North Korean Economy Shrank Most in More Than Two Decades, BOK Says

North Korea's economy likely shrank the most in more than two decades last year, as pandemic lockdowns and continued U.N. sanctions weighed on its growth, South Korea's central bank said Friday.

North Korea's gross domestic product is estimated to have contracted 4.5% in 2020--the worst since 1997--after expanding an estimated 0.4% in 2019, the Bank of Korea said in an annual report. North Korea doesn't announce its own official GDP data.

Strict Covid-19 mitigation measures, such as border closures and travel restrictions, took a heavy toll on the already frail North Korean economy, central bank officials said in an online briefing.

North Korea has long been under U.N. trade sanctions for developing nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles.

BOK data, based on information from Seoul's spy agency and other authorities closely studying North Korea, estimate North Korean external trade volume plunged 73.4% to $860 million in 2020.

North Korean exports and imports in 2020 fell 67.9% and 73.9%, respectively, according to the report.

North Korean mining and manufacturing output fell sharply as electricity and construction output was almost stagnant last year.

Write to Kwanwoo Jun at

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  07-30-21 0027ET
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