DPRK economic statistics roundup

Reuters published a short article stating many of the DPRK’s economic statistics.  Most of these can already be found on this site, but in terms of a quick update, this is not bad.  The author even acknowledges the wide disparity of the DPRK’s national and per capita income estimates, which is something most articles on these topics fail to address:


Annual gross domestic product in 2007 was just over $20 billion, a fall of 2.3 percent from the previous year due to the effects of widespread flooding, according to South Korea’s central bank. However, a report commissioned by a former South Korean unification minister estimated it was less than half that.


Estimates of per capita income range from $400 to $1,000. Whichever figure is true, the population of around 23 million is one of the world’s most destitute. That compares to around $20,000 in capitalist South Korea, once the poorer of the two halves of the Korean peninsula. North Korea’s economy has declined over the past two decades.


North Korea’s state doctrine preaches self-reliance. But for years it has been unable to produce enough food for its people and relies heavily on foreign aid. Even in good harvests, it produces about 20 percent less than it needs. An estimated 1 million North Koreans perished during famine in the 1990s.

Last month, the U.N. World Food Programme estimated that North Korea would need some $500 million in food aid over the next year to avoid a humanitarian crisis.


Constantly running a trade deficit, North Korea offers cheap labor mostly for relatively low-skilled manufacturing industries, such as textiles. Its chief attraction, especially to neighboring China, is its natural resources, especially coal and minerals.

Some sources, including the U.S. government, believe it bolsters its trade through the illicit exports of weaponry, drugs and counterfeit U.S. dollars.

Its biggest trade partner is China which, by one estimate, accounted for an estimated two-thirds of its total foreign trade last year. By contrast, in the first eight months of this year, Pyongyang accounted for just 0.12 percent of China’s total foreign trade.

Of China’s imports from the North, close to 60 percent were coal and minerals such as iron ore, zinc, lead, molybdenum and precious metals.

South Korea is Pyongyang’s other main trade partner. The two operate an industrial park on the northern side of the border where manufacturers from the South use cheap local labor.

The full article can be found hrere:
FACTBOX: Some facts about the North Korean economy
Jonathan Thatcher


Comments are closed.