Excluding its big guns and weapons of mass destruction, North Korea is not a functioning country and has long lost its competition with South Korea, as a recent economic comparison released by Statistics Korea indicates.
The comparison shows that South Korea's per-capita gross national income (GNI) amounted to $17,175 at the end of 2009, about 18 times larger than the $960 tallied for the North. The South’s population is about twice as large as that of the North.
The South's nominal GNI totaled $837.2 billion, which is 37.4 times larger than the North’s $22.4 billion.
GNI is often regarded as a truer indicator of a given country’s economic power.
Asia’s fourth largest economy posted $686.6 billion in trade of 2009, compared with $3.4 billion for the North.
South Korean companies exported $363.5 billion worth of products, while imports amounted to $323.1 billion. Exports and imports by the North stood at $1.1 billion and $2.4 billion, respectively.
In 2009, the South produced 48.57 million tons of steel last year, compared with 1.26 million tons by the North. Cement production by the South reached 50.12 million tons while the North produced 6.13 million tons.
In addition, the data showed that the combined length of roads in South Korea was tallied at 104,983 kilometers, 4.1 times longer than 25,854km in the North. Power generation by the South was 18.5 times larger than the North.
The North, however, led the South in the production of coal, its main kind of fuel, and total length of railroads, the primary means of transportation for long distance travels.
The significance of the gap is made miniscule, considering the South relies on a much wider range of means of transportation including airplanes or buses and private cars and no longer uses coal as its primary energy source.
Statistically speaking, the gap in terms of economy is so big that a comparison is meaningless.
The North is trying to make up for the gap with its military might. It still enjoys a numerical advantage in terms of military hardware, although experts say that their tanks and airplanes are outdated and can’t compete with South Korean weapon systems.
One thing that Pyongyang has plenty of is its adventurism that was illustrated by its artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island in the West Sea and torpedo attack on a South Korean naval vessel.
Pyongyang still insists on its military-first policy with much of its scarce resources being devoted to maintaining its armed forces.
This, together with its rigid central planning, is attributed to losing its headstart over the South after the 1945 liberation from Japanese colonial rule that left more industrial infrastructure in the North than in the South.