Archive for the ‘China’ Category

DPRK visitors to China drops in H1 2015

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

According to the Daily NK:

The number of North Koreans who visited China through legal means has dipped this year.

Data on the number of foreigners who went to China in the first half of this year indicate roughly 89,700 North Koreans crossed into the country, according to figures from China’s National Tourist Office cited by the Voice of America [VOA] on Wednesday.

This a 2.2 percent drop from the 91,800 visitors who were there during the same period last year, indicating the numbers are heading toward a two-year decline, it reported.

The figures from this report are only limited to those who visit through legal means and do not reflect illicit trips or defectors who enter the country.

Roughly 52 percent of North Koreans traveling to China reportedly went looking for jobs at restaurants or factories. The number of job-seekers inched up by 3,300 on-year, according to the VOA.

Men outweighed the number of women from the North, making up roughly 85 percent at 76,500. Only 13,200 were female visitors.

The total number of foreigners who went to China in the first six months of the year was at roughly 12.3 million. The greatest number of travelers came from South Korea at slightly over 2.1 million, while North Korea placed 20th on the list.

Read the full story here:
N. Koreans on visas to China drops
Da
Lee Dong Hyuk
2015-8-20

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DPRK – China Trade in 2015 (UPDATED)

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

UPDATE 2 (2015-8-17): Marcus Noland weighs in on the H1 2015 KDI report.

UPDATE 1 (2015-8-11): KDI reports that DPRK-China trade continues to fall in 2015. According to Yonhap:

North Korea’s trade with China plunged more than 10 percent in the first five months of 2015 due mainly to a drop in raw material prices, a report showed Tuesday.

North Korea’s outbound shipments to its neighbor sank 10.3 percent on-year to US$954 million in the January-May period, while imports plunged 14.3 percent to $1.09 billion, according to the report by the Korea Development Institute (KDI).

“Bilateral trade was down 12.5 percent compared to the year before with exports of anthracite coal and iron ore affecting overall numbers,” KDI said. “Compared to the year before, when trade fell 4.8 percent, this year’s drop is more pronounced.”

The think tank based its assessment on data provided by the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations and the Korea International Trade Association.

North Korea’s exports of coal to China declined 1.6 percent in dollar terms, with the number for iron ore nosediving 70.3 percent.

Falling exports and a subsequent drop in earnings were probably felt by Pyongyang, which will have to consider other means of generating hard currency.

Compared to 2013, when the North’s exports of coal reached its peak, this year’s numbers represent a 24.6 percent drop.

“The contraction is noteworthy because the North actually diversified the places it shipped coal to in China,” the KDI said.

In regards to iron ore, exports declined, both in terms of volume and prices, with the weakening of China’s steel industry directly impacting trade. Exports stood at 600,000 tons, down from 1.11 million tons, with the value standing at $22.96 million.

The KDI said Pyongyang’s No. 1 import item from its neighbor was filament yarn, followed by cargo trucks and petroleum products. Imports of yarn and petroleum products were down, while shipments of cargo trucks rose.

In bold above I have highlighted what appears to be bad news for North Korean coal exporters. I was surprised to see this because an earlier report by Bloomberg indicated that North Korean coal exports to China had increased by 25% this year (over 2014).  However, it is worth pointing out that the Bloomberg report focuses on the actual quantity of coal crossing the border and KDI  reports on the value of the coal crossing the border. The only way both reports can be true is if the North Koreans are again taking lower prices from the Chinese for their coal compared to their international competitors. Another explanation for the conflicting reports could arise if there was a significant difference between Chinese customs data (Bloomberg) and that used by the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations and the Korea International Trade Association (KDI). I don’t have enough experience with these data sets to know how consistent they are.

Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein offers a link to the report here (in Korean only).

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s trade with China tumbles this year: KDI
Yonhap
2015-8-11

ORIGINAL POST (2015-4-26): Yonhap reports that DPRK – China trade has fallen in the first quarter of 2015:

Trade between North Korea and China, its economic lifeline, slipped 13.4 percent on-year in the first three months of this year amid frayed bilateral ties, data showed Sunday.

