Archive for January, 2013

Lee Myung-bak administration sets the lowest record for assistance to North Korea

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Institute for Far Eastern studies (IFES)

The total amount of assistance provided to North Korea by the South Korean government and private organizations in 2012 decreased by 28 percent against 2011, which marks six years of continuous decline.

The Ministry of Unification revealed on January 27 that the total amount of South Korean assistance to North Korea tallied 14.1 billion KRW (13 million USD), with 2.3 billion KRW (2.12 million USD) of government aid for vaccines and medical trainings and 11.8 billion KRW (10.89 million USD) from the private sector for medical supplies. This is a 28.1 percent drop from the previous year’s total of 1.96 billion KRW (18.09 million USD).

The South Korean government sent about 6.5 billion KRW (6 million USD) of medical supplies to North Korea via UNICEF and the private sector sent about 13.1 billion KRW (12.1 million USD) of malaria prevention supplies, powdered milk, soy milk, and flour.

Last year was the lowest record for humanitarian assistance to North Korea in sixteen years. Prior to this low was 1996, which recorded 3.6 billion KRW (3.3 million USD).

Lee Myung-bak administration’s aid to North Korea for the last five years reached a total of 257.5 billion KRW (236.2 million USD), with 102.4 billion KRW (93.94 million USD) in government funds and 155.1 billion KRW (142.3 million USD) from the private sector. This is equal to only 20 percent of the Roh Moo-hyun administration’s 1.275 trillion KRW (1.17 billion USD), and 44 percent of the Kim Dae-jung administration’s 582.9 billion KRW (534.8 million USD) of total aid to North Korea.

The highest record for South Korean humanitarian aid to North Korea was in 2006 at 298 billion KRW (273.4 million USD), in both government and private sector aid and continued to remain at a high level in 2007 with 289 billion KRW (265.1 million USD) in 2007. However, with the launch of the Lee Myung-bak government in 2008, it dropped to 116 billion KRW (106 million USD), and continued the downward slide recording 67.1 billion KRW (61.6 million USD) in 2009; 40.4 billion KRW (37.06 million USD) in 2010; 19.1 billion KRW in 2011 (17.5 million USD); and 14.1 billion KRW (12.9 million USD) in 2012.

The source of the drop in humanitarian assistance can be attributed to deadlocked inter-Korean relations followed by the shooting death of a Mount Kumgang tourist in 2008; long-range rocket launch and second nuclear test in 2009; and Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island incidents in 2010.

From 1995 to 2012, the total amount of humanitarian aid to North Korea from the South Korean government was 1.48 trillion KRW (1.36 billion USD) and from the private sector was 871 billion KRW (799.1 million USD), equating to about 2.347 trillion KRW (2.15 billion USD) in total.

Meanwhile, international humanitarian aid to North Korea increased 30 percent in 2012 against the previous year. According to the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), total aid to North Korea in 2012 was 113 million USD while the previous year reached 89.2 million USD. It quadrupled to the total amount, 24.4 million USD of 2010.

Nineteen countries joined in the effort to provide humanitarian aid to North Korea such as South Korea, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, Russia, Brazil, and Sweden. In 2010, there were only six countries, and it later increased to seventeen countries in 2011. The OCHA announced that the humanitarian aid provided in 2012 focused mainly on improving the food supply and nutrition, and provided agricultural support.

UPDATE: Here is a similar report in Yonhap (2013-1-27):

South Korea’s humanitarian aid to North Korea dropped 28 percent to a record 16-year low last year, the unification ministry said Sunday, as the cross-border relations remained chilled under Seoul’s outgoing government of President Lee Myung-bak.

Seoul’s humanitarian aid to the impoverished North totaled 14.1 billion won (US$13.1 million), compared with 19.6 billion won a year earlier. Last year’s amount is the lowest since 1996 when only 3.6 billion won was provided to the North in humanitarian aid.

The sharp drop came as relations between the two Koreas remained frozen since the North sank a South Korean warship near their Yellow Sea border in March 2010 and then shelled a border island in November that year. Pyongyang’s nuclear test and rocket launches also affected their ties.

The total amount of assistance the South provided the North during the five years of President Lee was 257.5 billion won, including 155.1 billion won of civilian aid. The total amount is only 20 percent of the aid sent during the presidency of Lee’s predecessor, the former late President Roh Moo-hyun.


