food distribution system. In March, military food provisions were released to the public and food distribution is reported to have resumed on a biweekly basis. The provision of food rations for more than three consecutive months is a rare occurrence.

A North Korean defector organization in South Korea, NK Intellectuals Solidarity, released the following information in their information briefing session: “From June 1, it was confirmed that residents in border cities and towns received food distribution every 15 days, about 470 grams per person a day.”

The foods distributed were mainly from Warehouse No. 2, stockpiled as military food provisions. It is unclear how long the food distribution will last but North Korea appears to be straining itself to revive the food distribution system in order to resolve the food shortage problem.

According to Radio Free Asia, the North Korean government has begun to reissue food stamps, with residents in North Hamgyong Province having confirmed recently the receipt of such stamps.

North Korean economic policy has focused mainly on the agricultural sector and food supply. There appears to be gradual improvement. The price of 1 kg of rice in January was about 6,600 KPW in Pyongyang and by June it dropped to 5,000 KPW. The price of rice is reported to have dropped in other cities such as Sinuiju and Haesan by as much as 1,000 KPW.

However, a South Korean official commented that the food distribution is not equal nationwide, as some regions are left without food rations. He added, “Unless North Korea is able to secure sufficient supply of food, it will be difficult to revive the food distribution system of the past.”

Meanwhile, some have testified that North Korea is leasing farm lands to urban workers in cooperative farms as a means to resolve the food crisis.

Citing an unnamed source in North Korea, NK Intellectuals Solidarity stated that “state-owned collective farm lands are being leased to city workers,” explaining this as a measure to overcome the current food situation as work in factories in the cities also has declined.

NK Intellectuals Solidarity explained that farm lands are being leased on an annual basis and workers in various state factories and enterprises are receiving about 250 pyong (826.4 square meters) of land per employee.

Employees must allocate a portion of their harvest to the state (100g of corn and 50g of beans per pyong (3.3 square meters) and the total yield of harvest will be counted as the total production output of the farm. The expectation is that this method of leasing land of cooperative farms will resolve the food shortages in the cities and improve the food supply of the entire nation.

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China keeps fishing boats out of North Korean waters

July 8th, 2013

According to Bloomberg:

China banned its fishing fleet from working in waters off North Korea’s east coast after the totalitarian regime demanded Chinese vessels buy fuel from North Korean suppliers.

The North decreed late last month that Chinese ships, which previously made their own fueling arrangements, had to abide by the rule, China’s Agriculture Ministry said in a June 28 announcement that was posted to its website today.

“Fishing boat owners and and businesses believe that the North Korean decision will have a serious effect on production and operations and job security, causing huge potential risks,” the ministry said.

The statement reflected Chinese concerns after North Korea seized a Chinese fishing boat and its crew on May 5 and demanded a 600,000 yuan ($97,800) ransom. The ship and crew were freed later in May after Chinese diplomats negotiated their release, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Here is coverage in The Guardian.

Read the full story here:
China Bans Its Fishing Fleet From Waters Off Eastern North Korea
Bloomberg
2013-7-8

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North Korea expanding cooperation with Mongolia in IT, distribution, and livestock industries

July 5th, 2013

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2013-7-5

Economic cooperation between North Korea and Mongolia is increasing. In July 2013 alone, Mongolian authorities made two trips to North Korea, actively displaying exchanges between the two states. According to North Korean media, on July 3, 2013 a Mongolian delegation representing information and technology, postal, and communication industries signed an agreement with North Korea to promote exchanges and cooperation in the IT sector.

On July 15, Lundeg Purevsuren, national security and foreign policy advisor to the Mongolian president, and Avia Baatarhuyag, director general of the Mongolian News Agency, visited North Korea. Last month, Mongolian oil trading and refining company HB Oil JSC acquired a 20 percent stake in the North Korean state-run entity operating North Korea’s Sungri Refinery, representing the first purchase by a Mongolian-listed company of a foreign asset.

