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North Korea Likely Suffering Worst Downturn Since 1990s Famine

  • 2018 contraction may have been worst in decades, expert says
  • Sanctions hits Kim Jong Un as he restarts talks with Trump
Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang.

Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang.

Photographer: Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images

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How much are sanctions hurting Kim Jong Un? North Korea’s economy hasn’t been in such bad shape since his father was battling floods, droughts and a famine that some estimates say killed as much as 10% of the population.

The South Korean central bank’s annual report on its northern neighbor -- due for release later this month -- will provide a fresh look at the impact of U.S. President Donald Trump’s pressure campaign just as the two sides prepare to restart talks. While North Korea’s isolation, secrecy and dearth of official statistics make estimates difficult, the economy probably contracted more than 5% last year, according to Kim Byung-yeon, an economics professor at Seoul National University.