SEOUL (REUTERS) - North Korea's economy expanded for a second successive year in 2012, South Korea's central bank said on Friday, bolstering the claims of new leader Kim Jong Un to be pursuing economic growth alongside strengthening the country's nuclear deterrence.
The economy of the reclusive and impoverished nation grew 1.3 percent in 2012 as nearly all sectors saw improvement compared to a 0.8 percent annual growth the year before, said the Bank of Korea, one of the few sources of estimates about the economic performance of the North, which does not publish data.
Agriculture, farming and fisheries rose 3.9 percent last year in North Korea on the back of expanded use of fertiliser and an increase in pig and chicken farms, according to the Bank of Korea data, compared to a 5.3 percent growth in 2011.
Livestock farming rose 12.3 percent on an annual basis.
North Korean industrial output and manufacturing both expanded for the first time since 2008 after shrinking for three straight years, rising 1.3 percent and 1.6 percent respectively in 2012 compared to a year ago.
Despite the rise in output, North Korea remains one of the poorest countries on earth and its economy is around a thirtieth the size of industrial powerhouse South Korea.
The country has been heavily sanctioned for its February nuclear test and has vowed to continue with the development of nuclear weapons, saying it fears an attack by the United States.
It is currently in talks to re-open a money spinning industrial park that it operates with South Korean companies that was closed during a spike in tensions earlier this year.
The Bank of Korea data showed that North Korea's total trade was worth US$6.81 billion (S$8.69 billion) in 2012, with exports up an annual 3.3 percent, mostly on the back of chemical products and animal products. Imports were up 10.2 percent.
Trade with South Korea, which the Bank of Korea exempts from North Korea's trade statistics, was worth US$1.97 billion dollars last year, up 15 percent from a year ago. Almost all of that trade comes from the closed Kaesong industrial park.
The central bank gathers the data from various government agencies in South Korea and uses the United Nations' system of national accounts to calculate the data, which is also used for South Korea's GDP statistics.