In particular, one of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s focal projects is the development of the Sepho tableland (in Gangwon Province) into a large-scale stockbreeding base. North Korea is reportedly cooperating with Mongolian experts in the livestock industry in this regard.

North Korea and Mongolia are strengthening economic cooperation as national interests of the two states overlap in many areas. As Mongolia is a landlocked country, Ulaanbaatar wants to take advantage of North Korea’s Rajin Port as a conduit to export Mongolia’s natural resources to foreign countries since access to the East Sea via use of the port can significantly reduce transportation costs.

In November 2012, when North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly Chairman Choe Tae Bok visited Ulaanbaatar, Chairman of the Mongolian Parliament Zandaakhuu Enkhbold expressed interest in cooperating with North Korea in trade, IT, and people-to-people exchanges and affirmed Mongolia’s interest in use of the harbor. In response, Chairman Choe also conveyed North Korea’s interest in leasing the harbor, as well as in cooperating with Mongolia in the coal and mining industries. North Korea is promoting the development of Rajin Port as an international harbor to attract foreign investment, including Mongolian investment.

In addition, as a means of earning foreign currency, North Korea sends a large number of workers to Mongolia to work at construction sites. Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on July 3 that there were 1,749 North Korean workers dispatched to Mongolia as of April — the second largest group of foreign laborers in Mongolia (second only to the Chinese at 5,976 workers), which has a total of 12,064 workers from 103 countries.

North Korea and Mongolia established diplomatic relations in 1948. Pyongyang closed its embassy in Ulaanbaatar in August 1999 for economic reasons, but re-opened it in August 2004.

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Kim Jong-un’s activities for the first half of 2013

July 5th, 2013

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2013-7-5

Compared to last year, the activities of Kim Jong Un for the first half of 2013 revealed that he took part in more public activities with working groups rather than senior officials.

According to the ROK Ministry of Unification (MOU), Kim Jong Un has made 95 public appearances, which is an increase of 117 percent compared to the previous year of 81 public activities.

In particular, Kim took part in military related activities the most (29 times) as the U.S. and South Korea held joint military exercises (Key Resolve and Foal Eagle) in the earlier part of this year. His other public activities were economic related (28 times), social and cultural (18 times), political (14 times), and attendance at various performances (8 times).

However, starting from April 1, Chairman Kim’s military-related activities from first quarter to second quarter decreased from 50 to 15 percent while his economy-related activities increased from 10 to 50 percent.

Furthermore, economy-related activities this year entailed visitations to production units in machinery factories, cooperative farms, and business enterprises and complexes. The previous year saw mainly entertainment-related activities.

Compared to his father Kim Jong Il, on his onsite inspections Kim Jong Un was accompanied by an entourage consisting of proportionally more working-level officials rather than senior officials. While his first year inspections were accompanied by senior officials, the group accompanying Kim Jong Un are younger and experienced officials in the field. In particular, Choe Hwi, first vice department director of the Korean Workers’ Party Central Committee, is seen with Kim Jong Un the most. Choe Hwi is a graduate of Kim Il Sung University and served as secretary of the Youth League and senior deputy director of the Korean Workers’ Party politburo.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Unification Ministry estimated the amount of rice reserve in North Korea remains the same as last year, although there is regional variation. Grain imports are at 75 percent against the previous year, and the food ration and situation range widely by region. The market price for 1 kg of rice is 5,000 KPW, which is valued at approximately 1.667 USD, or about 600 g per one USD or 8,000 KRW.

In addition, the MOU assesses that North Korea is making changes in its economic management under the name of “Our Method of Economic Management,” with relatively heavy focus on agriculture, light, and distribution industries. The North Korean leadership seems to recognize the importance of production output in the economic sector. However, it will be impossible to observe immediate results without improvements in raw materials, power, machines, and equipment.

On the other hand, the MOU analyzes that the North Korean leadership is placing more attention on the agricultural sector and improving production and supply of fertilizer since it shows an immediately visible result in the agricultural sector, especially to the North Korean residents. In this regard, the military is also increasingly emphasizing “self-reliance” and the need for “solving food issues on its own.”

