Archive for the ‘International trade’ Category

Prospects for North Korea’s anthracite exports to China

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2014-3-3

For North Korea, anthracite exports are a major means of foreign currency earnings and the country’s top export item to China. Exports are expected to continue to rise this year.

China’s year-on-year import of anthracite from North Korea increased 39.7 percent (16.49 million tons) from the previous year, accounting for 41.5 percent of the total amount of anthracite import for China (39.66 million tons). North Korea has now surpassed Vietnam as the top exporter of anthracite to China.

Other than natural resources, North Korea has virtually no other major export commodities to offer. The recent standstill in inter-Korean economic cooperation and toughened international sanctions has made it difficult for North Korea to earn foreign currency. Thus, North Korea has pushed for a steady increase in its hard coal exports to China. North Korean anthracite is considered to be of relatively high quality, maintaining a higher unit price (10 USD/ton) than Vietnamese anthracite.

Currently, China’s steel industry is the largest consumer of the North Korean anthracite, with the main consumers being local steel companies in Liaoning, Hebei, and Shandong Provinces, as they are geographically closer to North Korea and have easy access to shipping ports.

The market for North Korean anthracite is expected to expand. Since last year, the Chinese government began to implement wide-ranging air-pollution management measures. As a result, Chinese authorities designated the Hebei Province and the surrounding areas of Beijing and Tianjin municipalities as key areas to improve and control air pollution. With the help of allocated subsidies from the central government, local governments began to distribute hard coal briquettes to homes in farming villages. China’s major anthracite producing areas are in remote mountainous regions. So the demand for North Korean anthracite briquettes is anticipated to increase.

Late last year, the former head of the (North) Korean Workers’ Party Jang Song Thaek was accused, charged and executed for, among other “anti-state activities,” selling the country’s “precious [natural] resources” (presumably to China) at very cheap prices. But his execution does not appear to have made a significant impact on the anthracite trade between the DPRK and China. With China’s growing demand for North Korean anthracite, the export volume is expected to rise.

However, some argue that despite the growing demand North Korea’s coal production capacity is limited and will experience difficulties. Currently, North Korea has already suppressed significantly its domestic demand in order to meet the export volume. North Korea’s mining facilities are said to be old and badly in need of repairs, but large investments from Chinese companies that could be put toward this endeavor are reported to have dried up.

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2013 Inter-Korean trade

Monday, February 24th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

Trade between South and North Korea fell to its lowest level in eight years in 2013 due to their strained relations, data showed Sunday.

Inter-Korean trade reached US$1.15 billion last year, down a whopping 41.9 percent from the previous year’s $1.98 billion, according to the data from the Korea International Trade Association (KITA).

South Korean exports to the North nose-dived 41.1 percent on-year to $531.8 million, with imports from the communist country sinking 42.5 percent to $617.2 million.

The 2013 inter-Korean trade volume was the lowest since 2005, when the figure came to $1.06 billion.

In contrast to the plunge in trade with South Korea, the North’s trade with China, its chief ally and largest benefactor, jumped 10.4 percent on-year to a record high of $6.54 billion last year, according to the data.

Between 2009 and 2014, North Korea’s trade volume with China, the world’s second-largest economy, had been growing an annual average of more than 40 percent, the data showed.

 

According to the Choson Ilbo:

Inter-Korean trade fell to 18 percent of the North’s trade with China, the lowest since 2005.

South Korea’s imports of textile goods and electric and electronic products from the North fell 45 percent and 43 percent, while the North’s imports of mineral and textile products from China increased 15 percent and 33 percent.

Of course inter-Korean trade was down due to the DPRK’s closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC). Once the complex was reopened, trade began to recover.

More on China-DPRK trade in 2013 here.

Read the full stories here:
Inter-Korean trade hits 8-year low in 2013
Yonhap
2014-2-23

N.Korean Trade with China Grows
Choson Ilbo
2014-2-24

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China – DPRK trade data (January 2014)

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

Yonhap reports that China – DPRK trade appears unaffected by the purge of Jang Song-thaek. According to the article:

Despite North Korea’s stunning execution of the leader’s uncle in December, its trade with China remained solid in January, up 16 percent from a year earlier, data showed Friday.