Food prices continue to climb

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

According to Yonhap:

The Daily NK, a Web site run by opponents of the North Korean government which provides detailed coverage of the communist nation, claimed the price of rice, a key staple, has risen steadily over the last year.

It added that despite efforts to control prices, a kilogram of rice purchased in Pyongyang and Sinuiju from Jan. 2 through Jan. 9, rose by 300 won and 200 won, respectively, compared to just two weeks prior.

A kilogram of rice in Pyongyang cost 6,700 (North Korean) won, while in Sinuiju, just across the Amnok river from the Chinese city of Dandong, it reached 7,000 won.

The media outlet, which claims it uses a secret network of sources in the communist country, said the latest price of rice represents a more than two-fold increase from the year before, right after Kim took control of the country. In the first month of last year, a kilogram sack of rise cost 3,200 won in Pyongyang.

The North Korean leader took power following the sudden death of his father Kim Jong-il on Dec. 17, 2011.

On changes in foreign exchange rates, Daily NK said a U.S. dollar was worth around 9,100 North Korean won this month, which is a depreciation of more than 100 percent from an year earlier. In January 2011, a one dollar bill was worth just 4,400 won.

Read the full article here:
N. Korea’s rice prices, foreign exchange rates remain unstable: report


DPRK Law on Underground Resources

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

The DPRK’s Naenara web page posts PDF copies of the DPRK magazine, International Trade. No updates have been made for 2013, however, Choson Exchange points an interesting article from the Q4 2012 issue which contains interesting information on the DPRK mining sector.

Choson Exchange posted a high resolution .jpg from the most recent issue of International Trade and you can see it here.

The article, “Abundant Underground Resources and the Policy for Their Development,” provides information on the “DPRK Law on Underground Resources” which was allegedly adopted by Decree No. 14 at the fifth session of the ninth Supreme Peoples’ Assembly (1993-4-8: during the Arduous March).

The text of the law is not given, and most of the article is “fluff” language, but here are some interesting tidbits:

Institutions, enterprises and organizations can develop underground resources.  They are obliged not only to make mining equipment large, modern, and high-speed, and diversify transportation but to give priority to tunneling and introduce efficient mining methods to boost mineral output.

Development of underground resources is subject to the approval of the state organ of deliberation of underground resources development .

Institutions, enterprises and organizations engaged in underground resource development shall ensure high efficiency of investment pursuant to the design of underground resource development.

They shall ensure rational organization of mining to excavate ore bodies that conform to mining criterion and standard of calculating deposits of underground resources. But the practices of digging out only high-grade and thick ore bodies in good condition to excavate are prohibited.

Abandoning of ore and coal mines and their pits should be subject to the approval of the state organ of deliberation of underground resource development.

Institutions, enterprises, and organizations, concerned should actively tap the resources of geotherm, underground water and mineral water for the economic development and improvement of people’s [sic] life [sic].

The living environment of inhabitants and ecological environment of animals and plants, including land, resources and landscapes should not be damaged in the course of their development.

The DPRK policy of underground resources development makes a tangible contribution to protection and development of underground resources to fully meet the increasing demands of the national economy for raw materials and fuel, and thus gives the impetus to the building of a thriving socialist country.


DPRK allegedly extends overseas rotations for trade officials

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

According to Radio Free Asia:

Businessmen in China told RFA’s Korean Service that until recently, the North’s leadership had largely kept to its rule of allowing trade officials to work abroad only once during their tenure as part of an effort to limit exposure to the outside world.

“The [practice of] ‘revolving door personnel allocation’ is prevalent in North Korea,” said one merchant surnamed Li from the city of Dandong in northeastern China’s Liaoning province, which is located on the border between the two countries.

But he said that an increasing number of North Koreans who had just recently returned from assignments in China were being sent to the neighboring country again in an official capacity.

“A North Korean trade representative who had worked in Dandong five years ago returned [to China] as a representative working in Beijing, which was surprising,” Li said, adding that he had never encountered a North Korean official who had served in the country on more than one occasion.

Another Chinese merchant surnamed Wang, who is currently living in North Korea, confirmed that more officials were being sent to China multiple times.

