World Economy

N. Korea Economy to Grow 7%

N. Korea Economy to Grow 7%N. Korea Economy to Grow 7%

The textile factories producing “Made in China” goods from compounds just across the Yalu River from North Korea offer a glimpse into a hidden world that is helping North Korea’s economy to thrive.

Operated by North Koreans, the factories produce clothes and other goods that are exported under foreign-company labels, making it impossible to tell that they have been made with North Korean hands and have contributed to North Korean profits, NewsNow reported Saturday.

The thriving operations belie the perception in Washington that US and international sanctions are working to strangle North Korea’s ability to make money. While an overwhelming majority of North Koreans still live in poverty, the country’s output has been steadily increasing, and an estimate by South Korea’s Hyundai Research Institute forecasts that the North’s economy will grow this year by a whopping 7 percent.

A lot of that growth comes through Dandong, a hive of North Korean and Chinese managers and traders, with middlemen helping everyone cover their tracks. One local Chinese businessman estimates that a quarter of this city’s population of 800,000 is involved in doing business with North Korea in some way.

In one factory on a recent day, dozens of North Korean women sat under fluorescent strip lights sewing seams and pressing pockets on pants, some of which were destined for the United States. “They are here to make money for the country,” a North Korean factory manager said of the workers.

  Wrong Perception

This scene is repeated in dozens, perhaps hundreds, of labor compounds all along the border, which in effect is little more than a line on the map. The extensive range of commercial activity suggests that it would be wrong to think that China’s leadership is now so annoyed with Kim Jong Un, who took control of North Korea at the end of 2011 after the death of his father, that it’s tightening the economic screws on the young leader next door.

This is a very sensitive part of China – during a week of reporting along the North Korean border, Post reporters were monitored by police – and doing business with North Korea is a very sensitive subject. The textile-factory manager would allow himself to be identified only as Kim; he and other North Korean businessmen who agreed to speak about their operations otherwise did so on the condition of anonymity.

North Korea’s economy is still a basket case, barely more than one-fiftieth the size of South Korea’s. North Korea is thought to have at least 50,000 workers outside the country earning money for the country, and 13,000 of them work in Dandong.