Jang Song-thaek, the country’s No. 2 man and leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle, had played an important role in dealing with Beijing before being executed late last year on treason charges. The political upheaval raised concerns over a possible instability that could spill over into other areas of the reclusive country’s moribund economy and society.

Still, trade volume between North Korea and its major trading partner China came to US$546 million in January, compared with $471 million from a year earlier, according to the data compiled by the Korea International Trade Association (KITA).

North Korean exports to China jumped 18 percent on-year to $223 million, with imports rising 14.5 percent to $323 million, the data showed.

Anthracite was the No. 1 export item for the impoverished country to its communist neighbor, selling some $101 million worth of the natural resource last month, up 21.3 percent from a year ago.

North Korea’s anthracite exports are a major source of income, and China is virtually the only destination for the shipments.

Inbound shipments of China-made cell phones soared 28 percent on-year to $14.4 million in January, the data showed.

“Trade volume between the two countries is expected to rise further given China’s growing demand for minerals for its project to develop its three northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning,” said Lim Eul-chul, a research professor at Kyungnam University.

“Such political variables as Jang’s execution would not likely affect the trend,” he added.

The heavily sanctioned North Korea has been increasingly reliant on China, though the Asian giant has become frustrated with its wayward neighbor, particularly after Pyongyang’s third nuclear test early last year.

In 2013, trade volume between the two reached a record $6.45 billion last year, up 10.4 percent from the previous year, according to KITA data.

The Wall Street Journal notes:

“Bilateral trade has probably yet to feel the impact of Mr. Jang’s execution,” said Cho Bong-hyun, research fellow at Seoul-based IBK Economic Research Institute.

“Both sides are still acting on trade contracts that have already been signed and usually take effect for six months,” Mr. Cho said.

Mr. Cho said he expects the impact from Mr. Jang’s purge will begin to appear in the data from the second quarter of this year. North Korea may also increasingly turn to trade with South Korea following a thawing of ties and the reopening of a jointly run Kaesong industrial park, he said.

The KITA data show inter-Korean trade volume shrank 42% to an eight-year low of $1.15 billion last year, when the Kaesong complex was closed for several months after North Korea pulled out its workers.

North Korean-Chinese trade volume hit a record high of $6.54 billion last year, according to KITA, as North Korea exported natural resources such as coal and iron ore, while importing fuel and electronics goods.

The Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, Seoul’s state-funded trade agency, said in a report last year that North Korea’s bilateral trade with China accounted for 88% of Pyongyang’s entire external trade in 2012, up from 53% in 2005.

Read the full stories here:
N. Korea, China trade unaffected by stunning execution: data
Yonhap
2014-2-28

Jang Purge Yet to Hurt North Korea-China Trade
Wall Street Journal
Kwanwoo Jun
2014-2-28

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DPRK-china trade at record US$6.45b in 2013

Friday, January 31st, 2014

According to Yonhap:

Trade volume between North Korea and its major trading partner China reached a record US$6.45 billion last year, up 10.4 percent from a year earlier, data showed Saturday.

North Korean exports to China jumped 17.2 percent on-year, while imports from China increased 5.4 percent, according to the data from the Korea International Trade Association.

Pyongyang’s trade deficit recorded $721 million, a 25 percent decrease compared with the previous year, the data showed.

North Korea’s major export items were minerals, with $1.37 billion worth of anthracite and $294.1 million of iron ore shipped to China last year.

North Korea’s anthracite exports are a major source of income, and China is virtually the only destination for the shipments.

The isolated socialist state heavily relied on China for crude oil, buying $598.1 million from its sole financial and diplomatic backer.

Inbound shipments of China-made cell phones fell to $44 million last year, shrinking by 26.6 percent from a year ago.

The latest data showed the heavily sanctioned North Korea is increasingly reliant on China, even though the Asian giant has become frustrated with its wayward neighbor, particularly after Pyongyang’s third nuclear test early last year.

Since these numbers are aggregated, we cannot observe if the purge of Jang song-thaek and his patronage network had any effect on DPRK/China trade at the end of the year.

The DPRK also increased oil imports from China in 2013. According to Yonhap (2014-2-10):

Shipments of crude oil to North Korea from China increased 11.2 percent on-year in 2013, a South Korean government report showed Monday, the latest sign that Beijing still gives Pyongyang access to the vital commodity despite its defiant pursuit of nuclear weapons.