Bilateral trade volume fell to US$1.1 billion in the January-March period, compared with $1.27 billion for the same period last year, the Beijing unit of South’s Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) said, citing Chinese customs data.

China is North Korea’s top economic benefactor, but its political ties with Pyongyang have been strained since the North’s third nuclear test in February 2013.

No crude oil was officially sent to North Korea from China for all of last year.

China’s shipments of crude oil to North Korea were also absent during the first quarter of this year.

South Korean diplomatic sources in Beijing, however, have cautioned against reading too much into the official Chinese trade figures because China has provided crude oil to North Korea in the form of grant aid in the past and such shipments were not recorded on paper.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s trade with China dips 13.4 pct in Q1
Yonhap
2015-4-26

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DPRK coal shipments to China 2015

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

Back in 2014, Kevin Stahler argued that the DPRK’s anthracite coal exports were falling due to Chinese environmental and trade policies. This year Bloomberg reports that coal exports are showing heavy growth:

China-DPRK-Anthracite-2015

North Korea was the only country to boost coal shipments to China this year as Vietnamese supply slumped.

Chinese coal imports tumbled 40 percent in the five months through May, according to customs data. North Korean shipments jumped 25 percent, overtaking Mongolia and Russia to become China’s largest foreign source of coal after Australia and Indonesia, as Vietnamese imports dropped 91 percent.

An expanding power sector means Vietnam is preparing next year to start importing coal, ending its role as the world’s biggest supplier of a high-quality grade known as anthracite. North Korea’s benefiting from the rising exports as it needs foreign income amid a three-month drought that’s threatening harvests and raising the possibility that it will need to import food.

“It may be a replacement for the lack of exports from Vietnam,” Guillaume Perret, founder and director at Perret Associates, a coal research company in London, said by phone Friday. “It could be that some power plants or industrial sectors need high-quality anthracite for blending. There’s not so much anthracite in the world, so they may be replacing Vietnamese exports with North Korea.”

Vietnam Shipments

China’s shift to a more consumer-driven economy from heavy industrial investment has damped the nation’s demand for commodities from iron ore to copper. The country imported 7.5 million metric tons of coal from North Korea in January through May as Vietnam’s shipments fell to 180,000 tons and total foreign supplies dropped to 62 million tons. The customs data doesn’t distinguish between grades of thermal coal.

“North Korea is the new No. 1 exporter of anthracite,” Georgi Slavov, head of basic materials research in London at Marex Spectron, said Friday by e-mail. “Vietnam held the No. 1 spot for many years before that.”

Australia and Russia’s coal sales to China dropped as much as 45 percent in the period, while South Africa and the U.S. made no shipments at all in 2015, the customs data show. North Korea produced 43 million short tons (39 million metric tons) of coal in 2012, the last year for which the U.S. Department of Energy has estimates. That’s about 1 percent of Chinese output.

Anthracite in China closed unchanged on July 14 at 604 renminbi ($97.27) a metric ton, according to weekly data from the China National Chemical Information Center. Prices slid 12 percent so far this year.

NK News followed up with a separate story. You can read it here.

Here are comments by Marcus Noland.

Read the full story here:
North Korea Gains in China Coal Exports as Vietnam Bows Out
Bloomberg
Alessandro Vitelli
2015-7-19

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Choco Pies in North Korea (UPDATED)

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

Choco-pie-Pyongyang

Pictured above (Source here): A Choco Pie wrapper in Pyongyang (October 2014)

UPDATE 6 (2015-7-14): The Daily NK reports that the DPRK’s ‘Choco Pie’ knock-off falls far short:

Daily NK has obtained a North Korean snack rolled out to squash demand for a popular South Korean treat that had first become a sensation among factory workers in the inter-Korean industrial complex and spread across the country. Known as ‘Chocolate Danseolgi,’ the snack displays a striking resemblance with the much-loved South Korean ‘Choco Pie’.

The new treat is said to have been produced to cut off fantasies about the capitalist world its workers may harbor.

