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North Korea – when the lights go out

The ECONOMIST magazine just published a full page article on research by the World Data Lab and its partners (Vienna University of Economics and Business, and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis; Earth Observation Group) which was supported by NOMIS Foundation, which the article also mentions.

In its current edition, the ECONOMIST writes:

“…. Nowhere are good economic data rarer than in North Korea. The most detailed numbers come from South Korea’s central bank, which derives them from figures on production volumes of various goods. When adjusted for the cost of living in a developing Asian economy, the bank’s most recent estimate of North Korea’s annual GDP per person is enough to buy goods and services that would cost $2,500 in America.

The picture painted by night lights, however, is even grimmer. In 2013 a group of scholars compared luminosity and GDP within rural China, obtaining an equation to estimate economic output from light. A forthcoming paper by World Data Lab, a startup, and a team of researchers applies this formula to North Korea. It yields a standard of living that would cost $1,400 a year in America, making North Korea one of the world’s ten poorest countries. The data also suggest that the economy has been unusually volatile. In 2013-15 luminosity fell by 40%. That implies a 12% reduction in GDP, including 19% in the capital region, Pyongyang. Since 2016, however, the country has brightened again. …”

The Economist

Satellite data shed new light on North Korea’s opaque economy

The country’s nocturnal luminosity fell by 40% from 2013-15


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