North Korea's feeble economy continued to grow last year, propped up by trade with China and an expansion of its agricultural sector. But the pace of growth in the pariah state is still slow compared to most countries.
Reclusive North Korea has logged economic growth for the third year in a row, despite tough sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs and a halt to most commercial projects with its southern neighbor, South Korea's central bank said Friday.
Although North Korea does not release its own economic figures, South Korea compiles the data once a year based on information from the country's intelligence services and private experts.
North Korea's growth was driven primarily by gains in agriculture and mining and trade with China, which absorbs nearly 90 percent of the North's exports.
The total combined value of North Korea's exports and imports stood at an all-time high of $7.34 billion (5.4 billion euros) since records were first kept in 1990, the Bank of Korea said. By contrast, South Korea's total trade stood at $1.1 trillion (808 billion euros) - about 150 times that of the North.
South dwarfs North in numbers
South Korea's central bank estimated that North Korea's 25 million people generated a gross domestic product of $33.3 billion, a rise of 1.1 percent over 2012.
According to the CIA World Factbook, the North's per capita GDP is about $1,800 (1,320 euros) in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP). South Korea's 49 million people, on the other hand, generate a GDP of $1,667 billion (1,224 billion euros), or $33,200 (24,400 euros) per person in PPP - about 18.4 times as much as those in the North.
In 2013, every major sector in North Korea's economy except construction expanded, even though the pariah state is beset by shortages of electricity and raw materials and blocked from international credit markets.
While the number of residential building projects had increased, those gains were offset by a slip in road pavement projects, the South's central bank said.
Agricultural and fishery industries grew 1.9 percent on the year. The country's mining sector - which has found a willing buyer of its mineral resources in Beijing - was up 2.1 percent. Manufacturing and service industries expanded by 1.1 percent and 0.3 percent respectively.
North Korea's authoritarian leader, Kim Jong Un, has made bold assurances to his impoverished countrymen that he will kickstart an age of prosperity and higher living standards through a massive construction drive.
cjc/nz (Reuters, AFP)