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North Korea’s economy grows despite sanctions

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Last Updated: Aug 10, 2016

South Korea’s central bank data showed on Friday that North Korea’s economy rose last year thought at a slower rate compared to the previous year. This happened even as the UN toughened sanctions for its nuclear and missile programmes.

North Korea has conducted several long range missile and nuclear tests.

North Korea faces heavy sanctions under the United Nations resolutions for its missile and nuclear tests dating back to 2006. Its ties with South Korea have also been affected after Seoul suspended most commercial projects and aid since 2010.

The UN Security Council’s sanctions on North Korea target the country’s missile and nuclear programmes. They are also an attempt to punish North Korea for its non-inclusive form of leadership through a ban on the export of luxury goods to the country.

China helped the United States draft the sanctions resolution in what experts see as a sign of Beijing running out of patience with Pyongyang’s defiant behaviour on the nuclear issue. This action by China, the North Korea’s long time benefactor, also reflects how North Korea is progressively being isolated by the international community.

The North Korea’s economic data is obtained from South Korea because it does not usually release any economic data. The only official government entity that provides estimates about the economic performance of North Korea is the Bank of Korea across the border.

Even though there was expanded output in North Korea, its trade and economy was just a fraction of South Korea, with a continued reliance on China, its main benefactor.

The lower rate of growth also weakened a high-profile policy of leader Kim Jong Un which was meant to bring prosperity and higher standard of living for its people with a huge construction drive.

The secretive state’s GDP rose by 1.1 percent in 2013, compared to an annual 1.3 percent incline in 2012. This was led by agricultural growth as a result of favorable weather conditions last year, the Bank of Korea said.

Generally, all major sectors in North Korea posted positive growth in 2013 on-year with the exception of the construction industry. The Bank of Korea said that even though there was some growth in residential construction, it was offset by the drop in road pavement projects.

The industrial production sector grew 1.5 percent, slightly at a higher rate than a 1.3 percent growth posted the previous year. This sector has the heaviest share in North Korea’s Gross Domestic Product index.

Trade in North Korea in 2013 stood at a record high of $7.3 billion worth. Importing accounted for $4.1 billion while exporting $3.2 billion. A central bank official said North Korea’s last year trade with China accounted for 89.1 percent of total trade. This shows the close ties the two contries have.

Farm production in North Korea grew 1.9 percent on an annual basis in 2013, slowing down for a second consecutive year.

These figures are dwarfed in comparison to those of South Korea. South Korea’s trade stood at $1.1 trillion in 2013; exporting was $559.6 billion worth.

On an annual basis, North Korea’s exports jumped 11.7 percent, while trade went up by 7.8 percent in 2013.

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