Archive for the ‘Statistics’ Category
The Wall Street Journal reports on the difficulties the UN World Food Program faces trying to find supporters for its operations in North Korea:
The United Nations aid program for malnourished North Koreans may close after raising only a fraction of the money it needs to operate in the country, a senior U.N. official said in a call for donations.
“We may need to scale down or think about closing altogether,” Dierk Stegen, the Pyongyang-based North Korea head for the U.N. World Food Program, said in an interview.
The agency, which has operated in North Korea since 1995, could shut early next year if there is no indication it will be able to raise needed funds by the end of October, he said. One complication is that North Korea’s humanitarian crisis has been overshadowed by the conflict in Syria and Ebola outbreak, he said.
While North Korea is getting better at feeding its people, hundreds of thousands of young infants and their mothers remain chronically malnourished, he said.
Contributions from private organizations and the South Korean government in recent weeks have helped, but the program is far from its goal of $50 million, already a significant reduction from the original target of $200 million it set last year.
The North Korea food-assistance program has drawn flak from critics who say the regime takes advantage of the agency’s largess, devoting its resources to developing its nuclear weapons program and constructing amusement parks while its people suffer. Critics also say the agency can’t be sure its assistance is reaching the intended recipients.
Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington who has studied North Korea’s food situation, said that the WFP’s work in the country was “a disappointment—perhaps a terrible disappointment,” arguing that the agency has put up little resistance even as Pyongyang restricts oversight from foreign aid groups.
“Outside humanitarian assistance will not work in North Korea unless it is ‘intrusive’—and the WFP has no stomach for such work,” Mr. Eberstadt said.
Mr. Stegen acknowledged past shortcomings in its ability to monitor the distribution of its aid, but blamed a lack of funding and cited recent improvements in its access inside the country. He said that the WFP can now get permission within 24 hours to visit any school or household that is receiving its aid. In the past, two weeks’ notice was required.
Mr. Stegen said that criticism of a government’s priorities isn’t unique to North Korea, and urged donors to prioritize vulnerable infants over politics.
“Intervention and assistance on a humanitarian basis should be separated from political things,” he said.
Earlier this month, South Korea’s government approved $7 million in new funding to the WFP, its first such contribution since 2007. While South Korea’s conservative government has talked tough on North Korea, it has also pursued a policy of “humanity” toward the North, particularly infants and young mothers.
The U.S., by far the largest donor to the WFP’s North Korea work, hasn’t contributed since 2009, when Pyongyang tightened its rules on monitoring food aid by restricting the number of Korean-speaking monitors allowed into the country, according to a U.S. Congressional Research Service report published in April.
The WFP’s fundraising efforts have also been hampered by rising awareness of North Korea’s human-rights violations. Earlier this year, a special U.N. commission published a landmark 400-page report which said the regime selectively starves its population based on factors like political loyalty, and recommended the U.N. Security Council refer Kim Jong Un and other senior officials to the International Criminal Court.
Ahead of the U.N. General Assembly, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday called North Korea’s system of prison camps “unfathomable” and a sign of what he described as “barbarity, inhumanity—I think you can call it evil.”
Mr. Stegen said North Korea had markedly improved its capacity to produce food for its people since a devastating famine in the 1990s. He said that fewer people in the country remain hungry today, even as the population has increased.
But he cautioned that the country’s agricultural efforts have focused too much on producing rice and other grains, at the expense of protein. That has led to malnourishment of infants and children under the age of four, he said, putting them in danger of stunting, even as Kim Jong Un has made a public show of encouraging fisheries as a potential source of protein.
“For many of the children of North Korea, it’s already too late,” said John Aylieff, the WFP’s deputy regional director for Asia. “They’ve been dealt a life sentence of impaired mental functioning and impaired physical development.”
A drought earlier this year has also meant a throttling back of government rations to ordinary citizens, which fell to about 250 grams a day, Mr. Aylieff said. That is less than half the targeted rations, and the lowest in several years.
As a result, the aid agency is expecting a surge in acute malnutrition this year. “We hope potential donors will see the humanitarian imperative,” Mr. Aylieff said.
Marcus Noland, an economist and North Korea expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, said that given the WFP’s funding problems, its ability to monitor its work would be limited.
“Trying to maintain an underfunded program in that environment is practically inviting an aid diversion scandal,” he said. But the WFP’s absence from North Korea would also likely exacerbate any food crisis.
