Archive for the ‘Trade Statistics’ Category

Food imports from China fall in 2014

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

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
Yonhap
2014-7-30

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DPRK increases exports of rare earths to China

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

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.

Yonhap coverage:

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
Korea Times
Kang Hyun-kyung
2014-7-27

N. Korea exports US$1.8 mln worth of rare earth to China in May-June
Yonhap
2014-7-27

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DPRK announces more economic development zones

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

According to KCNA:

Economic Development Zones to Be Set up in Provinces of DPRK

Pyongyang, July 23, 2014 17:50 KST (KCNA) — It was decided in the DPRK to establish economic development zones in some areas of Pyongyang, South Hwanghae Province, Nampho City, South and North Phyongan provinces.

Unjong cutting-edge technological development zone will be set up in some areas of Wisong-dong, Kwahak 1-dong and Kwahak 2-dong, Paesan-dong and Ulmil-dong in Unjong District, Pyongyang.

Kangryong international green model zone will be set up in some areas of Kangryong township in Kangryong County, South Hwanghae Province.

Jindo export processing zone will appear in some areas of Jindo-dong and Hwado-ri, Waudo District, Nampho City.

Chongnam industrial development zone will be set up in some areas of Ryongbuk-ri, Chongnam District, South Phyongan Province. Sukchon agricultural development zone will appear in some areas of Unjong-ri, Sukchon County and Chongsu tourist development zone in some areas of Chongsong Workers’ District and Pangsan-ri, Sakju County, North Phyongan Province.

The sovereignty of the DPRK would be exercised in the economic development zones in provinces.

The relevant decree of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly was promulgated on Wednesday.

By my count, this brings the total number of special economic zones and economic development zones to 25. Little visible progress has been made on the zones announced in 2013, though things seem to be happening in Pyongyang. Also, South Phyongan Province now has Economic Development Zones. It had been omitted from previous lists.

Yonhap also reports:

Jin Qiangyi, a professor of Korean studies at Yanbian University, told the state-run China Daily that the move by North Korea is apparently aimed at breathing new life into its moribund economy.

“Many Chinese companies still feel daunted by doing business in the country because there is no clear policy to guarantee investors’ interests,” the newspaper quoted Jin as saying.

However, another Chinese expert, Li Tianguo, a researcher at the National Institute of International Strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was less pessimistic.

Li told the newspaper that the new zones will “have great attraction to Chinese enterprise and bring good opportunities, in particular for businesses with border trade and processing production.”

China’s direct investment into North Korea jumped to US$109.46 million in 2012 from $5.86 million in 2009, the newspaper reported, citing what it called a “2012 Statistical Bulletin of China’s Outward Foreign Direct Investment.”

I have all of the economic Development Zones mapped out on Google Earth.

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New Czech brewery in Rajin

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

UPDATE 1 (2014-8-14): Reader Théo Clément sent these pictures of the interior of the beef factory/bar:

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ORIGINAL POST (2014-7-15):

Czech-brewery-rajin

Pictured above (Google Earth): The new brewery in Rajin

One of the individuals involved in setting up the brewery gave this interview (in Czech). NK News translated some of it:

Zvu Potez Sales Director Martin Kovar said that North Korean representatives in the Czech Republic contacted his company directly, saying they wanted to open a brewery in the DPRK with Czech expertise.

“We took them to a few Czech microbreweries so they could examine them and know what to expect from them,” he said, “And they chose a type of beer that most of them liked”.

The brewery subsequently opened in December last year, with equipment brought directly to the site in shipping containers from Prague, via the Russian railway line across Siberia from Khasan in Russia to Rajin port.

According to visitors to the Rason area in late 2013, two staff from the Zvu Potez company arrived in Rajin to help set up the site and train three to four locals in how to use and maintain the brewery.

Among the Czech staff was Tomáš Novotný, who worked as Chief Technologist for Zvu Potez in North Korea for six months while the brewery was being set up.

His job, he told NK News in an email, was to give the North Koreans the “know-how” and supervise the production of the first beer, which he said would be brewed primarily for the local market.

The Czechs have now all returned home, he said, and the brewery is under the full direction of the North Koreans.

And according to Radio Free Asia:

North Korea then opened a microbrewery in the Rason Special Economic Zone in late 2013 and equipped it entirely with Czech-made appliances and hardware.

In addition to the equipment, Novotny explained that the ingredients – malt, hop, and yeast – were also imported from the Czech Republic.

In this effort, brewing technologist Novotny stayed in the North for six months, beginning last October, to teach two North Koreans what he knows about beer.

Novotny added, however, he does not know what the North plans to do once they use up the one-year supply of ingredients from his country.

So why is the impoverished country striving to improve the quality of its beer? It may be that better beer means better business.

While beer at the bar in Rason is free for locals, tourists must pay about 70 U.S. cents per pint, according to the North Korea-focused website NK News.

Pyongyang is also encouraging foreign visitors to take a tour of its various microbreweries, including the Rakwon Paradise , the Taedonggang Craft Brewery, and the Yanggakdo Hotel Microbrewery.