DNKE_1325_295691_1436859978_i

Starting last month, North Korea has been providing its Kaesong factory workers with ‘Danseolgi’, according to a source who has ties with the North and passed on the new snack to Daily NK on the condition of anonymity. This comes after Pyongyang banned supplies of the famed ‘Choco Pie’ within the industrial complex last year, as they were being sold by the workers on the black market for good returns and gaining greater popularity across the country.

The South Korean ‘Choco Pie’ snack was first introduced to Kaesong workers in 2006. Due to its soaring popularity, many had come to develop a sense of curiosity or fantasies about the South, the source said. Seeing the chocolate cake snack with marshmallow filling win over so much love, Pyongyang set out to create an alternative in the hopes of choking off demand.

Last year, after banning ‘Choco Pie’ supplies, the North tried to force South Korean firms to provide its factory workers with a home-grown chocolate double-layered cake snack, and this year in March, it even rolled out a chocolate coated rice cake treat also similar to an existing South Korean product.

Despite these efforts, local goods have failed to take off, as Kaesong workers are already acquainted with tastes from South Korea and are only eating the ‘Danseolgi’ as they have no other choice, according to the source.

The treat is one of the “latest products” put out for Kaesong workers. “It was smuggled out of the country by way of a North Korean trader in the Rason Economic Special Zone who works with Chinese traders,” she explained.

“Currently in the North, the ‘Chocolate Danseolgi’ is being distributed to workers as supplies, and they’re not sold on North Korea’s regular markets,” she asserted. Every last ingredient used to make the snack, from the butter to the chocolate, is imported from China.

Predictably, Kaesong workers invariably far prefer the taste of the original chocolate snack from South Korea, the source said, adding, “North Korea will never be able to produce the South’s Choco Pie.”

One of Daily NK’s reporters who tried out the North Korean ‘Danseolgi’ described the snack as “decidedly lacking in chocolate flavor ” and “being overwhelmingly pungent of butter.” The wrapper claims to include marshmallow in the product, but our taste tester reported any semblance of its texture to be nonexistent and noted that the cake itself is incredibly prone to crumbling.

UPDATE 5 (2015-6-9): DPRK asks that all South Korean food served in the KIC be replaced by North Korean substitutes. According to Voice of America:

North Korea has asked South Korean businesses at the Kaesong industrial complex to replace all foodstuffs given to its workers at the inter-Korean park with North Korea-made products.

A representative of the South Korean businesses, who visited the complex Tuesday, told VOA’s Korean Service that South Korean companies began distributing North Korean substitutes for popular South Korean food supplies to the North Korean workers as early as March. Almost all South Korea-made food products have now been replaced with North Korean products.

Choco Pie, a popular South Korean snack cake, also has been replaced with a similar North Korea-made sweet. The chocolate covered cake with marshmallow filling has become one of the most popular items in the North’s black markets. Other North Korea-made foodstuffs given to the workers include instant noodles with chicken broth and condiments.

In an attempt to keep South Korean foodstuffs from the complex, the North is imposing an additional business tax on the companies for bringing in South Korea-made products. About 50 South Korean businesses supplying food for the complex face bankruptcy, according to representatives of the South Korean businesses.

Some business owners have expressed concern about the quality of North Korean foodstuffs. One representative said some workers are suffering from food poisoning after the switch.

A South Korean official who asked to remain anonymous told VOA the North Korean move is aimed at blocking the flow of South Korean products into the North and earning foreign currency.

South Korean companies have been providing about $60 per month in snacks to each North Korean worker. With approximately 53,000 workers at the complex, Pyongyang can now garner up to $3 million every month from the snack sales.

UPDATE 4 (2014-9-24): According to the Daily NK, workers in the KIC are receiving a different dessert than the Choco Pie now. Also, the Kumunsan Company is producing substitute goods, and they are winning over consumers:

[…] the once popular South Korean snack Choco Pie is seeing a decline in its asking price. In June, Pyongyang demanded that South Korean companies at the industrial complex stop distributing Choco Pies to workers there, as officials had found it problematic that North Korean workers were saving the snacks and selling them in the markets. More recently, the northern workers have been receiving Chaltteok Pie (찰떡) [a chocolate covered rice cake from the South], individually packaged coffee, yulmucha (율무차)[grainy tea made with Job’s Tears], and candy bars.