“The advantage of having the WFP in-country in even a limited capacity is that they are pre-positioned to monitor conditions and respond if there is an emergency,” Mr. Noland said.
Read the full story here:
U.N. North Korea Food Program in Danger
Wall Street Journal
According to Yonhap:
North Korea bought US$7.02 million worth of rice from the neighboring country last month, up 115 percent from $3.27 million a year earlier, according to Chinese trade data from the Seoul-based Korea International Trade Association.
The amount also represents an on-month increase of 53 percent from $4.57 million.
The sudden increase in imports comes amid reports that the price of rice has risen sharply in the North.
According to the South Korean online newspaper DailyNK on Aug. 12, rice cost 5,800 won per kilogram in Pyongyang, up 1,550 won from the middle of July.
Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s imports of Chinese rice more than double
UPDATE 6 (2014-8-23): For what it is worth, China recorded zero oil exports to North Korea in July. According to Yonhap:
According to the Chinese data analyzed by the Beijing unit of the Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency, there were no shipments of crude oil from China to North Korea from January to July.
Diplomatic sources with knowledge of the matter cautioned against reading too much into the official trade figures because China has been providing crude oil to North Korea in the form of grant aid and such shipments have not been recorded on paper.
In the first seven months of this year, China’s exports to North Korea rose 1.8 percent from a year ago to US$1.95 billion, while imports fell 4.3 percent to $1.57 billion, according to the data.
UPDATE 5 (2014-8-4): The Hankyoreh weighs in on Chinese oil exports to the DPRK:
However, there are also other experts who counter that suspending the supply of crude oil ought not to be read as a sign of deteriorating relations between North Korea and China. They say that, while the statistics read zero, the supply of crude oil is actually continuing. In fact, the price of gasoline and other petroleum products in North Korea remains stable, reports have indicated.
Radio Free Asia reported that gasoline was selling recently for around 10 to 11 won per kilogram at North Korea’s markets, around the same as the 11 won price from 2012. The price of diesel also remained steady at 6 to 7 won, the broadcaster said.
The South Korean government believes that while China may have reduced its crude oil exports, it is continuing to supply North Korea with oil as a form of aid. “China has been supplying North Korea with 500,000 tons in trade, along with a similar amount of free oil. It appears to be providing North Korea with enough crude oil to prevent problems from occurring in North Korean society,” said a senior Ministry of Unification official on condition of anonymity.
But many experts believe that relations between North Korea and China are not in such a bad state that China would shut off the supply of crude oil. “Relations between North Korea and China are not normal, but they should not be seen as especially bad, either. From the viewpoint of a superpower, China appears to be steadily observing North Korea’s behavior, without grief or joy,” said Lee Hui-ok, professor at Sungkyunkwan University.
Indeed, aside from interaction between senior officials, other sectors appear to be operating normally without any major disturbances. Trade between North Korea and China in the first half of the year remained at levels similar to 2013. Chinese exports to the North from January to May of this year were US$1.27 billion, down slightly from US$1.33 billion last year. But a big rebound in June brought the first half figures up to US$1.58 billion, nearly the same as the US$1.59 billion posted last year.
In the area of tourism, China also appeared to be taking a more aggressive attitude in the first half of the year than in 2013, running new tourism programs using bicycles and trains, reports said. In the area of personnel exchange, working-level contact is continuing, despite the lack of meetings between senior officials.
“There are virtually no senior political officials from North Korea visiting China. However, technical and economic officials continue to visit China for inspections and training,” said an official at the South Korean embassy in China, on condition of anonymity.
“It is dangerous to read too much into the temporary fluctuations and the sluggish mood recently affecting relations between North Korea and China. That would be a false diagnosis of their relationship,” said Lee Nam-ju, professor at Sungkonghoe University.
“Since North Korea and China understand each other, it does not appear likely that their relations will be suddenly damaged,” Lee said.
UPDATE 4 (2014-7-14): NK News reports on Chinese petrol exports to the DPRK:
China has increased deliveries of oil products to North Korea during the first five months of 2014 according to the latest Chinese customs data, which also confirms the widely reported halt in crude oil shipments.
However, data from the Chinese General Administration of Customs shows that the oil-products being delivered to North Korea only cover a fraction of the supplies of crude once shipped, with total deliveries falling by over 60 percent.
