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Korea, North Economy

    Economy—overview: North Korea is the world's most centrally planned economy. Agricultural land is collectivized, state-owned industry produces nearly all manufactured goods, and heavy and military industries have long been developed at the expense of light and consumer industries. Open-air markets since 1995 have gained increasing importance in the distribution of food and consumer goods but private production remains extremely limited. Total economic output has fallen steadily since 1991—perhaps by as much as one-half—when the country's economic ties to the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc collapsed. The slide has also been fueled by serious energy shortages, aging industrial facilities, and a lack of maintenance and new investment. The leadership has tried to maintain a high level of military spending but the armed forces have nonetheless been affected by the general economic decline. Although North Korea has long depended on imports to meet food needs, serious fertilizer shortages in recent years have combined with structural constraints—such as a shortage of arable land and a short growing season—to reduce staple grain output to more than 1 million tons below what the country needs to meet even minimal demand. Widespread famine and disease have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of North Koreans in 1994-98. The US, China, the international community, and nongovernmental organizations have sent aid but the problems remain extremely serious.

    GDP: purchasing power parity—$21.8 billion (1998 est.)

    GDP—real growth rate: -5% (1998 est.)

    GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$1,000 (1998 est.)

    GDP—composition by sector:
    agriculture: 25%
    industry: 60%
    services: 15% (1995 est.)

    Population below poverty line: NA%

    Household income or consumption by percentage share:
    lowest 10%: NA%
    highest 10%: NA%

    Inflation rate (consumer prices): NA%

    Labor force: 9.615 million

    Labor force—by occupation: agricultural 36%, nonagricultural 64%

    Unemployment rate: NA%

    revenues: $19.3 billion
    expenditures: $19.3 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (1992 est.)

    Industries: military products; machine building, electric power, chemicals; mining (coal, iron ore, magnesite, graphite, copper, zinc, lead, and precious metals), metallurgy; textiles, food processing

    Industrial production growth rate: -7% to -9% (1992 est.)

    Electricity—production: 34 billion kWh (1996)

    Electricity—production by source:
    fossil fuel: 35.29%
    hydro: 64.71%
    nuclear: 0%
    other: 0% (1996)

    Electricity—consumption: 34 billion kWh (1996)

    Electricity—exports: 0 kWh (1996)

    Electricity—imports: 0 kWh (1996)

    Agriculture—products: rice, corn, potatoes, soybeans, pulses; cattle, pigs, pork, eggs

    Exports: $743 million (f.o.b., 1997 est.)

    Exports—commodities: minerals, metallurgical products, agricultural and fishery products, manufactures (including armaments)

    Exports—partners: Japan 28%, South Korea 21%, China 5%, Germany 4%, Russia 1% (1995)

    Imports: $1.83 billion (c.i.f., 1997 est.)

    Imports—commodities: petroleum, grain, coking coal, machinery and equipment, consumer goods

    Imports—partners: China 33%, Japan 17%, Russia 5%, South Korea 4%, Germany 3% (1995)

    Debt—external: $12 billion (1996 est.)

    Economic aid—recipient: $NA; note—an estimated $200 million to $300 million in humanitarian aid from US, South Korea, Japan, and EU in 1997

    Currency: 1 North Korean won (Wn) = 100 chon

    Exchange rates: official: North Korean won (Wn) per US$1—2.15 (May 1994), 2.13 (May 1992), 2.14 (September 1991), 2.1 (January 1990), 2.3 (December 1989); market: North Korean won (Wn) per US$1—200

    Fiscal year: calendar year

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Revised 1-Mar-99
Copyright © 1999 Photius Coutsoukis (all rights reserved)