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North Korea's economy dwarfed by neighboring South, data show

North Korea's economy contracted in 2017 and 2018 before growing in 2019, a new report from South Korea's statistical agency said Monday. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
North Korea's economy contracted in 2017 and 2018 before growing in 2019, a new report from South Korea's statistical agency said Monday. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 28 (UPI) -- North Korea's gross domestic product is only a fraction of the South's, and the North Korean birth rate is relatively low compared with other developing countries, according to Seoul.

The National Statistical Office said in its new report on North Korean indicators North Korea's GDP is 1.8% of the South's, South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh reported Monday.

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The economic gap between North and South is also widening. North Korea's economy registered negative growth in 2017 and 2018 before recovering in 2019, the NSO's report said. In 2019, North Korea's estimated GDP was about $32.2 billion, or a fraction of the South's $1.75 trillion.

North Koreans continue to live in dire poverty. The country's gross national income per capita was $1,285. The South's was estimated to be $34,100 per capita, according to the report.

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Food has been reported as scarce in North Korea, but the country produces more rice, barley and other grains combined than the South, the NSO said. Crops including rice and barley are estimated to be 4.64 million tons, or 260,000 tons greater than in the South where grain production reached 4.38 million tons. North Korea rice production remained relatively low, however. The country's rice output is estimated to be about 60% of the South's in 2019.

North Korea's population has grown after a catastrophic famine in the '90s, but the nation is aging at a faster pace than most developing countries. The segment of the North Korean population that is 65 years or older was 9.9% in 2019, up from 8.8% in 2009, according to South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo on Monday.

South Korean analysts previously have said the birth rate is lower in North Korea compared with other developing countries.

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Choi Joon-ook, a senior research fellow at the Korea Institute of Public Finance in the South, said in a 2017 report North Korea deviates from the norm of higher birth rates among developing nations, according to the Chosun.

North Korea's mandatory military service for men and women's participation in informal markets could be the reason for lower birth rates, the report said.

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