NK Trade Volume
North Korea’s foreign trade amount set a new record last year.
According to KOTRA’s report published on May 21, North Korea’s external trade volume, excluding the trade between the two Koreas, reached US$7.34 billion in 2013, with a year-on-year growth rate of 7.8 percent.
Exports and imports by the North increased 11.7 percent to US$3.22 billion and 5.0 percent to US$4.12 billion, respectively. The trade deficit decreased slightly from US$1.05 billion to US$980 million. The expansion of trade can be attributed to the export of mineral resources such as coal, iron ore, copper, and aluminum, and textile and clothing goods, and the import of electricity, transport machinery, grain, etc.
China was the largest trade partner of North Korea in 2013. The North’s trade volume with China added up to US$6.54 billion (US$2.91 billion in imports and US$3.63 billion on exports) and gained 8.9 percent from a year earlier. The ratio of the trade with China was 89.1 percent and continued its upward movement since 2005, when the percentage topped 50 percent. This implies the Chinese government’s economic sanctions that followed the missile launch in December 2012 and nuclear test in February 2013 have rarely affected bilateral trade.
China was followed by Russia, India, Thailand and Singapore. The trade amount between North Korea and Russia jumped 37.3 percent from a year ago to US$104 million, as the import of machinery and transport equipment soared through the Rajin-Hassan Railway, which was opened in the second half of 2013.
In the meantime, the North recorded no trade at all with Japan since 2009. No trade has been made with the United States either, except for the limited humanitarian aid of food and daily necessities, with the economic embargo in place.
The major export items of North Korea were mineral resources such as coal and brown coal. The exports of these items rose 14.9 percent to US$1.43 billion, accounting for 44.4 percent of the total exports. Most of these were shipped to China. The exports of clothes and textile products increased as much as 33.5 percent to US$502 million as well, along with aluminum, steel products, and dairy produce. The main import items were mineral oil such as crude and refined oil. The import amount totaled US$780 million, 3.8 percent down from the preceding year.
“North Korea’s foreign trade has expanded for the fourth consecutive year since 2010, despite economic sanctions by the international community. This is due mainly to the increase in the export of mineral products to China,” KOTRA explained, adding, “The North is likely to focus on the amelioration of bilateral relations with Russia to address its dependence on China.”