A country without an economy

After six decades under a bungling dictatorship, North Korea is a country with virtually no economy at all. Here, a television broadcast following the announcement of the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.

North Korea's gross domestic product is estimated to be just a tiny sliver of the size of South Korea's bustling one-trillion-dollar economy -- as little as three percent of that.

By one estimate, North Korea's average official salary is equivalent to roughly two-dollars a month -- although it's thought that the the thriving black market brings that up to around 15 dollars a month.  

The North Korean government makes money through illegal trading, too: It's known to traffic in an international black market for weapons, illegal drugs and counterfeit currency.  75 percent of the country's trade is with China...and in return for providing the bulk of food and military aid to North Korea, the Chinese are allowed to exploit the country's resources through mining and fishing.
 
North Korea has long relied on handouts to feed its own people. It's received more two million dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid this year, even as international sanctions have been tightened over its defiant development of nuclear weapons.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.

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