Experts were unsure over whether this constituted a warning from Beijing in response to North Korea’s regional provocations or whether the slow-down was due to the DPRK’s aging refineries. Crude oil must be refined into petroleum products such as fuel oil, diesel and aviation fuel before being used.
In total, China exported more than 88,000 tons of refined products to the DPRK between January and May 2014, with more than half of the growth caused by spikes in gasoline and kerosene shipments. Gasoline, is primarily used as a fuel for motor vehicles, while kerosene is used to power jet engines and as a heating fuel in North East Asia.
“[This] is somewhat over half of the recorded exports from China to the DPRK in 2010, and somewhat over a quarter of the net petroleum products imports that we estimated for the DPRK from all nations in 2010. So there may be a real shift in petroleum products exports going on,” David Von Hippel a Senior Associate at the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability told NK News.
Kerosene, used as an aviation fuel, saw the sharpest spike in exports increasing by 5131% when compared to the same period last year. The North Koreans imported more than a hundred thousand barrels, mostly in one bulk shipment in March, amidst news published in early July by Reuters that the DPRK was looking to restart domestic flights.
Gasoline exports also rose by 84% to approximately 280 thousand barrels when compared to the January – May period in 2013.
DPRK imports of diesel rose to 63,000 barrels and mark the first time China has exported the petroleum product since 2011, although no data is available before this point. The exports remain at a low level however, representing only a few percent of total DPRK yearly usage.
China also upped exports of Butane by 28%, which is used primarily as fuel gas or in gasoline blending. “[Butane] is more likely used as an input to bottled gas (for example, liquefied petroleum gas, LPG), which is, we have heard, increasingly used for cooking in urban households that can afford it in the DPRK.” Von Hippel told NK News.
UPDATE 3 (2014-5-24): This Daily NK article further highlights why we should be skeptical of official reports of the DPRK’s oil imports from China:
Daily NK has confirmed that China is currently supplying oil to North Korea through a pipeline running between the two. Though there have been cases where Beijing has suspended such shipments in response to North Korean intransigence, particularly over nuclear issues, but this has not happened recently.
On April 10th, Daily NK visited an oil storage and pipeline facility in Dandong. There, our team interviewed Chinese Ministry of Public Security officials guarding the facility, which is owned by a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation, or CNPC.
When asked about oil assistance to North Korea, one of the officers acknowledged, “We are continuously supplying oil (to North Korea),” but “cannot say how much we send each month or how much remains as of now.”
Oil deliveries to be transferred to North Korea are received at this facility from a larger nearby facility, Basan, and then are shipped to a partner storage facility at Baekma in Pihyun Couunty, North Pyongan Province. The pipeline is 11km long.
According to sources, these deliveries are not recorded in Chinese customs data, or in foreign trade statistics. The oil from the pipeline is rather characterized as de facto aid, either in the form of low interest loans or free of charge.
This is why, on April 24th, Korean agency KOTRA released a figure of ‘zero’ for oil exports from China to North Korea for the first quarter of 2014, basing it on Chinese customs data. The data says zero for commercial transfers; however, supplies in the form of aid and assistance may not have stopped at all.
In this regard, a diplomatic source said, “China has the ability to stop the oil supplies whenever they want, but they’ve never done so for a long period of time.” He went on, “Above all, China places as much importance on security as North Korea places on nuclearization, and it doesn’t want to see disorder in the North Korean regime. This explains why China keeps providing this assistance.”
Meanwhile, Chinese trade statistics show that 520,000 tons of oil was exported to North Korea every year from 2009 to 2012. Mostly small North Korean tankers shipped this oil.
UPDATE 2 (2014-5-26): The DPRK officially did not import any oil from China as of April 2014. According to Yonhap:
China sold no crude oil to North Korea in the first four months of this year, data compiled by South Korea’s government trade agency showed Monday, in an unusual four-month absence of oil shipments amid the North’s threats of a nuclear test.
The Beijing unit of the South’s Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) said in a report, citing data from China’s customs authorities, that there were no oil shipments from China to North Korea from January to April this year.
A four-month absence of oil shipments from China to North Korea was also reported in 2009, when the North conducted its second nuclear test.
However, a diplomatic source in Beijing cautioned against reading too much into the official trade figures.
“The Chinese side has provided crude oil to North Korea in the form of grant aid, which is not recorded on paper,” the source said on condition of anonymity.
