US-DPRK trade in 2006: US$ 3,000

According to a report from the US Commerce Department, the US registered just $3,000 worth of exports to the DPRK, and it seems that it was just a single shipment of publicaitons.   This number does not count trade through third countries, and it does not count the occasional tourist or businessman who manages to get a visa.

US/DPRK trade would have been much higher this hear if the DPRK had gone through with the Arirang Mass Games last August.  Just about every tour company that offers trips to the DPRK was sold out with Americans eager to visit one of the most isolated countries in the world.

This story should be sobering to those who are trying to promote regime change in the DPRK through economic sanctions.  I personally think that the sanctions should be lifted for three reasons.  Firstly, only through increased trade will a constituency of elite North Koreans be able to consolidate resources and leverage their political influence for greater openness to international intergration.  Of course these things take time, but there are politicians in the DPRK who want this.  Blockades only strenghen the military and those prone to isolationist tendencies. Secondly, as far as I know, sanctions have never resulted in regime change.  Recent examples include Cuba, Iraq, South Africa, Lybia, Iran, and North Korea.  Sanctions punish the people who have no political recourse and entrench the ruling elites.  Thirdly, trade will promote the flow of information into the DPRK (which combined with non-militarism) will improve the domestic climate for opening up.

Here is the trade story:

Bilateral trade between the United States and North Korea reached a mere US$3,000 in the first nine months of this year, a sharp drop from a year earlier, a state-run trade agency said Monday.

In the January-September period, the United States registered no imports from the communist country, with the only export item being publications, the Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) said in a report, citing the U.S. Commerce Department. The U.S. exported humanitarian food aid to North Korea worth $5.8 million last year.


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