“In Pyongyang, at the ‘Geumeunsan Trade Company,’ (금운산, Kumunsan Trade Corporation) they have been baking bread for about a year,” the source said, adding, “Of all the different kinds of bread, the most popular are the ones with butter inside, and they are less than 1000 KPW– much cheaper than Choco Pie.”

The trade company is an affiliate of the Military Mobilization Department [Military Manpower Administration in South Korea], which deals with the procurement of military supplies among its many functions. They either directly import the goods or obtain them from military factories in various locations across the country, and oversee the manufacturing of military equipment and machinery.

Geumeunsan Trade Company maintains branches in multiple areas, including Rasun and Cheongjin, and the office in Pyongyang imports ingredients such as flour, sugar, and cooking oil directly from China. According to the source, the raw material prices are cheaper than in the  North’s markets, and the products taste good, allowing it to monopolize the confectionery market there.

“The company has brought in foreign equipment and technology, putting it ahead of the South’s Choco Pie in price and taste,” he said, concluding, “This is why with the introduction of these different breads in Pyongyang, the price of Choco Pie [from the South] has dropped to 500 KPW from 1,200 KPW.”

See also this story in Radio Free Asia.

Read the full story here:
Kaesong Goods Fetch Highest Market Prices
Daily NK
Seol Song Ah
2014-9-24

UPDATE 3 (2014-7-1): Media reports claim that the DPRK has banned the use/possession of Choco Pies in the Kaesong Industrial Complex. According to the Washington Post:

By some estimates, as many as 2.5 million Choco Pies were traded monthly — though it’s unclear who exactly was so assiduously following Choco Pie markets.

Regardless of its volume, the trade will now surely be shrinking.

According to recent reports in the South Korean press, North Korean authorities have now banned the South Korean-produced Choco Pie at the Kaesong Industrial Complex following a lengthy crackdown on the chocolate treat that has made it scarce in Pyongyang.

Before, workers could pocket as many as 20 pies every night of work. But now, South Korean factory staff said they’ll instead get sausages, instant noodles, powdered coffee or chocolate bars as a bonus.

More information here and here.

UPDATE 2 (2013-9-20): Is the DPRK manufacturing a counterfeit Choc Pie? According to the Daily NK:

Ryongsong-foodstuff-factory-2013-11-21

Pictured Above: Ryongsong Foodstuff Factory, Ryongsong District, Pyongyang (Google Earth)

The price of a North Korean own-brand “Choco Pie” fell to just 500 won in domestic markets following news that the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) was to reopen, Daily NK has learned. The local version of the chocolate snack, which is made by Orion in South Korea, had previously risen to 3000 won on the back of the protracted KIC closure.

A source in Pyongyang reported to Daily NK on the 19th, “Sometime around May, Yongseong [Ryongsong] Foodstuff Factory in Pyongyang started selling ‘Choco Pies’ in the markets. People hadn’t seen a Choco Pie since Kaesong stopped, so their reaction was really something.”

“People were surprised because the packets said ‘Choco Pie’ and ‘Choco Rice Cake’ [a similar product with a glutinous rice center], and they couldn’t tell the difference between them and those from the ‘neighborhood below’ [South Korea] unless they checked closely,” the source went on. “Sure, people could tell they weren’t the real thing as soon as they ate them, but they were still pretty satisfied.”

According to the source, after South Korean Choco Pies disappeared from North Korean markets following the closure of the KIC, domestic traders started looking into importing the original South Korean and similar Chinese versions of the popular treat. However, the cost and difficulty of doing so meant that very few ended up crossing the border.

Therefore, attention turned to domestic production. The source explained, “Production volumes were low at first, and the state tried to control the flow of the product into the markets. They were 500 won a piece at the end of the first month; but that had risen to 3000 won by the end of last month. But the price sank back down upon news of the KIC re-start.”

