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KEI Spotlight

Global Trade Is Recovering From the Pandemic. North Korea’s Economy Isn’t.

April 14, 2021

KEI Senior Director Troy Stangarone published an article on the Diplomat Magazine on the effects that the yet-closed Sino-DPRK borders have on the North Korean economy. Notably, the North Korean economy have not been able to benefit from China’s return to growth in recent months.

Despite being the epicenter of the pandemic early in 2020, Beijing’s forceful (albeit delayed) response and reopening allowed China’s GDP to expand by 6.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020 and finished the year up 2.3 percent. Meanwhile, Pyongyang called on North Koreans to remain vigilant to COVID and Pyongyang began implementing stricter provisions in the second half of 2020.

With commercial activities ground to a halt as part of Pyongyang’s public health response, the USDA has estimated that a million more North Koreans have become food insecure since the pandemic began. Kim Jong Un is reported to have described the broader economic environment as “the worst-ever situation” in the country.

Troy notes that there have been reports that North Korea is developing new decontamination facilities to help facilitate trade. However, he also points out that North Korea’s trade is unlikely to return to pre-COVID levels until Pyongyang loosens border controls and begins a program to vaccinate a significant portion of the population.

Read the full article here.