North Korea also appears to have been trying to diversify its source of oil imports, through countries such as Russia, the source said.
UPDATE 1 (2014-4-24): DPRK official imports from China in Q1 of 2014: zero.
According to Yonhap:
China did not export any crude oil to North Korea in the first three months of this year, data compiled by South Korea’s government trade agency showed Thursday, in an unprecedented three-month absence of oil shipments amid North Korea’s threats of a nuclear test.
Monthly shipments of crude oil from China to North Korea were absent in February, June and July last year, but it was the first time that China apparently stopped exports of crude oil to North Korea for three consecutive months.
The Beijing unit of the South’s Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) said in a report, citing data it collected from China’s customs authorities, that there were no oil shipments from China to North Korea from January to March this year.
“To my knowledge, it is the first time that China did not export crude oil to North Korea for three consecutive months and that would impact the North Korean economy,” a diplomat at the South Korean Embassy in Beijing said on the condition of anonymity.
Also worth highlighting from the report:
China’s total trade with North Korea fell 2.83 percent to US$1.27 billion in the January-March period, compared with the same period a year ago, according to the KOTRA report.
Read the full Yonhap story here:
China didn’t export crude oil to N. Korea in Q1
ORIGINAL POST (2014-3-10): DPRK oil imports from China in January 2014: Zero!
According to Yonhap:
North Korea did not import any crude oil from China in January, marking the first absence of monthly deliveries from China in five months, a Seoul government report showed Monday.
It was not immediately clear whether the January absence of crude shipments to North Korea from China was linked to Beijing’s growing frustration with Pyongyang over its nuclear program, but it followed the execution of the once-powerful uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last December.
Last year, monthly shipments of crude oil from China to North Korea were absent in the months of February, June and July. However, annual shipments of crude oil to North Korea from China rose 11.2 percent on-year to 578,000 tons in 2013.
Read the full story here:
No crude import from China to N. Korea in Jan.: report
According to Yonhap:
South Korea said Monday it will provide North Korea with US$13.3 million in humanitarian aid, in another show of its resolve to separate inter-Korean military tensions from efforts to help the needy in the North.
The South has decided to offer $7 million worth of nutritional assistance to mother and child health services in the communist nation via the World Food Program (WFP), according to the unification ministry.
Seoul will also deliver $6.3 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) for its projects to ship essential medicine to the North, improve clinics and train related manpower there, it added.
“The government plans to tap the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund for the aid,” ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do told reporters.
It is the first time that South Korea has offered assistance to North Korea through the WFP since 2007, he said. Last year, the South used $6 million to support the WHO’s project in North Korea.
Seoul’s new aid program is apparently to follow up on President Park’s ambitious “Dresden Declaration” in March.
Read the full story here:
S. Korea to offer US$13 mln in aid to N. Korea
According to the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES):
Grain Imports Decrease, Rare-Earth Mineral Exports Increase in the First Half of 2014
It has been reported that Chinese grain imports in North Korea have fallen drastically in the first half of 2014. According to the Korean Foreign Trade Association (KFTA), Chinese exports of grain to North Korea totaled 58,387 tons in the first half of 2014, totaling a mere 47 percent of the grain exported in the first half of the previous year (124,228 tons).
China’s most heavily exported grain product to North Korea is flour, which made up 68.8 percent (40,142 tons) of all total grain exports for the first half of 2014. China also exported 13,831 tons of rice and 3,420 tons of corn to North Korea. Corn exports did not even reach twenty percent of the amount exported at the same time last year (17,655 tons).
It is postulated that China’s sharp decrease in grain exports to North Korea is due to the souring relations between the two nations in 2014. Another theory is that the decrease in exports could be due to North Korea’s recent increase in agricultural productivity over previous years.
In the first half of 2014 China exported 109,531 tons of fertilizer to North Korea, 21.3 percent less than the amount exported during the same timeframe last year (139,161 tons). In the first three months of 2014, North Korea aggressively imported Chinese fertilizer at a rate of twenty thousand tons over its monthly average. However, this decreased markedly in the months of April, May and June.
Meanwhile, North Korea has been exporting large quantities of rare-earth resources (which are used in manufacturing high-tech products) to China over the last few months. Reportedly, in May of 2014, North Korea exported 550,000 dollars’ worth of rare-earth ore to China. This figure more than doubled the following month, reaching 1.33 million USD in June.