“As soon as Choco Pies stopped coming out of the KIC, Yeongsong Foodstuffs Factory moved quickly and must have made quite a bit of money,” he guessed. “They were trying to imitate the South Korean pies but the product was way too sweet, which is partly why the price collapsed on the news of Kaesong.”

Only 60% (32,000) of the pre-closure North Korean workforce (53,000) returned to work when the KIC re-opened for a “trial run” on September 16th. At the same time, South Korean businesses, many facing financial difficulties after five months of nonproductive shutdown, have reportedly reduced the quantity of Choco Pies and other snacks previously distributed to workers. It is unclear what effect these circumstances could have on the price of goods flowing out of the KIC over the longer term.

Read the full story here:
NK Choco Pie Price Falls on KIC News
Daily NK
2013-9-20

UPDATE 1 (2011-10-31): According to the Daily NK, North Korean management in the Complex requested back in August that South Korean businesses stop offering ‘Choco-pies’ (a South Korean snack) to North Korean workers and give them cash instead.

ORIGINAL POST (2009-5-20): Donald Kirk has a must-read article in today’s Asia Times on the subtle ways that the Kaesong Industrial Zone is undermining Pyongyang’s control over the North Korean people.  He points out that the DPRK’s verbal attacks on South Korea, combined with demands for new land, labor, and road use contracts in the Kaesong complex, are an attempt to blame South Korea when Kim Jong-il finally closes the project.

Quoting from the article:

Think Choco Pie, the thick wafer-like confection, all pastry and cream, served in the Kaesong Industrial Complex as a daily dessert for the 40,000 North Koreans who toil for 100 South Korean companies with factories in the complex.

“North Koreans love Choco Pie,” said Ha Tae-keung, president of NK Open Radio, which beams two hours of news daily into North Korea from its base in Seoul. “It’s an invasion of the stomach.”

North Korean workers, and the friends and family members for whom they save their daily treats, may salivate over Choco Pie, but it’s giving a severe stomach ache to senior officials fearful of the infiltration of South Korean culture in all corners of their Hermit Kingdom.

Choco Pie – along with other favorite South Korean cakes and candies as well as instant coffee – has come to symbolize the image of the capitalist South as a multi-tentacle beast that may be impossible to digest.

For Kim Jong-il, suffering from diabetes, recovering from a stroke and hoping to survive a few more years while grooming his neophyte youngest son, in his mid-20s, to succeed him, the best way to deal with the Kaesong complex, 60 kilometers north of Seoul and just above the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, may be to spit it out.

It’s for this reason, said Ha, that North Korea has precipitously scrapped the agreements under which South Korean companies operate in the complex, built and managed by Hyundai Asan, an offshoot of the sprawling South Korean Hyundai empire.

“He’s come to see Kaesong as a burden rather than an asset, and is inclined to shut it down,” said Ha.

While the Kim Jong il government focuses its attention on cultural infiltration from the South, there appears to be little it is doing, or can do, about cultural infiltration from China–the DPRK’s most significant trading and political partner to the north:

When it comes to South Korean cultural infiltration, however, North Korea has far more to fear from the entry of goods from China than from the Kaesong complex. South Korean DVDs and CDs, even soft-core porn movies made in the South, are now distributed surreptitiously throughout North Korea. Electronic gadgetry, MP3 and MP4 players, TV sets, radios and rice cookers, also shipped via China, are also available for those with the money to pay for them.

Read the full article here:
Pyongyang chokes on sweet capitalism
Asia Times
Donald Kirk
5/21/2009

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China-DPRK border trade zone approved in Dandong

Monday, July 13th, 2015

According to Xinhua:

A border trade zone between China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), located in northeast China’s Liaoning Province, has been approved, the provincial government announced on Monday.

According to the city’s foreign trade bureau, the Guomenwan border trade zone covers 40,000 square meters of land in the border city of Dandong. It is expected to open in October.

Residents living within 20 kilometers of the border will be able to exchange commodities with people from the DPRK and enjoy a duty-free policy on goods purchased for less than 8,000 yuan (1,288 U.S. dollars) per day, authorities with the bureau said.

Dandong is the key hub for trade, investment and tourism between China and the DPRK. There are more than 600 border trade enterprises in the city, and trade with the DPRK accounts for 40 percent of the city’s total trade turnover.

