Pyongyang’s economy up 3.9% in 2016: BOK

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Pyongyang’s economy up 3.9% in 2016: BOK

North Korea’s economy grew 3.9 percent last year, the fastest pace in more than a decade, South Korea’s central bank said Friday, despite tough U.N. sanctions over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

The estimated expansion of the gross domestic product (GDP) represents a sharp turnaround from 2015 when the economy of one of the world’s most isolated countries shrank 1.1 percent due mainly to a drought.

Last year’s growth is the highest since 1999 when North Korea’s economy expanded 6.1 percent, according to the Bank of Korea (BOK).

North Korea’s economy expanded 1.2 percent on average between 2012 and 2016, a sign that its economy is mired in low growth.

There have been no indications that the North’s economy has suddenly improved since late 2011 when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un took power after the sudden death of his father and long-time leader Kim Jong-il, an official said.

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

“North Korea’s economic structure is very fragile and is not really set up for high growth,” the official said, on the condition of anonymity.

The BOK estimated North Korea’s gross national income (GNI) to be at 36.4 trillion won ($32.4 billion) in 2016. South Korea’s per-capita GNI stood at 31.98 million won, which is 22.1 times larger than the North’s 1.46 million won.

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

North Korea’s trade volume came to $6.55 billion in 2016, up 4.7 percent from a year earlier, the BOK said. The increase came despite tightened U.N. sanctions imposed on North Korea over its repeated nuclear tests and its long-range rocket launches.

The 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.

Still, the provision will 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 UN resolutions.

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