UPDATE: Here is the original KOTRA report.
ORIGINAL POST: According to Yonhap:
Despite years of international sanctions, North Korea’s overall trade volume reached a new annual high in 2013 due largely to growing shipments to and from its closest ally, China, a South Korean trade agency said Thursday.
The North’s overall trade volume came to US$7.34 billion in 2013, up 7.8 percent from the previous year, according to the state-run Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA).
“It is the highest amount since KOTRA began compiling data on North Korea’s annual trade volumes in 1990,” it said in a press release.
The country’s exports jumped 11.7 percent on-year to $3.22 billion, with imports growing 5 percent to $4.12 billion.
Bilateral trade volume between North Korea and China came to $6.54 billion, accounting for 89.1 percent of the North’s overall trade in 2013.
“North Korea’s dependence on China for trade has been increasing steadily since 2005 when its trade volume with China exceeded 50 percent of its overall trade,” KOTRA said.
“In addition, it shows China’s pledge to tighten its customs check on shipments to and from North Korea, in protest of North Korea’s missile launch in December 2012 and a nuclear test in February 2013, did not have any significant effect on North Korea-China trade,” it added.
The large increase in North Korea’s overall exports was attributed to growing shipments of fuel, such as coal, which surged 14.9 percent on-year to $1.43 billion, accounting for 44.4 percent of the country’s total exports.
Out of all energy exports, 97.2 percent were shipped to China.
Russia, another North Korean ally, was the country’s second-largest trading partner in 2013, with bilateral trade volume spiking 37.3 percent to $104 million.
Note, this does not contain South Korea data, which for purely political reasons is counted as inter-Korean (domestic) trade. According to a KIEP presentation by Yoon Deok-ryong, DPRK-ROK trade in 2013 amounted to $1.14b.
Here is what the Institute for Far Eastern Studies had to say:
North Korean Foreign Trade Volume Posts Record High of USD 7.3 Billion in 2013
According to a recent report by the Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), foreign trade in North Korea (excluding inter-Korean trade) reached a record high of USD 7.3 billion in 2013, up 7.8 percent from the previous year. The report, released on May 22, 2014, marks the fourth year since South Korea enacted the “May 24 Measures,” suspending all inter-Korean trade and economic cooperation outside of the Kaesong Industrial Complex. KOTRA, a South Korean state-run agency which analyzes North Korea’s foreign trade volume, noted that last year’s figures were the highest ever since they began recording data in 1990.
The report shows that North Korean exports and imports in 2013 both increased compared to the previous year, up 11.7 percent (totaling USD 3.2 billion) and 5 percent (totaling USD 4.1 billion), respectively. KOTRA’s data analysis says that North Korean exports consist mostly of “mineral resources such as coal, iron ore, copper and aluminum,” and noted that “the recent boom of contract manufacturing (toll processing) businesses has led to an increase in textile and clothing exports.” Imports, such as electricity, transport vehicles and grains also saw increases, but North Korea was still able to cut their trade deficit by about USD 20 million, from 1 billion (2012) to 980 million (2013).
North Korea’s largest trading partner is China. The trade volume between the two allies reached a total of USD 6.5 billion in 2013, up 8.9 percent from the previous year. This accounts for 89.1 percent of all of North Korea’s foreign trade, showing increasing dependence on China. Despite Beijing’s partaking in international sanctions against North Korea, it appears to have had a little effect on the bilateral trade between the two nations.
North Korea’s other top trading partners behind China include Russia, India, Thailand and Singapore (in that order). In particular, foreign trade with Russia increased by 37.3 percent last year and totaled over USD 100 million (7 million in exports, 97 million in imports). KOTRA explained the sharp increase in Russian imports in the second half of 2013 was due to import of transport vehicles and machineries for the railway construction between the areas of Rajin and Hassan.
KOTRA’s research shows that while the trade with Japan has been nonexistent since 2009, the two nations recently have begun to engage in talks at the bureau-chief level. As expected, due to the economic sanctions imposed on North Korea, foreign trade with the United States remains limited to food, basic necessities, and humanitarian aid.
Coal, lignite and other mineral fuels are North Korea’s largest export products, accounting for 44.4 percent of total foreign exports. This figure increased by nearly 15 percent in 2013, reaching USD 1.4 billion. A staggering 97.2 percent of these mineral exports are sent to China. Other exports such as clothing and textiles saw a 33.5 percent increase from the previous year, totaling USD 520 million. Meanwhile, imports of crude and refined oil – North Korea’s largest import commodities – were recorded at USD 780 million in 2013, a 3.8 percent decrease compared to 2012. North Korea’s oil is imported almost exclusively from China at 94.5 percent.
Despite recent economic sanctions imposed by the international community, North Korea’s foreign trade volume has continued to rise over the last four years thanks to increases in coal, iron and other mineral exports to China. Furthermore, in order to diversify its foreign trade and reduce its trade dependence on China, North Korea likely will continue to further promote bilateral ties with Russia.
Here is coverage in Business Korea.
Aidan Foster-Carter offers this update in the Wall Street Journal’s Korea Real Time.
Nicholas Eberstadt offers analysis here.
Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s overall trade volume grows to record high in 2013