“Recently there are an increasing number of North Korean representatives who have repeatedly been dispatched abroad, although they are working in regions different from those where they had previously been posted,” Wang said.

One source suggested that Pyongyang may be continuing to rely on officials who have already served abroad in order to leverage their existing experience dealing with China’s trade sector.

He said that when the North Korean government requires an urgent trade agreement, it has become more willing to use officials with experience because training new personnel would be too time-intensive.

But another source said that the prompt resolution of trade negotiations is not the regime’s driving motive behind redeploying officials abroad.

“It’s not because the North Korean government needs an urgent resolution to trade matters, but simply because the officials who have previously worked abroad are lobbying so hard to be re-dispatched,” the source said.

Read the full story here:
North Korea Redeploying Officials
Radio Free Asia
Joon Ho Kim


38 North’s DPRK Digital Atlas

Monday, January 28th, 2013

I have worked with 38 North to publish the DPRK Digital Atlas. This is the most comprehensive and authoritative source of administrative boundaries in the DPRK that is publicly available:

Here is some information on the project:

The DPRK Digital Atlas is a resource developed by 38 North, working with Curtis Melvin (North Korean Economy Watch) and a talented team of programmers. It is part of 38 North’s on-going effort to provide various information and analysis resources to help policymakers, researchers, and the general public better understand the DPRK. The data for this project has been culled and vetted through a number of sources to provide users with the most accurate geographic information available at this time.

The atlas was created in Google Earth and then converted to a browser-based application to allow users to search the map either by name (English and Korean), coordinates, or simply by browsing through the drop down menus. Because it is built on the Google Earth platform, users can see the latest publicly available satellite imagery of any specific point or area as they are searching.

In this first iteration of the atlas, users can browse through the provinces, cities, counties, districts, towns and villages throughout the DPRK. Although it is the most comprehensive satellite mapping project of the DPRK, this remains an on-going GIS project, and future iterations will provide even greater detail and a wider variety of localities and features.

We are in debt to the following people and organizations for their contribution of key resources for the completion of this project: Jonathan Ung, Tam Nguyen, “Hank,” Stephen Mercado, Michael Rank, PSCORE, and the George Washington University Gelman Library’s Asia Reading Room.

The web page is fairly intuitive, but there is a separate page containing instructions. Data sources are listed on the atlas “About” page.

An older version of my infrastructure mapping project, North Korea Uncovered, can be found here. Although it was published in 2009, I have been working on it for nearly every day since. I am not someone who tends to exaggeration, but it is the most authoritative map of the DPRK’s infrastructure that will be made publicly available. I hope to publish it soon…

In closing, there is no golf course on Yanggak Island. And this is interesting.


ROK arrests 25 DPRK spies in last five years

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

According to the Korea Herald (Yonhap):

More than two dozen North Korean spies have been arrested in the past five years of South Korea’s outgoing government of President Lee Myung-bak, officials said Sunday, a nearly 40 percent rise from the previous administration.

A total of 25 spies have been arrested in South Korea since the Lee government was launched in early 2008, officials said. That represented a 39 percent increase from 18 spies caught in the previous government of President Roh Moo-hyun.

By year, two of the 25 were caught in 2009, 10 in 2010, five in 2011, and eight between 2012 and January this year. In particular, 14 of the spies came to South Korea posing as defectors, officials said.

Last week, intelligence sources said they arrested an official of the Seoul city government for spying charges. The 33-year-old came to South Korea in 2004, disguising himself as a North Korean defector. In 2011, he was hired by the Seoul city government as a two-year contract official.

Yoo’s job at the city government was helping North Korean defectors, and he has been charged with passing to Pyongyang sensitive information about thousands of North Korean defectors living in Seoul.

Read the full story here:
25 N. Korean spies arrested in past 5 years
Korean Herald (Yonahp)


A review of the last five years of people-to-people exchanges and inter-Korean economic cooperation under the Lee Myung-bak government

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

The Ministry of Unification’s recent monthly report on ‘Trends on Inter-Korean Exchanges” included an examination of the last five years of the Lee Myung-bak administration’s (January 2008 to November 2012) people-to-people exchanges and economic cooperation between North and South Korea.

