SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea's economy is believed to have grown 1.3 per cent in 2012 - the first full year under new leader Kim Jong Un and the fastest pace in four years, the South's central bank said on Friday.
The rise followed a 0.8 per cent gain in the previous year, the Bank of Korea said in its annual report.
When the North's late leader Kim Jong Il died in December 2011 he left a country in dire economic straits.
His son, Kim Jong Un, has called for a "radical turnabout" in the impoverished country's economy.
The North's gross domestic product contracted 0.9 per cent in 2009 and 0.5 per cent in 2010, after a 3.1 per cent increase in 2008.
The South Korean bank attributed growth last year to gains mainly in the manufacturing sectors.
In 2012, the North's agricultural and fishery industry grew 3.9 per cent year-on-year, while manufacturing grew 1.6 per cent - a turnaround from 3.0 per cent contraction in 2011, the bank said.
The bank collects data from the National Intelligence Service and other South Korean institutions specialising in the North.
The North's economy has been beset by serious shortages of electricity and raw materials, along with persistent food shortages.
International sanctions brought by the North's pursuit of ballistic missiles and atomic weapons have restricted its access to international credit.
The country's economy fell into trouble in the 1990s after the break-up of the Soviet Union and the loss of its crucial aid. It suffered famine in the mid-1990s which killed hundreds of thousands.