Advertisement

North Korea experiencing income inequality, high unemployment, analyst says

North Koreans may be experiencing higher rates of joblessness than has been officially reported.

By
Elizabeth Shim
A North Korean guard tower, next to dilapidated houses, guards the border near the North Korean city Sinuiju, across the Yalu River from Dandong, China. Nearly all North Korean households engage in private production, according to recent South Korean research. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
A North Korean guard tower, next to dilapidated houses, guards the border near the North Korean city Sinuiju, across the Yalu River from Dandong, China. Nearly all North Korean households engage in private production, according to recent South Korean research. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Income inequality is soaring in North Korea, and the country's wealthiest live in Pyongyang, where the per capita income is about $2,700 a year.

Other economic data from South Korean think tank Korea Development Institute points out North Korea may be experiencing a much higher rate of unemployment than Pyongyang reported to the U.N., Yonhap reported.

Advertisement

But North Koreans who reside in Pyongyang fare far better than their fellow citizens in the provinces, according to KDI's research fellow Lee Seok.

Pyongyang city's $2,700 GDP per capita is about three times the size of incomes in most other regions, and all measures of income were calculated based on data from 2008, when North Korea permitted researchers from the United Nations Population Fund to collect census data.

RELATED Obama to dismantle defunct registry of Arab, Muslim men

North Korea's GDP per capita is estimated to be between $948 and $1,361 in purchasing power parity terms.

The estimated income level indicates North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world, the KDI report states.

One of the causes of poverty could be a much higher than reported unemployment.

RELATED North Korea accuses Seoul of inciting defections

According to Lee, the rate of unemployment among North Koreans seeking work could range between 25-56 percent, much higher than North Koreans told U.N. researchers in 2008, Voice of America reported Thursday.

Advertisement

A census taken at the time reported 88 percent of North Koreans between the ages of 20 and 59 were employed, and that the number was higher, or 97 percent, for men between the ages of 30 and 59.

Lee's analysis also pointed out North Koreans are engaging in much more privatized activities, including household food production, rather than relying on the state planning system for resources.

RELATED Japan considers record military spending in 2017 in response to growing threats

Other findings show nearly half of North Korean households use firewood for fuel while the other half use coal. Sources of energy like natural gas, fossil fuels and electric power were rarely used, according to the report.

Latest Headlines