Some recent sanctions statistics

According to Reuters:

The state-run Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) said North Korea’s trade, including commerce with South Korea, fell 9.7 percent to $5.09 billion last year from 2008.

Excluding trade with the South, foreign commerce feel 10.5 percent to $3.41 billion last year, KOTRA said in a statement.

It said trade with China, the North’s sole supporter, amounted to about $2.7 billion.

The prospect of further sanctions as a result of the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel by a suspected North Korean torpedo in March would slow trade even more, KOTRA said.

“North Korea’s trade this year is seen shrinking further and depending more on China due to the U.N.’s continuous sanctions against the North and possibilities of further measures,” KOTRA said.

North Korea does not announce its own trade data and KOTRA said it compiled the data from the agency’s overseas offices.

Last week, Seoul released the findings of a report which concluded that a North Korean submarine had fired a torpedo that sank the Cheonan corvette, killing 46 sailors.

South Korea has repeatedly said it would not strike back at the North, aware that would frighten away investors already jittery about the escalating tension on the divided peninsula.

Washington has called for an international response, which could range from fresh U.N. Security Council sanctions on North Korea, although those might be opposed by China, to a statement of condemnation by the world body.

A range of international sanctions have been levied against North Korea in recent years for its missile and nuclear tests.

And according to Leon Sigal in 38 North:

… North Korean trade increased in the two years following the 2006 UN sanctions. Inter-Korean trade totaled $1.8 billion in 2007—about a 33 percent jump from 2006—then rose again to $1.9 billion in 2008. China trade also grew to roughly the same level in 2007, then shot up to $2.78 billion in 2008. North Korea’s total trade increased by more in 2008 than in any other year over the past decade and its economy grew by 3.7 percent according to the Bank of Korea.  

The most recent UN sanctions enacted in 2009 have had similar results. In response to the threat of sanctions, Pyongyang went ahead with a test-launch of a long-range rocket and a second, more successful, nuclear test. The UN Security Council, in response, enacted Resolution 1874 imposing sanctions on the DPRK. The prime target of the new sanctions was the bank accounts of North Korean entities involved in nuclear and missile trafficking. Given the many ways to circumvent the banking system, however, and the reluctance of governments to interpret Resolution 1874 as liberally as the United States did, it is still unclear how much of an impediment this will prove to be. As the Congressional Research Service concluded, “[F]inancial sanctions aimed solely at the DPRK’s prohibited activities are not likely to have a large monetary effect.”

Luxury goods were also a focus of the most recent U.N. sanctions—in the dubious belief that consumerism is as rampant among privileged North Koreans as it is in Georgetown or that Kim Jong Il’s hold on the elite can be loosened by denying them Rolexes or Mercedes imported from China. A Congressional Research Service analysis of Chinese trade statistics for 2008 indicates that Beijing’s exports of luxury consumer goods to North Korea was between $100 million and $160 million, mostly financed by Chinese credit. That trade is not likely to have dropped enough to make any appreciable difference on the loyalty of elites long accustomed to tight belts and even tighter social controls.

Again, the overall economic impact of the sanctions appears to have been limited. Overall, according to U.S. estimates, North Korea’s economy again grew at a 3.7 percent rate in 2009,[7] probably because of a more bountiful harvest. While North Korean exports to China are difficult to estimate because of the introduction of the new currency, imports from China in 2009 dropped sharply to below the 2007 level. Some of the drop was due to the global recession and price deflation.[8] Trade with South Korea fell 8.5 percent in 2009 but still totaled $1.7 billion—five times what it was a decade ago. Trade with Japan was cut to a pittance, though it is difficult to ascertain the extent to which cash remittances from Koreans in Japan still manage to circumvent sanctions. For instance, Tokyo discovered that the DPRK was exporting sanctioned food items such as mushrooms to China and they were then sold to Japan at higher prices. The only losers may have been Japanese consumers.

As for international cooperation to curb the North’s arms sales, the net effect is probably overstated. In 2005, even before sanctions were imposed, the global market for missiles—the big-ticket item—had dried up, as buyers like Iran and Pakistan opened their own production lines, although technological assistance still generated revenue for Pyongyang. Since the UN arms embargo, at least four shipments of arms have been interdicted. Their total value, never mind net profit, fell far short of the estimated $500 million a year North Korean arms sales are supposed to generate. How many of its exports evaded capture is not known.

Read the full stories here:
Sanctions hit North Korea’s crumbling economy: report
Cheon Jong-woo

Looking for Leverage in All the Wrong Places
38 North
Leon V. Sigal


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