The Czech company’s work on the Rason brewery has come to an end, and it does not intend to send more experts unless North Korea places additional orders.

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DPRK imports from Bangladesh in FY 2014

Friday, July 11th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

The North spent over US$146,000 to buy medical supplies from Bangladesh in the fiscal year 2014, the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported, citing trade statistics from the Bangladeshi Export Promotion Bureau.

The figure is more than double the $68,000 tallied in the fiscal year 2013. The country closes its books in June.

The North likely chose Bangladesh as its trading partner because the latter can copy patented drugs and sell them abroad for now as per an international agreement brokered by the World Trade Organization, the Dhaka office of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency said.

North Korea also bought $163,000 worth of instruments used in radiology from the U.S. in May, trade documents by the U.S. Commerce Development showed earlier this month.

Though it is too early to tell, the RFA speculated that the North’s sudden interest in medical import may be closely related to leader Kim Jong-un’s recent campaign to boast his “love for the people,” a move possibly aimed at assuaging public outrage over a deadly collapse of an apartment building in Pyongyang in May.

The North’s healthcare spending has been among the least in the world, with the World Health Organization estimating that it had put in less than $1 per person in 2006.

Separately, the Swiss government has said it will continue its humanitarian assistance to North Korea for the next two years, the U.S.-based Voice of America reported Friday.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) will extend its 2012-2014 Medium-Term Programme, an aid plan aimed at helping North Korea exploit sloping lands for farming purposes and gain better access to clean drinking water, by another couple of years, the report said.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea ramps up import of medical equipment, drugs in past year: RFA
Yonhap
2014-7-11

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DPRK-Russia ties expanding

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

According to Yonhap:

Cross-border trade between North Korea and Russia jumped 37 percent to US$104 million in 2013 from the $76 million recorded in the previous year, according to a report by Lee Yong-hwa, a researcher at the private think tank Hyundai Research Institute.

“The North is believed to have forged deeper relations with Russia in an effort to revitalize its economy and prevent it from becoming excessively dependent on China,” Lee said in the report.

The researcher said the two countries’ economic cooperation is forecast to grow further going forward as the North’s attempts to revitalize its moribund economy coincide with Russia’s bid to develop its Far Eastern regions.

According to the report, the portion of trade between North Korea and Far Eastern Russia out of the two nations’ total trade volume surged to 23.1 percent in 2013 from the 10 percent tallied in 2009, indicating that Russia’s Far East development policies have added to the overall bilateral trade expansion.

The socialist country has also tightened relations with Russia in other business areas including transportation and logistics as well as in the energy industry, the report added.

China was the biggest trading partner for North Korea last year with their bilateral trade volume reaching $6.54 billion, according to data from the Korea International Trade Association (KITA).

But trade between the two Koreas fell to its lowest level in eight years in 2013 due to their strained relations. Inter-Korean trade reached $1.15 billion last year, down a whopping 41.9 percent from the previous year’s $1.98 billion, the data showed.

Read the full story here:
Russia-N. Korea economic ties expanding: report
Yonhap
2014-7-3

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Bank of Korea on DPRK economy in 2013

Friday, June 27th, 2014

The South Korean central bank, the Bank of Korea, publishes an annual summary of the DPRK’s economic performance the previous year. The 2013 report is out. You can also download it on my DPRK Economic Statistics Page.

Here is a summary in Yonhap:

The Bank of Korea (BOK) estimated that the country’s economy expanded 1.1 percent in 2013, slowing from a 1.3 percent on-year expansion in the previous year.

In 2012, the North Korean economy was estimated to have grown at the fastest pace in four years, after contracting 0.9 percent and 0.5 percent in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

A BOK official explained that while the North’s construction sector shrank last year, its agricultural output improved on favorable weather conditions.

An expansion in production of coal and iron ore also lent support to growth, the official added.

Pyongyang’s construction industry contracted 1 percent on-year, compared with a 1.6 percent decline in 2012, as an increase in the number of residential buildings failed to offset falling demand for road construction works.

Its agricultural and fishery industry, which accounts for 22.4 percent of its total output, expanded 1.9 percent last year, slowing from a 3.9 percent growth in 2012.

Growth in its mining and manufacturing industries, which account for 35.7 percent of overall output, gained traction to reach 1.5 percent, up from 1.3 percent a year earlier.

The data, meanwhile, showed that North Korea’s nominal gross national income (GNI) came in at 33.8 trillion won (US$33.3 billion) last year, which is roughly 2.3 percent of South Korea’s 2013 GNI of 1,441.1 trillion won.

The Wall Street Journal’s Korea Real Time notes the following:

“North Korea has neither the capability to collect and analyze all the relevant data necessary to measure its own GDP growth nor the willingness to disclose them to the outside world,” says Mr. Cho.

Marcus Noland published a graph of korean growth rates from 1990-2013 and offered comments on the BOK’s methodology:

Noland-Koreas-GDP-growth-2013

And Noland’s comments:

According to the report, BOK constructs its national income account estimates “using basic data on North Korea’s economic activities supplied by relevant institutions…GDP at current prices is estimated with the use of South Korean prices and value-added ratios.”

