North Korea Grew 1% in 2014 is South's Best Guess

But majority of North Koreans still lack food

North Korea's economy expanded 1 percent in 2014. At least, that's what South Korea's central bank thinks. 

Estimates like this are all that's available to assess the health of the secretive nation as it doesn't release economic data.

The central bank has access to data on the north's economy from South Korea's intelligence agency, including figures based on satellite photos, according to private researchers. The central bank says it uses "basic data compiled by related organizations'' without providing details. Still, limits exist, with the BOK using some South Korean data such as prices to substitute for unknown data. 

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of its support, the North's economy has stagnated, with an estimated 2 million people dying from famine in the 1990s. Per-capita income is now 1/21 of it's neighbor south of the 38th parallel, down from about one-fifth in 1990. 

Private economists have different estimates of the closed economy. Professor Kim Byung Yeon at Seoul National University, reckons North Korea's economy grew 3.58 percent in 2012 and 1.45 percent in 2013, both higher than the 1.3 percent and 1.1 percent estimates by the BOK.

Even with this growth, the situation is grim for North Korea's 25 million people, with a drought this year compounding food shortages. The United Nations says that approximately 70 percent of the population are considered food insecure, and are not able to access an adequate and diverse nutritious diet to live healthily, and it asked for $111 million in April this year to fund humanitarian operations.


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