Bank of Korea releases 2008 DPRK economic stats

North Korea doesn’t release official economic data.  Since 1991, the South Korean central bank has released its own estimates of the North Korean economy to fill the void.  Its figures are derived from information provided by the ROK’s National Intelligence Service and other sources.  The 2008 statistics can be downloaded here.

According to coverage by the Associated Press:

The North’s gross domestic product for last year was estimated at $24.7 billion, a 3.7% increase from 2007, Seoul’s Bank of Korea said in a news release. The impoverished North’s economy shrank 2.3% in 2007 and 1.1% in 2006.

The central bank said the North’s economic growth was mainly because of “temporary factors” such as favorable weather conditions that resulted in an increase in agricultural production, and the arrival of oil shipments under an international disarmament deal on its nuclear program.

The size of North Korea’s economy, however, was still about 2.6% of South Korea’s, the bank said, adding it was “difficult” to determine whether last year’s growth means the country’s internal economic conditions have improved.

The bank said the North’s agricultural production increased 10.9% last year compared with 2007. The production of coal, iron ore and other minerals expanded 2.3% and the manufacturing industry 2.5%.

…and BBC coverage:

Agricultural production rose nearly 11% in 2008 compared with 2007. And coal, iron ore and other mineral production grew 2.3% for the year.

UPDATE from Business Week:

The surprise underscores the tiny size of the North Korean economy, which could be easily swayed by such factors as weather and outside assistance. Just over two-thirds of the 3.7% growth came from the agricultural sector, and that is heavily dictated by weather. North Korea’s agricultural output increased by 10.9% in 2008 after falling by 12.1% in the previous year as it managed to escape from major floods and drought. Its 2008 manufacturing production also grew by 2.5%, compared with a gain of a mere 0.8% in 2007, thanks to heavy oil supplies by the U.S. and its allies as a result of Pyongyang’s agreement last year to begin dismantling its nuclear facilities.

Even as hope builds in South Korea about a recovery, with the U.S. and China showing signs of revival, prospects for North Korea’s economy are looking grimmer. North Korea’s nuclear test in May and the regime’s missile tests this year have led to an end to outside help and economic sanctions by the U.N. This heralds a poor performance in the manufacturing sector, which will almost certainly face an acute shortage of oil and electricity this year.

Pyongyang can’t count on the agricultural industry for any major contribution to economic growth in 2009, either. Even if North Korea manages to maintain the 2008 grain output of 4.3 million tons, which will be difficult to achieve unless last year’s exceptionally good weather is repeated, it won’t help the economy grow as it starts from a high base.

Those factors make North Korea’s economic growth last year an anomaly. “There’s no indication that North Korea’s growth engine has improved in any fundamental way,” says Bank of Korea economist Shin Seung Cheol. Even with last year’s extraordinary growth, North Korea’s gross domestic product was 1/38 of South Korea’s $935 billion and its trade volume was 1/224 of the South’s $857.3 billion in 2008. As long as North Korea’s reclusive leader Kim Jong Il refuses to open up his country, the gap is bound to keep expanding.

I have collected the most commonly referenced North Korean economic statistics here.

Read more here:
South Korea’s Central Bank Says North’s Economy Grew in 2008
Associated Press

North Korea’s GDP Growth Better Than South Korea’s
Business Week
Moon Ihlwan


One Response to “Bank of Korea releases 2008 DPRK economic stats”

  1. North Korea lover says:

    As reported in the press last year, even these low GDP figures for North Korea were criticized as too high since they put the DPRK slightly above Vietnam in terms of nominal GDP per capita, which seems unrealistic considerering reported living conditions in North Korea (widespread famine) and Vietnam (no famine). Are the DPRK’s weapons industry and aid receipts sufficient to explain the difference?