Read the full story here:
China-DPRK border trade zone approved
Xinhua
2015-7-13

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4th annual China-DPRK Economic, Trade, Culture and Tourism Expo

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

Adam Cathcart informs us that the fourth China-DPRK Economic, Trade, Culture and Tourism Expo will be held this year. Info on the first, second, and third expos here.

Here is the website for the event (in Chinese).

According to Cathcart:

The going-forward of the 2015 fair was announced in Dandong at a hotel by the city’s vice-mayor; no North Koreans were listed as attending. Nor were any DPRK officials in attendance[.]

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Rason serves as Hunchun port (again)

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

Back in 2011, an experimental project saw the shipment of coal from Hunchun (China) to Shanghia via the North Korean port of Rason. Since then, no such effort is known to have been repeated.

Until now, apparently…

According to UPI:

A maritime route that includes the North Korean port of Rajin has enabled Chinese shippers to significantly reduce costs over a more time-consuming land route, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

Chinese cargo from the northeastern city of Hunchun has made the journey to bustling Shanghai twice in June, according to Chinese authorities.

Hunchun officials said 38 containers that left the city on June 24 arrived in Shanghai on June 27, and on June 11, 42 containers were delivered to China’s eastern coast – all using Rajin as a key point where cargo could be loaded onto ships.

I have not been able to locate any additional information.

Read the full story here:
China, North Korea cooperate on Rajin shipping route
UPI
Elizabeth Shim
2015-7-2

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Yanji – DPRK charter flight resumes

Sunday, June 21st, 2015

According to Xinhua:

An oft-suspended tourist route between China and North Korea has been reopened after its latest closure.

A charter flight carrying 73 tourists left from Yanji, in the Korean autonomous prefecture of Yanbian in northeast China’s Jilin province, for Pyongyang in North Korea on Thursday.

The route will be open until early October, with a planned 32 charter flights on Thursdays and Sundays. All seats on the flights in June have been booked, according to Yanbian Tianyu Travel Agency, which runs the route with North Korea’s Air Koryo.

A four-day trip costs 3,980 yuan (US$650) per person while a five-day trip costs 4,480 yuan (US$720) per person, according to the agency.

The route between Yanji and Pyongyang was first opened in July 2012, but it was closed for the whole of 2013 due to tensions in North Korea. It resumed on June 29 last year and was suspended again in October. A total of 90 flights had been completed on the route by October.

Read the full story here:
Yanbian-Pyongyang tourist route reopens
Xinhua
2015-6-21

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North Korea’s trade volume in 2014: $7.6 billion USD

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2015-6-17

Last year North Korea’s foreign trade volume (excluding economic exchanges with South Korea) totaled 7.6 billion USD, a 3.7 percent increase over the previous year. According to a report recently put out by KOTRA (Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency) entitled “North Korea’s International Trade Patterns in 2014,” last year North Korean exports totaled 3.16 billion USD, while imports totaled 4.45 billion USD. This represents a 1.7 percent decrease in exports and 7.8 percent growth in imports over the previous year. As a result North Korea’s trade deficit in 2014 leaped to 1.29 billion USD, a 41 percent increase over 2013. This expansion of trade appears to be a product of growth in the import of goods such as plastics, machinery and electricity, as well as growth in the export of clothing.

Among North Korea’s main exports, mineral fuels such as coal, at 1.18 billion USD, represented 37.2 percent of total exports and was the country’s main export product. Meanwhile, exports of clothing and components saw the biggest growth rate, at 23.7 percent, and amounted to 640 million USD. In regards to other exports, iron ore totaled 330 million USD (18.3 percent decrease over 2013), fish and crustaceans totaled 140 million USD (21.9 percent increase), and steel amounted to 130 million USD (22 percent increase).

North Korea’s main imports were as follows: mineral fuels (750 million USD – 4.7 percent decrease), electric equipment (430 million USD – 54.8 percent increase), furnaces and machinery (330 million USD – 3.3 percent increase), motor vehicles and parts (230 million USD – 9.6 percent decrease), and plastic (200 million USD – 31.8 percent increase).

