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N. Korea's trade falls, reliance on China remains high in 2009

 North Korea's external trade fell in 2009 with its economic reliance on China staying significantly high, a report showed Sunday, underscoring the need for Pyongyang to diversify its industry structure and open its market for survival.

   According to the report by the Korea Finance Corporation, North Korea's total trade amounted to US$3.41 billion in the cited year, down 10.6 percent from a year earlier. The trade decrease was the largest since 1998.

   Exports dropped 6 percent to $1.06 billion, while imports fell

12.5 percent to $2.35 billion over the same period, the report showed, bringing the North's trade deficit to $1.29 billion.

   With international sanctions in place for its nuclear ambitions and its reluctance to open up its economy, the North's dependence on China stayed quite high at 80.4 percent in 2009, the report showed. Its trade deficit with Beijing totaled $1.1 billion.

   The report said that the North should open its market and diversify its industry structure currently focused on producing weapons, while improving overall infrastructure such as power generation facilities, should it seek to revive its economy.

   It also emphasized the need for resumption of inter-Korean trade and an increase in international aid for the North's survival.

   "For the North Korean economy to get back on track, inter-Korean trade has to be resumed and aid from the international community should also be expanded," said an official of the state-run corporation.

   South Korea's economic relations with the North have remained frozen since Seoul cut almost all inter-Korean trade in May 2010 after it found Pyongyang was behind the deadly attack of its naval ship in March that killed 46 sailors.

   The move led to a drop of around 30 percent in inter-Korean trade last year, according to the latest report by Seoul's customs office. South Korea is one of the North's major trade partners, although the two remain technically at war as their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. (Yonhap News)

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