North Korea imported a total of 578,000 tons of crude oil from China last year, compared with 520,000 tons in 2012, according to the report based on China’s customs data.

Monthly shipments of crude oil from China to North Korea were absent in February, June and July last year, but Beijing exported “a large amount of crude oil” to Pyongyang in the second-half of last year, the report said.

In 2013, trade between North Korea and China rose 8.9 percent on-year to reach US$6.54 billion, with the North’s exports to China jumping 18 percent to $2.91 billion, the report showed.

“Our overall analysis is that international sanctions against North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have not reduced or shrunk the North’s trade with China,” a South Korean diplomat said on the condition of anonymity.

Here is coverage in the Daily NK.

Additional information:
1. Imports of grain were up. Food aid imports from UN were down.

2. Coal exports to China up.

3. DPRK visitors to China up.

Read the full stories here:
Trade between N. Korea, China hits record $6.45 bln in 2013
Yonhap
2014-1-31

N. Korea’s crude oil imports from China rise 11.2 pct in 2013
Yonhap
2014-2-10

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DPRK Restaurant opens/closes/opens in the Netherlands

Monday, January 27th, 2014

UPDATE 2 (2014-1-27): The North Korean restaurant has re-opened in Amsterdam. According to NK News:

While the Pyongyang Restaurant [See Below] shut down the same year as it opened – allegedly due to a dispute between the Dutch owner Remco Van Daal and its North Korean staff – the Haedongwha staff will now be managed in cooperation with an ethnic Korean manager named John Kim.

Kim, who has lived in the Netherlands for most of his life, also runs a business in Pyongyang exporting sand to Singapore, a source familiar with his background told NK News.

Unlike Haedangwha restaurants in China, which are run directly by the North Korean government, the Netherlands branch is unique in having non-North Korean ownership but a North Korean staff.

You can read more about the restaurant in Het Parool.

Michael Madden tracked down the location.

Here is the official web page of the restaurant.

Learn more about the “other” Haedanghwa here.

UPDATE 1 (2012-9-6): The restaurant has closed. According to the Associated Press:

A North Korean restaurant in Amsterdam staffed by cooks and waitresses from the isolated country has closed its doors.

Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported Thursday that Pyongyang Restaurant’s closure was permanent and stemmed from a disagreement between its Dutch owners and North Korean staff.

The restaurant was an oddity, believed to be the only of its kind in Western Europe, though there are similar restaurants in Asia. Dutch labor authorities say North Koreans can get work visas for Europe under standard rules, but few do.

A woman who answered the phone at the restaurant said the establishment was closed. She couldn’t say for how long because she was not authorized to do so. Its website says it is closed “due to holidays.” Phone calls to the owner Thursday went unanswered.

See more here at North Korea Leadership Watch.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-2-5): According to Yonhap:

A North Korean restaurant has opened in the Dutch capital of Amsterdam in what could be the communist nation’s latest attempt to earn hard currency and foster closer ties with Europe.

The “Pyongyang Restaurant” was launched late last month under a joint venture between North Korea and two Dutch businessmen. While North Korea is known to operate dozens of restaurants across Asia, it is the first time a North Korean restaurant has opened in Europe, with the exception of a canteen that briefly operated near the North Korean Embassy in Vienna in the mid-1990′s, according to a local source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The restaurant is staffed by nine North Koreans, including the director and manager, Han Myong-hee, who worked for 15 years at a North Korean restaurant in Beijing operated by the North’s ruling Workers’ Party.

Pyongyang Restaurant, which seats 24 people, has its walls covered with pictures of Pyongyang and North Korean nature, while its menu consists solely of a nine-course meal priced at 79 euros (US$104).

Han said there are plans to offer more affordable dishes such as Korean noodles and dumplings after the restaurant’s official opening on Feb. 17.

“After our official launch, we plan to gradually serve a variety of dishes and during lunch hours as well,” she said. The restaurant currently serves only dinner.

The opening ceremony is expected to be attended by the North Korean ambassador to Switzerland, other North Koreans, and key figures from the Netherlands and different European nations, Han said.

Analysts said the restaurant is likely to serve not only as a source of much-needed cash but also as a bridge to Europe for the isolated North.

