North Korea’s gross domestic product (GDP) dropped 3.5% last year. It is the most since it declined by 6.5% in 1997. The trouble poses a challenge to dictator Kim Jong-un, who oversees a nation in which millions of people live in poverty.
The data were released by the Bank of Korea. The largest drops were in mining, down 11% from 2016, and the heavy and chemical industries, off 10.4%.
North Korea’s trade activity also slipped badly:
The volume of North Korea’s external trade (sum of exports and imports of goods, excluding trade between North and South Korea) amounted to 5.55 billion dollars in 2017, a decrease of 15.0% from the 6.53 billion dollars during 2016.
Exports totaled 1.77 billion dollars, a decrease of 37.2% compared to the year before.
North Korea’s economy is very small and its poverty issue is big. The United Nations ranks the size of the North Korean economy at 113 in the world at $17.4 billion. Since the government does not release the figures, many question their accuracy.
In terms of the nations’ poverty, the CIA World Factbook’s experts report GDP per capita as $1,700, one of the lowest in the world. The life expectancy among its 25 million residents is only 70. North Korea has terrible food shortages that leave much of the population malnourished.
If Kim Jong-un has an internal problem, it is primarily that such a large portion of the population lives at the brink of starvation. This problem has spread to the military. According to The Daily Mail:
North Korean soldiers are being given months off to scrounge around fields in a desperate bid to find food, new reports from inside the reclusive state has revealed.
Pictures have emerged which appear to show soldiers looking through a corn field was published on Daily NK, a Seoul-based website which reveals what life is truly like in North Korea.
A source from the northern Ryanggang Province told the website: ‘The officers know better than anyone that they must feed their soldiers in order to maintain morale, and that rations of cornmeal with very few calories only serve to instill disillusionment among them.’
The government may be unable to protect itself from such a pervasive and severe problem forever.