By Nam Hyun-woo
North Korea's trade was halved last year, in an apparent consequence of United Nations Security Council sanctions on the reclusive regime, a report showed Friday.
According to the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency report, North Korea's trade volume last year was $2.84 billion, down 48.8 percent from a year earlier.
It was the first time that the regime's trade fell below $3 billion since Kim Jong-un took the helm. It was also the second consecutive year in which trade volume declined.
Exports plunged 86.3 percent to $243 million from a year earlier and imports declined 31.2 percent to $2.6 billion. The trade deficit expanded by 17.5 percent to $2.36 billion from $2.01 billion.
KOTRA attributed the decline to the United Nations Security Council sanctions on North Korea.
Resolution 2371, which took effect in August 2017, bans U.N. member nations from importing North Korean coal, iron ore and seafood. Resolution 2375, which came into force a month later, bans purchasing textiles from North Korea and selling natural gas condensates and liquids to the regime. Resolution 2397 in December also bans selling industrial machinery and vessels.
Because coal, iron ore and textiles are North Korea's main export items, their drop of almost 100 percent led to the plunge in exports, KOTRA said. The North's exports of mineral fuel and oil dropped by 96.9 percent and textiles fell 99.5 percent.
Exports of most banned items declined, but light items that were not included in the sanctions showed noticeable growth. The export of clocks, watches and their parts jumped 1,533.7 percent from a year earlier, and wigs, cotton and feather products climbed 159.3 percent growth.
The North imported mineral fuel and oil worth $360 million, accounting for 13.7 percent of its imports. Electrical equipment and machinery, the No. 2 and No. 3 import items in 2017, declined 97.6 percent and 96.9 percent respectively.
China remained North Korea's top trading partner, accounting for 95.8 percent of the regime's trade. However, the volume declined 48.2 percent last year to $2.72 billion from $5.26 billion a year earlier.
Following China were Russia, India, Pakistan, Switzerland, Bangladesh, Germany, Ghana, Brazil and Mozambique. Switzerland, Bangladesh, Germany, Ghana and Brazil were news on the list of the North's top 10 trading partners, but their share of the regime's total trade remained at 0.1 percent.
"After Kim Jong-un took the helm of the regime, North Korea's trade volume remained between $5.5 billion and $7.6 billion, but it fell below the $3 billion mark for the first time during Kim's leadership, showing the U.N. sanctions are effective," a KOTRA official said.
"Because is a chance that more items may become subject to further sanctions, it remains to be seen whether the North's trade volume will continue to decline."