Seoul estimates widening economic gap with North Korea


SEOUL–South Korea’s economy has widened its gap with North Korea, with gross national income (GNI) about 40 times bigger than its communist neighbor, official figures showed Tuesday.

The North’s estimated GNI was US$26 billion for 2010 compared to US$1.1 trillion in the capitalist South, state agency Statistics Korea said.

Per capita gross national income in the North stood at US$1,074 for the same year, nearly one-20th of the South’s US$20,759, it said in an annual report based on data from local and international agencies.

In 2009, average national income for each South Korean was about 18 times bigger than the North. Gross national income measures a country’s gross domestic product, together with income from or payments to other countries. The South’s economy, Asia’s fourth largest, expanded 6.2 percent in 2010 when the North’s economy shrank 0.5 percent, it said, adding that life expectancy in the impoverished North was also more than a decade shorter.

The mineral-rich North however outpaced the South in iron ore production by producing five million tons compared to about 510,000 tons in the South. The North’s state-directed economy has continued to tumble amid mismanagement, chronic shortages and international sanctions sparked by its nuclear weapons and missile programs. U.N. agencies estimate six million North Koreans — a quarter of the population — need urgent aid in a nation where hundreds of thousands died in a famine in the 1990s.