This comes as a bit of a surprise, as North Korean rare-earth resource exports to China had come to a standstill after the first round of exports (totaling 24.7 thousand USD) in January 2013. Suddenly, after fifteen months, North Korea has exported 1.88 million USD worth of rare-earth ore (approx. 1.93 billion KRW, 62.66 thousand kilograms) over the last two months.
Since 2011, North Korea has in fact been exporting rare-earth carbonate mixtures to China; however total exports of these products have only reached 170 thousand USD over the last three and a half years.
North Korea has been placing attention on these underground rare-earth resources, of which the nation reportedly has ample quantities of in various deposits around the country. Recently, much effort has been put into surveying for deposits of these so-called “vitamins of the 21st century’s high-tech industry.” In 2013 a company for the development of rare-earth materials in North Pyongan Province was established with the cooperation of the international private equity firm “SRE Minerals.”
In July 2011, the Choson Sinbo, a news affiliate of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, reported in an interview with top executives from the National Resources Development Council that rare-earth resource deposits in North Korea total approximately 20 million tons. The drastic increase seen in rare-earth resource exports can be attributed to North Korea’s attempt to diversify its resource exports. In other words, the DPRK is investing in rare-earth material exports in order to reduce its dependency on other leading mineral exports such as anthracite, iron ore, and lead.
Exports of anthracite to China decreased by 23 percent in the first half of 2014 (compared to last year), totaling approximately 571 million USD. Iron ore exports, North Korea’s second leading resource export, reached approximately 121 million USD in the same time period – a drop of 5 percent when compared to the same time period last year.
According to the Korea Herald (Yonhap):
North Korea’s trade with its economic lifeline China fell 2.1 percent on year to US$2.89 billion in the first six months of this year, data compiled by South Korea’s government trade agency showed Monday, in another sign that strained political ties between the two nations have affected their economic relations.
During the six-month period, North Korea’s exports to China declined 3.9 percent to $1.31 billion and imports slipped 0.6 percent to $1.58 billion, according to the data provided by the Beijing unit of South’s Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA).
“Despite the six-month absence of oil shipments, the scale of North Korea’s decline in imports is minimal,” the source said on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, North Korea’s exports of rare earth to China jumped 153.7 percent on year during the January-June period, the data showed, without providing the value of the exports.
Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s trade with China falls 2.1 pct in H1
Korea Herald (Yonhap)
According to Yonhap:
More than 3 million people are estimated to be living in North Korea’s capital city of Pyongyang, a research report said Saturday.
A total of 3.06 million people are living in the capital city as of this year, an increase of 7 percent from two years ago, the U.S.-based consulting firm, Demographia, said in its report on the world’s urban areas published in May.
According to the firm’s 2012 report, Pyongyang was home to 2.86 million people. It is unclear whether this is the first time that the city’s population has surpassed 3 million.
Pyongyang’s land area measures 176 square kilometers and the capital has a population density of 17,400 people per square kilometer, ranking it 142nd out of the world’s 863 cities in terms of population scale and 34th in density, according to the report.
The eastern city of Hamhung was found to be the communist country’s second-largest city in terms of population with 750,000 people and the northeastern city of Chongjin came in third with 650,000.
Read the full story here:
N.K. capital of Pyongyang has over 3 mln people: research
According to Yonhap:
North Korea’s grain imports from China tumbled more than 50 percent on-year in the first half of this year, data showed Wednesday, amid speculation that relations between the communist allies are not like before.
North Korea imported 58,387 tons of cereal crops from China in the January-June period, down 53 percent from 124,228 tons recorded a year earlier, according to the data by the Korea International Trade Association (KITA).
By type, flour topped the list with 40,142 tons, or 68.8 percent, followed by rice and corn with 13,831 tons and 3,420 tons, respectively, added the Seoul-based agency.
Analysts say the remarkable decrease may be attributable to reportedly strained ties between the two sides in recent months.
“Of late, North Korea has appeared to move to reduce its economic dependence on China and diversify its foreign economic partners,” said Lim Eul-chul, professor at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University.
Kwon Tae-jin, researcher at private think tank GS&J, said it might have been more affected by Pyongyang’s increased crop yield.
“North Korea’s stockpile of crops seems to have grown due to a good harvest last year.
