North Korea’s Economy Expanded 1.8% in 2019, UNCTAD Says

Hooyeon Kim

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North Korea’s economy expanded in 2019 for the first time in three years, and is forecast to accelerate in 2020, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Gross domestic product increased an estimated 1.8% last year, compared with a 4.2% contraction in 2018, UNCTAD said in a report released Thursday, which didn’t elaborate on the data. It predicted growth of 2.2% this year, and 2.8% in 2021.

North Korea’s isolation, secrecy and dearth of official statistics make estimates difficult. Its downturn in 2018 was the worst performance since 1997 when a series of droughts, floods and botched economic policies caused a deadly famine, according to South Korea’s central bank.

Still, the nation continues to strive amid crushing economic sanctions. Its state-run media said earlier this month the country doesn’t intend to trade its nuclear weapons for a lift of sanctions.

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To contact the editors responsible for this story: Shamim Adam at, Reed Stevenson

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