North Korea’s trade with Southeast Asian countries has dropped while its trade with Central and South American countries rose under toughened United Nations sanctions.
Seven of North Korea’s 10 largest trading partners have been replaced since the UN tightened sanctions against the reclusive state, and its exports last year amounted to a 17th of the level in 2015, Voice of America reported on Wednesday, citing the Korea International Trade Association’s reports and past data.
In 2015, China, South Korea, India, Russia, Thailand, the Philippines, Pakistan, Burkina Faso, Ukraine, and Trinidad and Tobago were North Korea’s 10 largest trading partners.
Apart from China, India and Russia, the rest on the list were replaced by Brazil, Costa Rica, Germany, Poland, Peru, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe last year, according to the US broadcaster.
North Korea’s trade with Brazil surged 152.6 percent compared to 2018, making the South American country its third-largest trading partner.
North Korea’s exports to Brazil amounted to $262,000, while imports jumped to $19.85 million, with pulp, soybean feed and corn as major import items.
China accounted for 95.2 percent of North Korea’s entire trade of $2.95 billion last year.
With the exception of Russia, all other countries accounted for less than 1 percent each of North Korea’s trade.
Jerome Sauvage, former head of the UN Development Program’s Pyongyang office, told the VOA that the only solution to North Korea’s economic recovery is “to find a way to work with South Korea and with the West, and to have some form of cooperation” to build infrastructure.
Pyongyang will be able to attract foreign investment and increase trade only through progress in denuclearization and expansion of infrastructure, he said.
North Korea, however, has continued to emphasize the importance of economic self-reliance and use of locally made products after it shut its border with China in January due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Localization is our republic’s war to defend dignity to the last death,” the Rodong Sinmun, mouthpiece of the North’s Workers’ Party, said on Wednesday.
“Without one’s own and with weak power, one would have to bow to others and eventually lose the right to autonomy and survival.”
Calling dependence on imported goods an “illness,” the newspaper said the party wants “true patriots” who try to raise the level of localization in raw materials and equipment, and create the country’s own products.
North Korea has sought to localize major industrial products, raw materials and equipment, and called for the use of locally made products as prolonged international sanctions have limited its trade.
By Kim So-hyun (email@example.com