North Korea in the Dark: Freedom Matters

Mark Perry at Carpe Diem has a chart that provides insight into the terrible reality of what life must be like in Kim Jong-il’s communist North Korea.

Perry found that:

The CIA estimates that North Korea’s GDP per capita in 2009 was $1,800.  That’s equivalent to the inflation-adjusted U.S. per capita GDP back in the year 1847, or more than 150 years ago (see chart below).

The comparison is even more damning when you compare the figures with South Korea.  According to the CIA, South Korea’s GDP per capita was US$30,000 in 2010, so the average South Korean is more than 15 times better off than their Northern counterpart on the Korean peninsula on this measure.

Such abstract statistics don’t resonate with many people.  But Perry has a satellite photo of the two countries showing electricity use at night that probably does.

Obviously the differences can’t be due to geography, ethnicity, or anything much else of that ilk.  The obvious point of difference is in the respective quality of their institutions.  South Korea ranked 35th in the world for economic freedom on the 2011 The Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal index and North Korea’s economic freedom is undoubtedly immeasurably lower.

Spare a thought for human freedom and North Korea this Christmas.

Bryce Wilkinson
Acting executive director

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