Meanwhile, China’s fertilizer exports to North Korea also plunged 21.3 percent to 109,531 tons during the January-June period this year from a year earlier, said KITA.
Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s grain imports from China halve in H1
According to Yonhap:
The Eugene Bell Foundation, which provides medical assistance to the impoverished North, will send 770 million won (US$750,000) worth of TB medication to the communist country, ministry officials said.
In February, the foundation shipped 720 million won worth of TB drugs to the North in an attempt to tackle the growing issue of multidrug-resistant TB in the country.
So far this year, the South has approved 11 shipments of civilian aid worth a combined 2.82 billion won to North Korea.
The latest approval comes after Seoul announced on July 15 that it will provide Pyongyang with humanitarian aid worth 3 billion won through civilian organizations.
It marks Seoul’s first state-funded aid to North Korea since the North torpedoed the South Korean warship Cheonan in the Yellow Sea in 2010, killing 46 sailors. Following the incident, Seoul imposed a blanket ban on cross-border economic and other exchanges.
Read the full story here:
Gov’t OKs civilian medical aid to N. Korea
According to the Korea Times:
North Korea has increased its rare earth exports to China amid worries within the international community that its mineral exports could weaken the effect of sanctions imposed on the reclusive state.
The cash-strapped communist country exported goods to the value of $550,000 and $1.33 million in May and June, respectively, according to the Korea International Trade Association (KITA).
Last January, the North exported elements worth nearly $25,000 to China for the first time and continued them this year. The country has an estimated 20 million tons of rare earth elements.
The North’s resources exploitation have stirred speculation that the impoverished state may further diversify mineral exports to China, where it has previously mostly exported anthracitic and iron ore.
The KITA report identified the changing trend in North Korea’s earnings from mineral exports.
In the first half of this year, earnings from anthracitic and iron ore exports decreased 23 percent and 5 percent, respectively.
These earning deficits were compensated for by exports of rare earth elements. There has been a sharp increase in global demand over the last recent decade because several high-tech devices, including smartphones, and other high technology devices use them in core components. Rare earth elements are a group of 17 elements on the periodic table referred to by the US Department of Energy as “technology metals” because of their use and application.
The communist country relies heavily on mineral exports as a major source of hard currency after international sanctions were imposed on the Pyongyang regime for its continuing missile launches and testing of nuclear weapons.
Natural resources account for 73 percent of North Korea’s bilateral trade with China in 2012. The North exports 11 million tons of anthracitic to China annually.
North Korea exported rare-earth elements worth $1.87 million to China from May to June, resuming outbound shipments of the crucial industrial minerals to its key ally and economic benefactor in 15 months, data showed Sunday.
North Korea shipped rare-earth minerals worth $550,000 and $1.32 million to China in May and June, respectively, which amounted to a total of 62,662 kilograms, according to the Korea International Trade Association based in Seoul.
The communist regime first exported rare-earth metals worth $24,700 to China in January 2013 and had stopped selling them until recently.
Separately, Pyongyang has sold carbonate-containing rare-earth compounds to China since 2011, but the size of outbound shipments is small, with the total amount is estimated at about $170,000 over a period of three and a half years.
The impoverished nation is known to have large reserves of rare-earth minerals, which are crucial ingredients used in many tech products as well as the military and medical sectors.
The latest move comes as the North has stepped up developing rare-earth deposits to support its moribund economy.
Last year, the North’s state-owned Korea Natural Resources Trading Corporation signed a 25-year deal with British Islands-based private equity firm SRE Minerals Limited to mine deposits in Jongju, northwest of the capital, Pyongyang.
Experts said the recent surge in North Korea’s rare-earth shipments may be part of its attempts to diversify sources of mineral exports, which account about half of its total exports.
The North’s export of anthracite coal fell 23 percent in the first half of this year to $571.2 million from a year ago, while ironstone declined 5 percent to $120 million in the cited period, according to trade data.
“The rare-earth minerals sold to China were valued at $30 per kilogram, and they were considered to be processed iron concentrates or oxidized substances,” said Choi Kyung-soo, chief of the Seoul-based North Korea Resource Institute. “It could be seen as an attempt to diversify items of mineral resource exports, but it remains to be seen whether the North will start exporting large volumes of rare-earth minerals.”
Read the full stories here:
Rare earth elements boost NK income
N. Korea exports US$1.8 mln worth of rare earth to China in May-June