October 15, 2018 11:15
North Korea on Friday claimed that its economy grew 3.7 percent last year. Ri Gi-song, a professor at North Korea's Institute of Economics at the Academy of Social Sciences, told Kyodo News that the North's GDP grew from US$296 billion in 2016 to $307 billion last year.
Ri added that North Korea's population also increased from 25.16 million to 25.29 million over the same period. That would mean North Korea's per-capita GDP is roughly the same as Myanmar's at $1,214.
But there is a vast gap between Ri's claim and the Bank of Korea's estimate that North Korea's GDP actually shrank 3.5 percent last year, the worst since 1997.
Ri did not elaborate on how he arrived at the figure and presented no data to back up his claim, saying only that the increase was the result of "various technologies" the North developed.
It is rare for North Korea to announce any economic figures, and the claim seems aimed at giving the impression that the North Korean economy is unscathed by international sanctions.
Ri admitted that North Korea "is suffering from food shortages" but claimed its "heavy and light industries and chemical sector are growing," while electricity generation is improving as well.
He also voiced hopes of economic cooperation with South Korea but added that any economic cooperation with Japan must be preceded by an apology for atrocities committed during the colonial era and relinquishing "hostile policies" against the North.
Meanwhile, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho said in a speech Friday marking 70 years of diplomatic ties with Russia that Pyongyang "aims to create a Korean Peninsula devoid of nuclear weapons and threats," according to Russia's TASS news agency. "We expect the international community to take simultaneous trust-building steps in response to [North Korea's] concrete measures."
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