N. Korean economy grows at fastest pace in 4 years in 2012

SEOUL, July 12 (Yonhap) -- The North Korean economy is believed to have grown at the fastest pace in four years in 2012 on the back of increased production from the manufacturing sector, South Korea's central bank said Friday.

The Bank of Korea (BOK) estimated that the communist country's economy grew 1.3 percent in 2012, quickening from a 0.8 percent on-year gain in the previous year.

The 2012 growth marked was the fastest advance since 2008 when the North Korean economy was estimated to expand 3.1 percent. Last year, the South Korean economy grew 2 percent, the slowest growth in three years.

In 2010 and 2011, the North's economy contracted 0.9 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively.

"The economic growth picked up last year as the North's light and heavy industries made a turnaround, along with increased agricultural products," said a BOK official.

The young North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been controlling the communist country since the death of his father Kim Jong-il in December 2011.

The North Korean economy has been in doldrums as it suffers from chronic food and energy shortages, mismanagement and natural disasters. The communist state has relied on international handouts since 1995 to help feed its 24 million people.

The North's agricultural and fishery industry grew 3.9 percent on-year in 2012 after gaining 5.3 percent in the previous year, the BOK noted.

Its manufacturing sector grew 1.6 percent last year, after contracting 3 percent in the previous year.

North Korea's nominal gross national income (GNI) amounted to 33.5 trillion won (US$29.8 billion) last year, which is equivalent of 2.6 percent of South Korea's 2012 GNI of 1,279.5 trillion won, the bank said.

The BOK annually releases the economic growth estimate of the North based on data provided by Seoul's intelligence agency and other institutes specializing in North Korean studies.

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