- North Korea is a secretive nation of 25 million people led by Kim Jong Un.
- Its isolationist policies have hurt the country’s economy, but we don’t know the depth of its struggles because North Korea doesn’t release detailed data.
- Here are nine mind-blowing facts about North Korea’s economy.
- Visit Markets Insider’s homepage for more stories.
North Korea is one of the most secretive nations in the world.
The dictatorship of 25 million people has been ruled by the Kim dynasty for more than 70 years.
North Korea’s economy has struggled because of its isolationist policies, yet the exact extremes of the country’s hardships are unknown, as the nation doesn’t release detailed data.
We do know it’s a nation where the average worker takes home less than $2,000 a year, much of the population is undernourished, and citizens pay upwards of $17,000 to defect.
Here are nine surprising facts about North Korea’s economy:
More than 40% of North Koreans are undernourished.
Wong Maye-E (Associated Press)
Since the year 2000, the percentage of undernourished North Koreans increased from 37.5% to 43.4% in 2018, according to the Global Hunger Index.
The percentage of undernourished children under the age of five has decreased during that same time span, however.
According to that metric, North Korea is not the most undernourished nation in the world — it ranks 109th out of 199.
But the situation has been dire since a famine in the 1990s, during which up to 2 million people died.
Virtually nobody uses the internet in North Korea.
AP Photo/Wong Maye-E
North Korea severely restricts internet access for its citizens.
There is one secure internet server in the country, but not even 1% of the population finds itself on the internet.
Instead, citizens are relegated to using a state-controlled, domestic-only intranet network called Kwangmyong. The service is free (if you can afford a computer), but it only allows access to a select list of censored websites.
According to The Daily 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 nation’s cyber warfare units.
Vox reported that Kwangmyong "runs rudimentary email and browser tools that are restricted to a hand-picked collection of ‘sites’ that have been copied over and censored from the real internet."
There could be trillions of dollars worth of minerals underground in North Korea.
North Korea likely is sitting on a wealth of mineral deposits, with one estimate reaching nearly $10 trillion and another reaching more than $6 trillion, according to Quartz.
The deposits could include more than 200 types of mineral, including iron, gold, zinc, copper, and graphite. Likewise, there’s plenty of rare metals used in smartphone production in China and South Korea.
The estimates of the mineral value come largely from South Korean companies, although Quartz noted that North Korea runs its mines inefficiently and private mining is illegal in the communist country.
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