“North Korea has been putting a lot of effort into normalizing relations with European nations since 2000,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. “The opening of North Korea’s first restaurant in Europe can be seen as the North’s attempt to improve ties with the West through exchanges at the civilian level.”

Read the full story here:
N. Korean restaurant opens in Netherlands
Yonhap
2012-2-5

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DPRK coal exports to China up 15.1% in 2013

Friday, January 24th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

North Korea’s exports of anthracite coal to China grew 15.5 percent in 2013 from a year earlier, data showed Friday.

North Korea shipped a total of US$1.37 billion worth of anthracite to China last year, compared with $1.19 billion sold to the neighbor a year earlier, according to the data from the Korea International Trade Association.

North Korea exported only $162.6 million worth of the coal to China In 2007, but the figure has grown every year since then, according to the data.

The total anthracite exported to China last year was measured at 16.5 million tons, up 39.7 percent from what was exported in 2012, the data also showed, indicating that the North sold the coal to China at cheaper prices last year.

In December alone last year, the North shipped $118.06 million worth of anthracite, almost the same amount as November’s $121.45 million.

This means North Korea continued anthracite exports to China after executing leader Kim Jong-un’s once-powerful uncle Jang Song-thaek in early December for allegedly attempting to overthrow the regime and committing anti-state crimes, including selling North Korean natural resources abroad at excessively low prices.

North Korea’s anthracite exports are one of its major income sources and China is virtually the only destination for the shipments.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s coal exports to China up 15.1 pct in 2013
Yonhap
2014-1-24

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DPRK-China trade

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

From the PRC’s Global Times:

“Like the ancient Chinese verse that goes ‘a duck knows the coming of springs beforehand,’ the so-called ‘gray’ trade on the border of China and North Korea serves as a thermometer of North Korea’s politics and economy,” Lin Jun, a merchant from Dandong, a border city of Northeast China’s Liaoning Province, told the Global Times. Lin has 12 years of experience in Sino-North Korean border trade.

Since Jang Song-thaek, allegedly the second powerful man in North Korea, was purged in December, the northeast Asian country has released mixed signals toward the outside world: On the one hand, it seems to be toughening its political stance, but on the other, it pledges continued reconciliation with South Korea and further economic development.

The sensitive border trade between the two countries has witnessed dramatic ups and downs during recent months.

“My North Korean partner came by speedboat on December 30, bringing orders from Sakchu, Bakcheon and Pyongyang, demanding all the goods ready by the next day,” said a man surnamed Deng, who works for Lin.

“However, the next day he suddenly called to cancel the deals without giving any reason. There was no such precedent, even after North Korea conducted the nuclear test [in February last year],” he said.

Luxury goods

“Two years ago, North Korean people mainly needed cooking oil, rice, garments and second-hand electric appliances,” Deng told the Global Times reporter when taking his ship to Sakchu down the Yalu River.

“Nowadays, they will also ask for Apple computers, iPads, cell phones, Japanese washing machines and brand-new fridges, though the consumers of these luxury goods are mostly officials. Even senior officials in Pyongyang are using tablet computers bought from us,” Deng said proudly.

Such gray trade between China and North Korea has been an established fact for a long period, Lü Chao, a Korea expert with the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

He noted that it was quite commonly seen at border areas that people throw a pack over from one side of the border and those on the other side would pick it up and go away on a motorcycle, hence “gray trade” is also known as “bag-throwing trade.”

Given the long border between China and North Korea and the common language people living around the border share, it is hard to eliminate such trade, Lü noted.

However, although gray trade was not fully legal, it was indeed a supplement to the North Korean economy and a market always short of goods, especially for people’s daily lives, Lü said.

“Those engaged in the border trade are definitely not ordinary people,” Cui Mingxuan, a Dandong businessman who has retired from border trade for more than a year, told the Global Times.

Read the full story here:
Gray trade
Global Times
2014-1-14

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DPRK consolidates gold export revenues

Friday, December 27th, 2013

According to the Daily NK:

Approximately two months prior to the purge of Jang Sung Taek, the North Korean authorities halted exports of gold ore from the mines of Hwanghae Province in the southwest of the country, Daily NK has learned.

The step allegedly followed the discovery of improprieties in the operation of mining enterprises managed by persons linked with Jang, and formed part of measures designed to bring foreign currency-earning activities en masse under strict Central Party control.

