Despite tough UN sanctions, N. Korean economy grew 3.9 percent last year

by WorldTribune Staff, July 21, 2017

Sparked by its mining industry, North Korea’s economy grew by 3.9 percent in 2016, marking the highest growth for the isolated communist nation since 1999, according to South Korea’s central bank.

North Korea’s mining industry grew 8.4 percent last year.

China accounts for nearly 90 percent of North Korea’s foreign trade, and mineral resources are a key part of their bilateral trade.

The growth, which occurred amid what were called tough UN sanctions over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, represents a sharp turnaround from 2015 when the economy shrank by 1.1 percent due mainly to a drought, according to the Bank of Korea (BOK).

Daniel Pinkston, a Korea analyst at Troy University in Seoul, said while there seems to be some improvement in North Korea’s economy, it is always hard to trust the figures.

As North Korea does not release its official economic data, South Korea since 1991 has been estimating Pyongyang’s annual economic performance based on information provided by South Korea’s spy agency and other relevant organizations, Yonhap reported on July 21.

The central bank said North Korea’s mining industry grew 8.4 percent last year, the highest since 1999 when it expanded 14.2 percent.

While the UN sanctions call for, among other things, a ban on the country’s exports of coal and other mineral resources to cut off North Korea’s access to hard currency, they do not apply if transactions are determined to be exclusively for livelihood purposes and unrelated to generating revenue for North Korea’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs or other activities prohibited by previous UN resolutions.

During the late Kim Jong-Il’s 17-year rule, the North’s economy grew just 0.2 percent on average.

The BOK said that South Korea’s per-capita gross national income (GNI) is 22 times larger than the North’s.

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