Over the past five years, total inter-Korean trade reached 8.94 billion USD, a growth of 58 percent against the previous Roh Moo-hyun administration’s 5.62 billion USD. This increase can be attributed to the steady growth of the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC). The KIC recorded a total trade volume of 6.695 billion USD under the incumbent administration, which is nearly a seven-fold increase compared to the previous Roh administration’s record of 957 million USD. Considering its importance, the KIC was exempt from South Korea’s May 24 (2010) sanctions imposed against the North.

During the Lee government, 108 companies were authorized for inter-Korean cooperation projects (including the Kaesong Industrial Complex). This represents a drastic drop from the previous government’s 370 companies. Under Lee, the number of cultural exchanges and related businesses that were approved were a mere 5, compared to the former administration’s record of 121.

Combined government and private sector assistance to North Korea totaled 256.3 billion KRW, only one fifth of what was recorded during the Roh administration (i.e., 1.27 trillion KRW). While the current government had more private sector support, the previous government showed more government support.

Over the 5 years of the Lee Myung-bak administration, 664,000 people traveled across the North-South border, which is significantly higher than the number (i.e., 390,002 people) recorded during the Roh administration. However, the majority were government officials, mainly those involved with the KIC.

The number of North Korean defectors that entered South Korea during the Lee administration’s term in office was 724 people, a significant drop from the 4,571 people during the 5-year term of the previous administration. Last year, no defectors entered South Korea — the first “zero-entry” in 14 years (that is, since 1998.

In terms of cross-border vehicle traffic, vehicles traveled across the border 840,009 times, an increase from the previous administration’s 490,000 visits. However, the quantity of goods transported dropped 40 percent from the previous, at 1.39 million tons.

In particular, after the ROKS Cheonan incident on March 2010, people-to-people exchanges and economic cooperation were completely halted due to the May 24 (2010) measures. The amount of goods transported was also largely reduced.

As far as cross-border rail is concerned, the Gyeongui Line (connecting South Korea to the KIC) and the Donghae Line (connecting the South to Mount Kumgang) were actively utilized during the Roh administration; but under the incumbent administration, only the Gyeongui Line was utilized.

During the Roh administration, the air traffic recorded 589 trips (42,495 people), but during the Lee government reached only 77 (3,812 people).

The number of separated families members reunited during the last five years was 1,774 (888 people in 2009 and 886 people in 2010). This is only a tenth of the 14,600 family members reunited during the former Roh Moo-hyun government.


UNSC sanctions on the DPRK

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

On January 22, 2013, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2087–new sanctions on the DPRK. Here is the press release:

The Security Council, condemning the launch by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on 12 December 2012, which used ballistic missile technology in violation of the sanctions imposed on it, today demanded that the country not proceed with any further such activities and expressed its “determination to take significant action” in the event it did so.

In that connection, the Council demanded, through the unanimous adoption of resolution 2087 (2013), immediate compliance by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with its obligations under resolutions 1718 (2006) and 1874 (2009), including that it abandon all nuclear weapons and nuclear programmes completely, verifiably and irreversibly.

It deplored the country’s violations of the measures imposed on it in 2006, and strengthened in 2009, including the use of bulk cash to evade sanctions, and underscored its concern over the supply, sale or transfer to or from that country or through States’ territories of any item that could contribute to the activities banned by those resolutions.

The Council recalled that States may seize and dispose of items consistent with its previous resolutions, and clarified that the methods for disposal included, but were not limited to, destruction, rendering inoperable, storage or transferring to another States other than the originating or destination States for disposal.

It further clarified that the sanctions banned the transfer of any items if a State involved in the transaction has reasonable grounds to believe that a designated individual or entity, under the previous resolutions, is the originator, intended recipient or facilitator of the item’s transfer.

In a related provision, the Council called for enhanced vigilance by Member States and directed the relevant sanctions Committee to issue an Implementation Assistance Notice in the event a vessel refused to allow an inspection authorized by its Flag State or if any vessel flagged by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea refused to be inspected, in line with its obligations.

Reaffirming its support for the six-party talks, the Council called for their resumption and urged all participants to intensify efforts to fully and expeditiously implement the 19 September 2005 Joint Statement issued by China.

The meeting was called to order at 3:08 p.m. and adjourned at 3:10 p.m.

You can see the full resolution here (PDF).

