<pre><pre>9 stunning facts about North Korea's economy


  • North Korea is a secret nation of 25 million people led by Kim Jong Un.
  • The policy of isolation has damaged the country's economy, but we do not know the depth of its struggles since North Korea does not release detailed data.
  • Here are nine stunning facts about North Korea's economy.
  • You can find more stories on the Markets Insider homepage.

North Korea is one of the most secret nations in the world.

The country with 25 million inhabitants has been ruled by the Kim Dynasty for more than 70 years.

The North Korean economy struggled because of its isolationist policies, but the exact extremes of the country's needs are unknown as no detailed data are released.

We know that it is a country where the average worker takes home less than $ 2,000 a year, most of the population is malnourished, and citizens can pay up to $ 12,000 for defects.

Here are nine surprising facts about North Korea's economy:

Over 40% of North Koreans are malnourished.

Wong Maye-E (Associated Press)

The proportion of undernourished North Koreans rose from 37.5% in 2000 to 43.4% in 2018, according to the global hunger index.

However, the proportion of malnourished children under the age of 5 has decreased during this period.

According to the index, North Korea is not the most malnourished nation in the world – it ranks 109 out of 199.

However, the situation has been dramatic since a famine in the 1990s in which up to 2 million people died.

In North Korea, practically no one uses the Internet.

AP Photo / Wong Maye-E

North Korea severely limits Internet access for its citizens.

There is a secure internet server in the country, but less than 1% of the population is on the internet.

Instead, citizens have to use a state-controlled, domestic intranet called Kwangmyong. The service is free (if you can afford a computer), but only allows access to a selected list of censored websites.

According to The Telegraph, the only North Koreans who can use the Internet as we know it are political leaders and their families, students at elite universities, and people who work for the country's cyberware units.

Vox reported that Kwangmyong "runs rudimentary email and browser tools that are limited to a hand-picked collection of" sites "that have been copied and censored from the real Internet."

In North Korea, there could be trillions of dollars worth of minerals underground.


North Korea is likely to have an abundance of mineral deposits, with an estimate according to Quartz of more than $ 6 trillion and another nearly $ 10 trillion.

The deposits could contain more than 200 types of minerals, including iron, gold, zinc, copper and graphite. Likewise, many rare metals are used in smartphone production in China and South Korea.

Mineral value estimates come from South Korean companies, although Quartz said that North Korea operates its mines inefficiently and that private mining is illegal in the communist country.

Kim Jong Il spent $ 800,000 a year on Hennessy.

AP Photo / Yonhap

At some point, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il spent over $ 800,000 a year on Hennessy, according to the US News & World Report.

The cognac distillery even said that Kim was the biggest buyer of Hennessy Paradis for two years in the mid-1990s, the Wall Street Journal reported.

A bottle of Hennessy can cost $ 630 in North Korea – that's not much less than North Korea's average annual income, which is estimated at $ 1,000 to $ 2,000.

North Korea has two economies and two prices for everything.

AP Photo / Wong Maye-E

In the communist nation there is the state economy and an underground one.

For this reason, there are two prizes for everything, Bill Brown, associate professor at Georgetown University, told Marketplace last year. A government employee could get a fraction of another worker who works in a Chinese factory, he said.

A textile worker in a state-owned company in Pyongyang could make 3,000 North Korean won a month, while another in a China-related factory could earn 100 times as much, Brown said. He described it as "just a very destabilizing, inefficient system".

A $ 3.9 million hiking trail is at the heart of a Korean unification project.

Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

In April, the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Council approved a $ 3.9 million budget for the construction of hiking trails in the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea.

The project – as well as the recent dismantling of eleven guards in the region by the federal states – stems from an agreement last year to transform the DMZ into a peaceful zone, the Korea Times reported.

North Korean hackers stole $ 670 million in foreign and virtual currencies.

KRT over AP video / AP

While few citizens in North Korea find their way to the Internet, a panel mandated by the UN Security Council found that, according to the Nikkei Asian Review, North Korean hackers had stolen more than $ 670 million in foreign currencies and cryptocurrencies.

Major hackers' successes included $ 81 million from Bangladesh Bank, $ 13.5 million from Cosmos Bank in India, and $ 10 million from the Bank of Chile's ATM network.

North Korea makes an estimated $ 50 million a year from illegal activities.

AP Photo / Lee Jin-man

It's not just hacking – it's been estimated that the North Korean government made $ 50 million a year in 2008 from illegal activities like selling drugs and printing counterfeit US currency.

North Korea denied this but did not provide official economic statistics, making it difficult to find out the truth. The United Nations has proposed that the illegal funds help fund Kim Jong Un's lavish lifestyle.

A defect from North Korea costs $ 12,000.

Reuters / Damir Sagolj

Moving from North Korea can cost a fortune and it has become increasingly difficult to leave the country since Kim Jong Un took office in late 2011.

According to the Washington Post, a person would have to pay brokers around $ 12,000 to spill to South Korea. Other estimates assume that the price has reached $ 16,000, a significant increase from about $ 2,000 to $ 3,000 before 2012 and about $ 45 in the early 2000s, rights organizations Radio Free Asia said.

With many North Koreans earning less than $ 2,000 a year, one of the few realistic ways they can afford to suffer a defect is if a family member has already done so and can collect the fee.

While the most common method of crossing the river along the North Korean border with China is increased border security has made this increasingly difficult, the Post reported.