The South Korean central bank says North Korea's economy grew in 2019 for the first time in three years. But the bank forecasts the North will face tough going ahead due to the impact of the coronavirus.
The Bank of Korea estimates the North's real GDP increased 0.4 percent in 2019 from the previous year. This is a comeback from an estimated 4.1 percent contraction in 2018 -- the largest drop in more than 20 years.
Exports grew 14.4 percent. Bank officials say shipments to China of products not included in UN sanctions, such as clocks, watches, hats and wigs, increased.
Construction also grew due to the development of tourism districts and power plants.
The officials also say the North was less affected by droughts or typhoons.
But they say the challenging situation will continue as the North Korean border with China remains closed due to the pandemic. China accounts for over 90 percent of the North's trade with the rest of the world.