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Foreign direct investment in DPRK up for 3rd year

July 4th, 2013

According to Yonhap (via Global Post):

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in North Korea has steadily increased over the past three years, but the investment amount still remains at one of lowest levels in the world, a news report said Thursday.

North Korea attracted US$79 million in FDI in 2012, up 41 percent from a year earlier, the Washington-based Voice of America said, citing an annual world investment report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

In 2009, a total of only $2 million flowed in to the North, but the number jumped to $38 million the next year, according to the report.

Despite the latest three-year growth, the amount marks one of lowest levels in the world and the majority of the FDI inflow represents investment from China, by far North Korea’s biggest ally, the report said.

A few countries in sub-Saharan Africa or small countries in the Oceania and the Caribbean logged FDI smaller than North Korea, the report noted.

As of the end of 2012, the total inflow of FDI to the North stood at $1.61 billion, it also said.

Although the article does not mention it, the information comes from the “World Investment Report: 2013” (PDF).  Some of the data comes from a table on page 214. The report was published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Lots of other economic statistics on my Economic Statistics Page.

Read the full story here:
Foreign direct investment in N. Korea gains for 3rd year
Yonhap (via Global Post)
2013-7-4

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More than 1,700 DPRK workers in Mongolia

July 3rd, 2013

According to Yonahp (via Global Post):

A total of 1,749 North Koreans are working in Mongolia with most of them employed in the construction sector, a news report said Wednesday.

The number of North Korean workers, tallied at the end of April, accounts for the second largest foreign workers’ group in the central Asian country, after the Chinese, the Washington-based Radio Free Asia said, citing Mongolia’s labor ministry. The figure represents North Koreans legally working in the country.

Chinese workers in Mongolia stood at 5,976 as of end-April, it said.

Given that most foreign workers in Mongolia are employed in the construction industry, the majority of the North Korean workers are presumed to also work in the sector, the report said.

A previous report by a Mongolian newspaper has quoted a North Korean laborer in the country as saying that an average North Korean worker receives US$600-700 in monthly wages there.

The report reflects the two countries’ recent efforts to tighten economic ties.

The Mongolian oil firm HBOil JSC announced last month that it has acquired a 20 percent stake in the North Korean oil refinery Sungri. Mongolia also expressed its hope to rent a North Korean seaport while Choe Thae-bok, the chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly, was visiting the country in November last year.

Read the full story here:
Yonhap News AgencyJuly 2, 2013 23:01
More than 1,700 N. Korean workers employed in Mongolia: report
Yonahp (via Global Post)
2013-7-3

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DPRK – China trade drops 2.3%

July 2nd, 2013

According to Yonhap:

Trade between North Korea and China contracted 2.3 percent on-year in the first five months of 2013 mainly due to Pyongyang importing less from its neighbor, a report showed Tuesday.

The report by the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) showed two-way trade at US$2.45 billion in the January-May period, with North Korea’s exports to China growing 6.5 percent on-year to $1.12 billion. The North’s imports from China, however, dropped 8.5 percent to $1.33 billion.

The trade association said the North shipped $613.6 million worth of coal, making it the top export commodity for the communist country, followed by such raw materials as iron and lead ores.

In exchange, the North bought $265 million worth of crude oil, a decrease of 5 percent from January-May of 2012. The country imported $52 million in large cargo-hauling vehicles, as well as flour and soybean oil from its neighbor.

KITA did not elaborate on the reason for the decrease in overall trade volume and the drop in crude oil imports from China.

Related to economic developments in the North, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a report that food conditions in the isolationist country remain one of the most precarious in all of Asia.

In its 2012-2013 food security report, which inspected 22 countries in the region, the North came in at the bottom with Afghanistan and Yemen.

The findings, which are used as reference material for food aid provisions by Washington, claimed that while the North was able to produce 7.5 million tons of grain annually up until the early 1990s, this has since plunged to around 4.3 million tons in 2012.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea-China trade drops 2.3 pct: report
Yonhap
2013-7-2

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