Here is the response from the US State Department:

Designation Of DPRK Entities Pursuant To Executive Order 13382 In Response To UN Security Council Resolution 2087

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
January 24, 2013

The United States welcomes the UN Security Council’s unanimous adoption on January 22 of UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2087, condemning North Korea’s launch of December 12, 2012, which used ballistic missile technology in violation of UN Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874. Once again, the international community has sent a clear, united signal that North Korean provocations that undermine international security and the global nonproliferation regime, like the December 2012 launch, will not be tolerated.

To implement our obligations pursuant to UNSCR 2087 and to impede the DPRK’s illicit WMD and ballistic missile programs, the Departments of State and the Treasury on January 24, 2013, designated several entities and individuals directly tied to North Korea’s proliferation activities. The Department of State designated one entity and two individuals pursuant to Executive Order 13382, which targets proliferators of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their supporters. These include the Korean Committee for Space Technology (KCST), KCST senior official Paek Chang-Ho, and General Manager of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station Chang Myong-Chin.

Information on the Department of the Treasury’s concurrent actions may be viewed at:

The Korean Committee for Space Technology orchestrated the launches of the Taepo-Dong 2 via the satellite control center and Sohae launch area. The technology used to launch a satellite is virtually identical to and interchangeable with that used in an intercontinental ballistic missile. KCST has contributed directly to the DPRK’s long-range ballistic missile development efforts.

Paek Chang-Ho is a senior official and head of the satellite control center of KCST.

Chang Myong-Chin is the head of the launch center at which the launches took place.

These actions aim to disrupt North Korea’s continued WMD proliferation and procurement efforts that are in flagrant violation of UN Security Council resolutions. North Korea will continue to face isolation if it refuses to take concrete steps to address the concerns of the international community over its nuclear and missile programs.

More: Marcus Noland’s comments hereSlate.

UPDATE (2013-1-28): According to Yonhap, the DPRK regime is using the sanctions to unite public opinion behind leadership:

North Korea is using U.N. sanctions to unify public opinion behind the leadership and strengthen allegiance to the state, observers said Monday.

Observers in Seoul said Pyongyang places the utmost importance on the solidarity of the people whether it is in the pursuit of its “songun” or military-first politics or to build up the economy. They said recent media reports of foreign threats and the need to defend the sovereignty and dignity of the country is a move in this direction.
Incumbent leader Kim Jong-un has emphasized the importance of economic growth, while his late father placed greater emphasis on the military. North Korea’s current leader took power after the sudden death of Kim Jong-in in late 2011.

“The sudden flood of articles and stories highlighting external threats can be construed as a sign that Pyongyang wants to prop up Kim Jong-un’s weak public support base as well as the overall leadership,” a North Korean watcher said.

Others said that a spike in media reports calling on the people to defend North Korea’s independence may be a tell-tale sign that Kim Jong-un’s hold on power may not be strong as some predicted.

Reflecting these views, media outlets such as the Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, Radio Pyongyang and Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), all claimed that the people are reacting strongly to calls by the powerful National Defense Commission last Thursday. The commission said future nuclear and rocket tests will have the United States in mind.

Rodong Sinmun said in an article in its Monday edition that the U.N. sanctions have fueled the firm conviction and will of the armed forces and the general public to defend the country.

The newspaper said that the all-out confrontation that can occur is a holy nationalist war.

Similar views were expressed by Radio Pyongyang on Sunday, which pointed out that the only way to deal with the United States and other outside hostile forces is to follow the military first policy.

KCNA said Saturday that foreign forces have hindered efforts to divert more attention to economic development and warned that as long as adversaries try to weaken the country, Pyongyang has no choice but to focus on the military.

The media reports come as the North’s foreign ministry, the defense commission and the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland all issued statements last week denouncing the U.N. sanctions and emphasizing the country’s resolve to build up its capability to defend itself.

Meanwhile, South Korean officials have warned the North not to detonate another nuclear device. If they do detonate a nuclear device, it will be difficult to engage in inter-Korean dialogue and economic exchange, they said.

Seoul military and diplomatic sources have speculated that the communist country can conduct a nuclear test if the leadership gives its approval. Pyongyang detonated two nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009, in the face of international condemnation.


