Pyongyang increasingly relying on China: Report

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Pyongyang increasingly relying on China: Report

A new report has revealed that 90 percent of North Korea’s exports were bound for China in 2013, an indication of Pyongyang’s increased economic dependence on its closest neighbor and ally.

That’s nearly seven times the figure from a decade ago, when 50 percent of its exports were sent to Beijing.

According to a report released Wednesday by the Beijing branch of the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), North Korea’s total exports to China in 2013 totaled $2.9 billion, compared to $400 million in 2003.

Annually, China has been North Korea’s biggest export partner, with the exception of 1995, when Japan took that spot.

Beijing’s investments in Pyongyang also increased drastically, from $1.12 million in 2003 to $86.2 million 10 years later. This is a third of the amount China invested in South Korea, some 291.2 billion won ($269 million) in 2013.

But considering the size of the North Korean economy, Beijing’s scope of the investment is sizeable.

In 2013, inter-Korea trade decreased by 42 percent to $1.2 billion compared to the previous year. However, North Korea’s total imports to China comprise only 0.15 percent of the total market.

By contrast, trade between North Korea and China increased by 10 percent that year compared to the previous year, coming in at $6.5 billion.

Pyongyang’s shut down in 2013 of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a symbol of joint economic cooperation between the two Koreas, also played a large part in the decrease of trade between the two countries.

Over 10 years, North Korea’s investment in China grew to $2.68 million, a 12.6 percent increase. This was mostly small-scale investments such as restaurants.

By comparison, China’s investment in Seoul increased by nearly 75 percent over the decade from $150 million to $270 million.

Seoul’s exports to China comprised 26.1 percent of its total exports, compared to 18.1 percent a decade ago.

“Comparing the scale of economic and human exchanges between China and North and South Korea, the South’s size is much bigger, but North Korea’s dependence on China is much greater,” said Choi Yong-min, who heads KITA’s Beijing branch.


BY SARAH KIM, JEONG WON-YEOB [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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