Toughened sanctions - largely thanks to China - have taken a heavy toll on North Korean trade, according to Seoul’s Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) on Monday.
North Korea’s trade with other countries excluding South Korea plunged 15 percent on year to $5.55 billion in 2017. North Korea’s exports declined 37.2 percent to $1.77 billion while imports increased 1.8 percent to $3.78 billion during the same period, stretching its trade deficit by 125.5 percent to $2.01 billion.
The toughest-yet set of sanctions from the United Nations that targeted to damage North Korea’s biggest sources of revenue from overseas - exports of mineral sources like coal and iron - seafood and use of North Korean laborers abroad after North Korea’s series of missile and nuclear tests last year have dealt as heavy blow. What did the trick was eager compliance from China.
Amid worsening isolation, North Korean economy entirely hinged on China as of last year.
Trade with China accounted for nearly all - 94.8 percent - of its external trade. North Korea’s trade volume with China fell 13.2 percent to $5.26 billion which is tantamount to the reclusive country’s entire trade volume of last year.
North Korea’s exports to China came to $1.65 billion and imports $3.61 billion.
Russia was North Korea’s second-largest trading partner, followed by India, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. North Korea has had no trade transaction with Japan since 2009.
Shipments of North Korea’s major export item - apparels - declined 18.6 percent last year as the result of shutdown of the inter-Korean Kaesong industrial park that had been responsible for OEM products shipped out of North Korea. Mineral fuel dropped 65.3 percent after China curtailed imports.
The trade data is proof of how effective the latest sanctions have been on the North Korean economy, said a KOTRA official.
Under the squeeze of sanctions, North Korea earlier this year abruptly turned reconciliatory and its leader met with South Korean and U.S. summits, offering to suspend and surrender nuclear weapons program in return for easing of sanctions and normalization of ties.
By Hwang Soon-min and Lee Eun-joo
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