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Economics

North Korea’s Economy Contracted Most in Two Decades in 2020

  • Economy shrank to smallest size since Kim Jong Un took power
  • Pandemic, sanctions drive plunge in total trade, falling 73.4%
People prepare to pay their respects to the statues of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il at Mansu Hill in Pyongyang, on July 7.

People prepare to pay their respects to the statues of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il at Mansu Hill in Pyongyang, on July 7.

Photographer: Kim Won Jin/AFP/Getty Images

North Korea’s economy in 2020 posted its sharpest drop since a deadly famine in the 1990s due to the coronavirus, natural disasters and international sanctions that have walloped Kim Jong Un’s already struggling state.

Gross domestic product contracted 4.5% in 2020 in the sharpest fall since 1997, according to estimates from South Korea’s central bank, which for years has provided the best available accounting of the economic activity of the secretive state.