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Military Spending

There are three important countries for which CIA does not provide military expenditure data: Serbia, Ethiopia and North Korea. And of late, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) does not even provide economic data on North Korea, much less an estimate of military spending.

The 1993 Country Study reported that "The state budget is a major government instrument in carrying out the country's economic goals. Expenditures represented about three-quarters of GNP in the mid-1980s... Defense spending, as a share of total expenditures, has increased significantly since the 1960s: from 3.7 percent in 1959 to 19 percent in 1960, and, after averaging 19.8 percent between 1961 and 1966, to 30.4 percent in 1967. After remaining around 30 percent until 1971, the defense share decreased abruptly to 17 percent in 1972, and continued to decline throughout the 1980s. Officially, in both 1989 and 1990 the defense share remained at 12 percent, and for 1991 it was 12.3 percent with 11.6 percent planned for 1992 ... "

The Marine Corps Intelligence Activity NORTH KOREA COUNTRY HANDBOOK MCIA-2630-NK-016-97 [May 1997] states that "The DPRK remains the world's most militaristic state. It commits roughly 25 percent of its GDP to military spending. Out of every 1,000 people, 40 serve in uniform. By comparison, the ROK spends 4 percent of its GDP on the military and 14 of every 1,000 people serve in uniform."

The U.S. State Department's World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers (WMEAT), which contained military expenditure figures from 1999, reported North Korea's defense budget as $4.26 billion, or 18.8% of GDP. The IISS Military Balance for 2003-2004 reported military spending of $5 billion or 25% of GDP [this was estimated by IISS and not based on reported data from the individual country].

According to the 2007 Country Profile, "Based on 2006 estimates, North Korea's purchasing parity power was US $40 billion.... In 2002 projected total revenue and expenditures were US $10.1 billion.... The North Korean government announced that the military expenditure for fiscal year 2003 was US$1.7 billion, or about 15.7 percent of the total government budget. However, the South Korean government believed that the figure supporting defense in 2003 was more likely around an estimated US$5 billion, representing 27.2 percent of the gross national income and 44.4 percent of the total government budget."

Other sources claim that North Korea may spend as much as 40 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on the military [Bill Gertz, "North Korea Pumps Money into Military," Washington Times, August 3, 2004].

Korea, North (Democratic Republic of) Country or land   84                  
East Asia Geographic group   31     Table I:     Green figures are highly uncertain
5.000 Political population quintile         Military expenditure, armed forces, GDP, population,     Blue figures are extremely uncertain
5.000 Economic population quintile at MER         labor force, and their ratios, 2006 - 2016     n/a indicates unpublished estimate
5.000 Economic population quintile at PPP                      
See country notes at bottom of page.  
Parameter / Year 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Mean
Demographic parameters
Armed forces personnel (AF) (in thousands) 1,180 1,170 1,160 1,160 1,160 1,160 1,150 1,170 1,170 1,170 1,170 1,160
- Armed forces personnel as % of population 5.00% 4.90% 4.80% 4.80% 4.80% 4.70% 4.70% 4.70% 4.70% 4.70% 4.60% 4.80%
- Armed forces personnel as % of labor force 8.00% 7.90% 7.70% 7.60% 7.50% 7.50% 7.40% 7.40% 7.30% 7.30% 7.20% 7.50%
Population (midyear, in millions) 23.8 23.9 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.5 24.6 24.7 24.9 25.0 25.1 24.5
Labor force (LF) (midyear, in millions) 14.8 14.9 15.1 15.2 15.4 15.5 15.6 15.8 15.9 16.0 16.2 15.5
- Labor force as % of population 62.2% 62.4% 62.6% 62.9% 63.1% 63.4% 63.6% 63.8% 64.0% 64.2% 64.3% 63.3%
Armed forces composition (in thousands)[1]
- Army (land forces) 930 930 930 930 940 940 940 950 950 950 950 939.0
- Navy (may include marines) 45 45 45 45 45 50 50 55 55 55 55 50.5
- Air force (may include air defense) 110 110 110 110 110 110 110 110 110 110 110 110.0
- Other regular forces (incl. joint & support) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.0
- Paramilitary and irregular forces 95 90 80 70 60 55 50 50 50 50 50 63.6
Economic parameters in national currency
Military expenditure (ME)
- current national currency units (millions) 467,000 488,000 448,000 366,000 309,000 335,000 351,000 391,000 412,000 425,000 430,000
- constant 2016 ncu (millions) 404,000 405,000 414,000 372,000 372,000 376,000 380,000 416,000 423,000 422,000 430,000 401,000
ME/AF (constant 2016 ncu) 343,000 346,000 356,000 321,000 321,000 326,000 330,000 357,000 363,000 362,000 369,000 345,000
ME per capita (constant 2016 ncu) 17,000 17,000 17,200 15,400 15,300 15,400 15,400 16,800 17,000 16,900 17,100 16,400
Gross domestic product (GDP)
- current national currency units (millions) 1,950,000 2,000,000 1,850,000 1,670,000 1,410,000 1,510,000 1,590,000 1,640,000 1,720,000 1,750,000 1,810,000
- constant 2016 ncu (millions) 1,680,000 1,660,000 1,710,000 1,700,000 1,690,000 1,700,000 1,730,000 1,740,000 1,760,000 1,740,000 1,810,000 1,720,000
GDP per capita (constant 2016 ncu) 70,800 69,500 71,200 70,200 69,400 69,600 70,200 70,500 70,900 69,700 72,000 70,400
(ME/AF) / (GDP/LF)[2] 3.0 3.1 3.1 2.9 2.9 3.0 3.0 3.2 3.3 3.3 3.3 3.1
ME/GDP ("military burden")[3] 24.0% 24.4% 24.2% 21.9% 22.0% 22.1% 22.0% 23.9% 24.0% 24.2% 23.8% 23.3%



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