It appears North Korea’s main trading partner is still China. Last year its trade volume with China reached 6.86 billion USD (exports – 2.84 billion USD, imports – 4.02 billion USD), a 4.9 percent increase over 2013. This contributed to a slight increase in North Korea’s reliance on trade with China. Its proportion of trade with China went from 89.1 percent in 2013 to 90.1 percent in 2014. After China, the countries that North Korea traded most with were Russia, India, Thailand, and Bangladesh, in that order. Hong Kong and Ukraine dropped off the list of North Korea’s top ten trading partners, and Pakistan and Germany newly appeared on the list at 8th and 10th place, respectively. Trade with Japan has been nonexistent since 2009. Due to its economic sanctions against North Korea, the United States also had no economic exchanges with North Korea in 2014 outside of relief aid, mostly in the form of medical supplies and equipment.

As North Korea’s over-reliance on trade with China continued, its trade deficit widened due to the decrease in exports and surge in imports. Considering factors such as the complementary trade structure (including contract processing and natural resource trade), the protraction of North Korea’s political and economic isolation, and their highly interdependent relationship, it seems likely that North Korea’s strong reliance on trade with China will continue in the future.

[NOTE: KOTRA data excludes inter-Korean trade. If South Korean trade were included, it would be North Korea’s second largest trading partner, and the composition of trade allotted to China would fall.]

Here is coverage in Yonhap:

North Korea’s global trade expanded in 2014 from a year earlier, but its trade deficit also widened due to a drop in exports, a report showed Friday.

According to the report by the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, North Korea’s trade came to US$7.61 billion last year, up 3.7 percent from a year earlier. The figures did not count its trade with South Korea.

North Korea’s exports shrank 1.7 percent on-year to $3.16 billion last year, while imports grew 7.8 percent to $4.45 billion over the same period, the report showed.

Based on the figures, North Korea posted a trade deficit of $1.29 billion last year, with its shortfall jumping 41 percent from the year before.

Minerals and fossil fuels, including coal, were among the country’s major export items as its overseas sales stood at $1.18 billion, which accounted for 37.2 percent of its total annual exports.

The report showed that North Korea continues to depend heavily on China for its trade.

Last year, bilateral trade between the two countries reached $6.86 billion, up 4.9 percent from a year earlier. North Korea’s dependence on China in trade increased slightly from 89.1 percent in 2013 to 90.1 percent last year, according to the report.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s global trade expands but trade gap widens: report
Yonhap
2015-6-5

Here is coverage in UPI:

South Korea’s trade promotion agency KOTRA stated North Korea’s trade with the outside world rose to $7.61 billion in 2014, a marginal increase from the previous fiscal year.

In its annual report on North Korea trade trends released Friday, KOTRA noted North Korean exports scaled down while demand for outside materials was up between 2013 and 2014, Yonhap reported.

Numbers indicated North Korea’s exports decreased by 1.7 percent to $3.16 billion in 2014, while imports rose by 7.8 percent to $4.45 billion.

North Korea’s trade deficit jumped to $1.29 billion, up 41 percent from 2013.

In 2014 North Korea imported more electrical equipment, machinery and plastics than it did a year earlier, while exporting more clothing and accessories, according to KOTRA.

The country’s primary export is coal, a trade valued at $1.18 billion and comprises 37.2 percent of North Korea exports.

Clothing and accessories inched up in its share of total exports, rising to $640 million – up 23.7 percent from 2013.

The country’s primary import was fossil fuels at $750 million, followed by electrical equipment at $430 million and boilers, machinery at $330 million.

China remained North Korea’s No. 1 trading partner, reported South Korean newspaper Kyunghyang Sinmun.

In 2014 China-North Korea trade inched up 4.9 percent to $6.87 billion. North Korea imported more than it exported from China. Exports were estimated at $2.84 billion while imports totaled $4.03 billion.

A KOTRA official told Yonhap North Korea’s protracted political and economic isolation has led to a high dependence on trade with China, facilitated by a complementary trade structure between the two countries.

