The Corner

South Korea vs. North Korea: GDP Edition

The Washington Post has a good chart illustrating the economic legacy of North Korean dictators Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. It compares the GDP per capital of North Korea and South Korea over the last 40 years. It speaks for itself:

Brad Plumer writes:

During the early 1970s, North Korea’s economy stagnated, with GDP per capita flatlining until Kim Il Sung’s death. Then, in 1994, after Kim Jong Il took over, the economy started shrinking noticeably, per capita incomes fell, and the country became dependent on emergency U.N. food aid to stave off further famines. North Korea became, as Eberstadt puts it, “the world’s first and only industrialized economy to lose the capacity to feed itself.” (That said, there’s evidence that North Korea was growing weakly in the last few years of Kim Jong Il’s rule).

At the moment, North Korea’s per capita income is less than 5 percent of the South’s. As the Atlantic Council’s Peter Beck puts it, “Each year the dollar value of South Korea’s GDP expansion equals the entire North Korean economy.”

(H/T to Peter Suderman.)

Veronique de Rugy — Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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