Chapter 10: DPRK Statistics: Availability and Reliability
1 Suk Lee I. INTRODUCTION A common problem facing DPRK studies (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, also commonly known as North Korea) is the shortage of available statistics. Not only is it extremely challenging to procure statistical data on North Korea, but in a few cases where data are available, their reliability is always in question.2 In consequence, the majority of the economics literature is either focused on ‘understanding North Korea sans statistics’, or has familiarized itself with analysing the DPRK economy using secondary sources of estimated statistics. However, are the available statistics of North Korea really as scarce as generally conceived? Also, are they all too unreliable to be used in DPRK studies? An important characteristic of the DPRK economy from the 1990s onward is that it degenerated into an ‘aid-dependent’ economy, being sustained with substantial foreign aid. Since 1995, the DPRK has regularly received a large amount of humanitarian assistance from the international community, via the United Nations (UN) and other international organizations, who have dispatched observers for on-site inspection to Pyongyang and other regions in the country. Naturally, this raises many questions about the availability and reliability of DPRK statistics. For example, if North Korea receives so much foreign aid, would the international community not request and thereafter come into possession of North Korea’s basic statistical data? Even from North Korea’s standpoint, would not providing its basic statistics to the outside world be beneficial in supporting its needs as an impoverished economy? In addition, if North Korea...
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