What this means in non-economist speak is that someone (the NIS?) gathers data using some sources and methods which presumably put an emphasis on physical indicators that are easily countable. So that, as a practical matter, the South Korean authorities may have a better grasp of output in some sectors (like coal, where it’s easy to count railcars leaving a limited number of mines) and less on say services such as education where both the quantity and quality are more difficult to observe. Not surprisingly, the agricultural and industrial sectors of the economy show more output variability than does services. Whether this reflects reality or just problems counting physical indicators for services is unknown.

Then, having obtained these physical measures of output, we need prices and value-added weights to aggregate them into a single measure of the value of output. According to the BOK report they use South Korean prices and value-added weights. There are two problems here, though one problem may be diminishing over time. The first problem is that the relative price structures of the North and South Korea economies are not the same. However, over time it appears that the structure of domestic prices in both economies is getting more like world prices, and hence more like each other. So differing relative prices is probably less of an issue today than say 20 years ago.

Its less clear that the problem is disappearing with respect to the use of South Korean value-added weights that reflect the underlying techniques of production which remain vastly different across the two economies. Bottom line: we know there are some non-trivial problems with using the South Korean data to construct the North Korean GDP estimates.

Rumors have long circulated that the South Koreans either obtained or constructed a North Korean input-output table which they could use for these calculations, and contrary to the statement in the BOK report, weights derived from this source are used to construct the North Korean national income estimates, not the South Korean value-added weights. I personally do not know whether these claims are true or not.

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Data on Kaesong’s cumulative performance

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

Cumulative production of the inter-Korean industrial park has come to US$2.3 billion as the most salient outcome of rapprochement between the Koreas marks its 10th anniversary of operations this week, the unification ministry said Thursday.

The joint factory complex in the North Korean border town of Kaesong opened a decade ago following the first inter-Korean summit meeting in 2000, in which their leaders adopted a joint declaration calling for closer cooperation and exchanges.

On June 14, 2004, a group of 15 South Korean groups signed contracts to operate factories in the then-newly built complex, inaugurating the era of the Kaesong Industrial Complex. In December that year, the joint complex saw its first batch of goods produced in its factories.

In the first full year of operations in 2005, annual output reached $14.9 million before jumping by more than 30-fold to $469.5 million in 2012, according to the unification ministry.

But yearly output nearly halved last year from 2012 after Pyongyang suspended operations of the Kaesong complex for five months from April amid inter-Korean tensions. The figure rose to $168.1 million in the first quarter of this year.

The value of inter-Korean trade through the park came to an accumulated $9.45 billion, according to the ministry.

A total of 940,000 people have visited the inter-Korean economic zone, with 125 South Korean firms currently operating in the complex designed to match deep-pocketed South Korean companies with cheap North Korean labor.

Among the firms, 73, or 58.4 percent, are textile firms, while another 24 firms are machinery or steel makers. The complex is also home to 13 electronics makers and 9 chemicals firms, the ministry noted.

The Kaesong complex also saw the number of North Korean workers grow from around 6,000 in 2005 to 52,000 as of recently, along with monthly salary more than doubling from $50 to more than $130.

Although this story reports salaries of $130, a separate story released just a couple of days ago claims the monthly incomes are just $70. I am not sure why the discrepancy.

Read the full story here:
Cumulative output of Kaesong park reaches US$2.3 bln
Yonhap
2014-6-12

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Eberstadt on DPRK Trade

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

UPDATE 1 (2014-6-12): Witness to Transformation has an update here.

ORIGINAL POST (2014-6-4): Nicholas Eberstadt has written an interesting article on trends in the DPRK’s trade patterns from 2002-2013.

Here is just one graph:

Eberstadt-graph-DPRK-trade-2014-6-4

Read the full article here.

Dr. Eberstadt draws some counter-intuitive conclusions that cannot be observed directly from the published data. You can read all about the published data on the DPRK’s 2013 trade statistics here.

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DPRK imports digital televisions

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

According to the Korea Times:

North Korea’s imports of digital television sets from China have more than quadrupled this year, a South Korean trade group said Sunday, amid reports that the country is moving to introduce digital TV broadcasting.

In the first four months of the year, China shipped digital TVs amounting to some US$17.66 million to North Korea, up 338 percent from $4.02 million during the same period last year, according to the Korea International Trade Association.

The figure is the fifth-largest amount for any single item shipped from China to North Korea in the January-April period. Gasoline topped the list.

The North earlier said on a state-run website that it was moving to introduce digital TV broadcasting. The country also asked the U.N. International Telecommunication Union in 2011 for assistance in switching from an analog to a digital broadcasting system.

“The move by the North Korean government to switch to a digital broadcasting system appears to be an effort to win greater public support by showing that the people’s lives are improving,” said Cho Bong-hyun, an analyst at the IBK Economic Research Institute.

Read the full story here:
Trade report says N. Korea importing large number of digital TVs
Korea Times
2014-5-25

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