Pyongyang awards “citizenship” to Korean-American

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

UPDATE 1: Hat tip to a reader in the commentsection…Mr. Park was given honorary citizenship to the city of Pyongyang, not to the DPRK. This is the DPRK equivalent of getting the “key to the city”.

ORIGINAL POST: Here is the certificate of authenticity (as reported by Yonhap):


This award was given to the head of Pyonghwa Motors (now for sale).

Here is more information from Yonhap:

The head of inter-Korean automaker Pyeonghwa Motors said Tuesday that he was made an honorary citizen of Pyongyang late last year to reflect his contribution to North Korea’s development.

In an interview with Yonhap News Agency, Park Sang-kwon said he received the citizenship at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in the North Korean capital on Dec. 18.

Park has led the carmaker that started off as a joint venture between South Korea’s Tongil Group, run by the Unification Church, and North Korea. Production began in 2002, with the company producing about 2,000 vehicles every year.

He said his citizenship has a serial number of 002 and has an inscription saying that the honor is being bestowed because of his contribution to the fatherland and the Korean people. He is the first foreign national to have received the honor under the communist country’s new leader Kim Jong-un.

Kim Chin-kyung, the Korean-American president of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology was the first to receive an honorary citizenship in Aug. 2011 by late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

“The reason why they gave me the citizenship reflects recognition for the trust I have shown them and may be a sign that they want me to more freely engage in business activities,” he said. Park claimed that the citizenship can be seen as a sign that the North will allow him to start a new business in the country.

He then said that the reason why Tongil decided to turn over management of the carmaker last November was so it could focus on a wholly-owned business operation in the country. Last year, the business group created by late Rev. Moon Sun-myung also agreed to hand over control of the Pothonggang Hotel in Pyongyang.

The executive said he had asked the North to approve such a step.

“Pyeonghwa Motors has been generating profit for the past five years,” Park said. The businessman said that in the future, he wants to engage in the distribution of household necessities in North Korea, and in particular to Pyongyang.

He said there is a need to show that a wholly-owned (outside-invested) company that is not tied to a joint venture project with a North Korean partner can succeed in the country, which can act as an incentive for other foreign companies to invest.

He pointed out that Chinese companies that invested in the North are generally those that have not done well at home. He said that successful South Korean, Japanese and U.S. companies need to engage in business activities in the North.

“If 200 competitive South Korean companies operate in the North, there would be no reason for inter-Korean tensions, and it can actually help push forward the unification process,” he said.

Park, meanwhile, said the North is looking into the option of developing a ski resort near the 768 meter high Masik pass near the city of Wonsan on the east coast.

He said that United Front Department of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea mentioned the development plan in December and claimed that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gave the order personally. Kim has been running the country since the sudden death of his father Kim Jong-il in Dec. 2011.

“The North seems to want to develop a small ski resort first and build this up depending on demand,” he said.

The businessman added that Pyongyang wanted to transform Wonsan into a special tourist zone and is interested in using a military airfield near the city to accept civilian flights carrying tourists. Wonsan is famous for its beaches and if a ski resort is opened on Masik pass, it could attract tourists year round.

Park claimed Kim Jong-un has gained confidence in managing the country in the last year and may move to increase investments into the tourism sector.


DPRK imports of grain / food from China drop

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

According to Yonhap:

North Korea imported significantly less grain and fertilizers from China last year, mainly due to improvements in overall food conditions in the country, local sources said Tuesday.

Kwon Tae-jin, a research fellow at the Seoul-based Korea Rural Community Corp., said data compiled from January through November showed North Korea’s grain imports from its neighboring country reaching 257,931 tons.

This represents a 26.8 percent decrease from 352,282 tons tallied for the same 11 month period in 2011.

“There was a noticeable drop in various grain imports last year,” the researcher said, adding that imports of corn and rice fell 19.2 percent and 16.7 percent vis-a-vis the year before, with wheat and bean purchases declining 56.2 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively.

The latest data also showed Pyongyang importing 252,780 tons of chemical fertilizers from China up till November, down 28.8 percent from 355,023 tons reported from the year before.

Experts in the South said the decrease reflected improvements in overall food supply in the communist country brought on by the new leadership paying more attention to the economy.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s grain, fertilizer imports from China fall sharply