South Korea’s report stated North Korea’s trade dependence on China was as high as 90.1 percent, dwarfing Pyongyang’s next major trading partner, Russia, as well as India, Thailand and Bangladesh.

Read the full story here:
North Korea’s trade deficit continued to grow, says SKorea
UPI
Elizabeth Shim
2015-6-4

Here is coverage in the Joong Ang Ilbo:

North Korea’s international trade volume reached $7.6 billion in 2014, rising by 3.7 percent year-on-year, according to a report on Friday by the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (Kotra).

The growth was backed by Pyongyang’s increased import of electronic devices and machinery and its rising export of clothing, according to the agency.

Kotra said North Korea’s export volume was worth $3.2 billion last year, a 1.7 percent decline from the previous year.

On the other hand, the reclusive state imported $4.5 billion worth of goods, up 7.8 percent. The widening disparity between imports and exports extended the North’s trade deficit by 41 percent to $1.3 billion.

China remained Pyongyang’s biggest trading partner in 2014, the report said, followed by Russia, India, Thailand and Bangladesh. Its trading volume with China increased to $6.9 billion, with imports from that nation accounting for $4 billion and exports $2.9 billion. The overall figure is a 4.9 percent increase from 2013, nudging up the North’s overall degree of dependence on foreign trade with China to 90.1 percent from 89.1 percent.

Hong Kong and Ukraine were no longer in the North’s top 10 trading partners, but Pakistan and Germany made their way onto the list. By contrast, Japan has not traded with the North since 2009, while the United States only provided it with aid and medical equipment.

Kotra noted that the North’s key export products include mineral resources such as coal and brown coal, which account for 37.2 percent of all its exports. Clothing and fisheries products were also among its major exports, with garment shipments recently seeing rapid growth.

The country’s other major export products consist of crude oil, refined oil, machinery, electronic devices, cars and auto parts. The value of resource imports decreased by 4.7 percent last year, while those of electronic machines surged by 54.8 percent.

Kotra expects that the North will continue to rely on its neighboring key ally going forward.

“2014 saw increasing dependence on China, while North Korea extended trade deficits due to the increase in imports and the decline in exports,” Kotra said in a statement. “When considering geopolitical factors and mutually beneficial trade structure, the North is expected to show further reliance on China.”

The Korea Development Institute, a state-run think tank, released its own report that paints dim prospects for the North’s exports.

The institute said the North’s exports of anthracite coal to China are expected to fall in the years to come due to China’s dwindling steel industry and stronger environmental regulations. Its exports of the coal to its ally have been considered the backbone of its economy, accounting for about 40 percent of its overall exports.

The report called on the North to reorganize its trade structure in order to avoid being seriously affected.

“The time has come for North Korea to reshape its external trade structure,” it noted.

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North’s trade volume rises
Joong Ang Ilbo
2015-6-6

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Chinese firms urged to remain confident in DPRK

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

According to Yonhap:

China has encouraged its companies doing business in North Korea to remain confident, despite strained political ties between the two neighbors.

The Chinese ambassador to North Korea, Li Jinjun, made the remarks at a meeting on Wednesday with a group of Chinese businessmen in North Korea, the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang said in a statement.

Li told the Chinese businessmen that he has briefed North Korean officials on China’s ambitious Silk Road project aimed at reviving the ancient trade route between Asia and Europe.

Taking advantage of the Chinese Silk Road project, Li “encouraged Chinese companies to seize the opportunity to remain confident in their businesses in North Korea,” according to the statement.

Since taking up office in March, the Chinese ambassador has held a series of meetings with North Korean officials, including North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Ri Gil-song and Minister of Foreign Trade Ri Ryong-nam.

With a US$40 billion fund, the Silk Road project, known as “One Belt, One Road” in China, is designed to build ports, expressways, railways and other infrastructure with its neighboring countries.

China is North Korea’s economic lifeline and diplomatic backer, but political ties have strained in recent years, particularly after the North’s third nuclear test in early 2013.

Read the full story here:
Chinese firms urged to remain confident in N. Korea
Yonhap
2015-5-14

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