“The order to halt exports was handed down in October, some months before the official news of the purge of Jang Sung Taek,” a source involved in the industry told Daily NK on the 27th. “It was even applied to foreign currency-earners affiliated with Central Party organs, as well as those from normal provincial-level agencies.”

“A directive ordering operations to cease from the second half of the year was issued to Holdong and Eunpa mines in Yeonsan County, North Hwanghae Province. These mines are shut now and their shafts are just filling up with water,” the source went on. “Mine officials have told me that this order came down stating that neither provincial nor Central Party managed-enterprises were allowed to mine for gold.”

“By doing this just a few months before the Jang Song Taek purge, the authorities moved to integrate foreign currency-earning activities and confiscate those enterprises and funds formerly managed by Jang prior to his purging,” he added. Explicating his view of the logic behind the step, he went on, “[The authorities] wish to greatly reinforce their control over these foreign-currency earning enterprises’ resources so as to bring together the management of Kim Jong Eun’s ruling funds.”

“I am told that they discovered that the enterprises Jang was managing had not been passing their profits to the state in the prescribed manner, so they halted the trade completely” the source alleged. “They controlled the mines, saying that the reason was because Jang was flogging off natural resources for a low price.”

“Previously, only ore with a purity of 20-30g of gold per ton could be exported, so any ore with a lower purity than this was not controlled. But now they are stopping all gold ore from exiting,” he went on to explain, adding that the ban is causing serious problems for the region’s miners, many of whom rely in large part on income from the mines for their survival.

“They used to share export licenses with other enterprises and export ore that way, too, but right now that is also totally prohibited,” he added.

Read the full story here:
Gold Mining Stopped to Unify Funds
Daily NK
Oh Se Hyeok
2013-12-27

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Economic gap between the two Koreas

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

According to Yonhap:

Trade and economic levels between South and North Korea remained quite wide last year, data showed Monday, pointing to prolonged lackluster business and economic conditions in the reclusive North.

According to the data by Statistics Korea, South Korea’s total trade volume stood at US$1.07 trillion as of 2012, which is 157 times larger than the North’s $6.8 billion. In particular, the South’s exports came to $547.9 billion, 188.9 times larger than those of the North.

The nominal gross national income (GNI) levels between the two Koreas also remained wide.

The GNI for the South was estimated at 1,279.5 trillion won ($1.21 trillion) last year, 38.2 times larger than the North, the data showed. On a per-capita basis, South Korea’s GNI was 18.7 times larger than that of the North.

South Korea also outperformed the North in infrastructure and other social overhead capital spending.

The South’s road network totaled 105,703 kilometers, which compared with the 26,114 km for the North, the data showed. The South had the power generating capacity of 81.8 million kilowatts a year, which is 11.3 times larger than the North.

The only category that the North outperformed the South was in coal production. It produced a total of 25.8 million tons of coal last year, about 10 times the amount of coal produced by the South, according to the data.

The two Koreas had a combined population of 74.4 million, with the South holding a population of about 50 million, the data showed.

The statistics agency has been providing such information on the North every year since 1995 as a way to provide a glimpse into the economic and industrial conditions of the reclusive country.

Read the full story here:
Trade, economic gaps between 2 Koreas remain wide: data
Yonhap
2013-12-23

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US OFAC expands sanctions list

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

According to the Daily NK:

It is believed that representatives from Excellence Mineral Manufacturing Co., Ltd and Soe Min Htaeik Co. recently met with North Korean authorities to facilitate the import of military supplies for use in North Korea’s state-run weapons program.
A third company, Asia Metal Company Limited, is thought to have constructed factory facilities for use by the Myanmar Directorate of Defense Industries (DDI).  It is estimated that around thirty North Korean nationals are currently employed on the site.
Lt. Col. Kyaw Nyunt Oo of the DDI was the only individual added to the list.

Information on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals List (SDN) can be found here.

Here is a link to the SDN List Sorted by OFAC Sanctions Program (Search for DPRK)

Here is a link to the SDN List Sorted by Country (Search for Korea, North)

Read the full story here:
NK Weapons Suppliers Added to Sanctions List
Daily NK
Jin Dong Hyeok
2013-12-19

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