• North Korea’s Trade Dependence on China Surged over 5 Times
    2019-12-02 hit 1624

    North Korea’s Trade Dependence on China Surged over 5 Times

    - KITA analyzed North Korea’s trade between 2001 and 2018 it’s trading partners and items changed depending on external conditions -

    It appears that North Korea’s trade dependence on China has dramatically risen by more than five times since the 2000s. 


    According to a report titled Trends in North Korea’s Top Ten Trade Partners and Items and Their Implications, 2001-2018 published by the Korea International Trade Association (Chairman: Kim Young-ju) on December 2nd, North Korea's three largest trading partners were Japan (30.1%), China (17.3%), and South Korea (8.8%) in 2001 but the rankings changed in 2010 to China (45.3%), Korea (25.0%) and India (7.5%) due to Japan’s sanctions on North Korea and the increase in South-North trade in the wake of the Kaesong Industrial Complex.  Afterwards, the North Korea’s top three trading partners changed to China (91.8%), India (1.4%) and Russia (1.3%) in 2018 as the trade with South Korea was completely cut off after the Kaesong Industrial Complex was closed in 2016, and international sanctions were tightened. In the 2000s, North Korea's trade with China surged by 5.3 times.


    North Korea's top-ranked export items from 2001 to 2018 were anthracite (18.8%), iron ore (4.2%), men's cold-weather coat (2.1%), women's cold-weather coat (1.7%), and heavy oil (1.7%). Minerals sold for foreign currency and toll processing-based garments produced with inexpensive labor force accounted for two-thirds of the country’s exports. Last year, however, anthracite coal, which had been North Korea’s number one export, disappeared from the top export ranking list after its inclusion as a target in intensified sanctions last year. Watches, ferrosilicon, wigs, injection machines, and tungsten replaced the place.


    During the same period, North Korea's top-ranked imports were oils for daily lives and industrial production, including crude oil (7.2%), heavy oil (3.7%) and kerosene (3.6%). However, North Korea’s top import item was soybean oil, followed by nitrogen fertilizer, synthetic fiber, and wheat flour last year.


    An official at the Korea International Trade Association said, "North Korea's trade over the last 18 years showed that the country changed its trade partners and items in response to the changes in external conditions, and added, If sanctions on North Korea are relaxed or lifted in the future, trade with South Korea, Japan, and India, that used to be major trading partners in the past, is likely to increase. In particular, there will be greater demand in North Korea for some chemicals, electronics, and mechanical products of South Korea and Japan as they outperform the Chinese products.


    Meanwhile, the Korea International Trade Association started to provide North Korea’s trade statistics on the trade statistics website ( from November 2nd.


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