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.