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N. Korea's trade with China surges due to U.N. sanctions

North Korea saw its trading volume with China surge at a far higher rate than those with other trading partners last year, a parliamentary report showed Monday, indicating the communist country's rising dependency on China.

Trading volume between the North and China reached US$3.54 billion in the first seven months of this year, growing 14.5 percent from the corresponding figure for the same period last year, according to the Unification Ministry report submitted to the National Assembly.

For the whole of 2011, trading volume between the two allies totaled $5.62 billion, expanding 62.4 percent from the previous year, according to the report.
Fast-expanding transactions with China indicate the North's trading dependency on China increasing rapidly in recent years, the report showed.

China accounted for only 67 percent of the North's total trading with foreign countries, also including Russia, Thailand and Japan in 2007. But the dependency rate grew to 72.9 percent in 2008 and 82.9 percent in 2010 before hitting 89.1 percent last year, the report showed.

The United Nations' economic sanctions imposed upon the North's nuclear activities are believed to have led to the isolated country's increased dependency on the closest ally.

North Korea's food imports from China have also rapidly expanded, with the North bringing in 154,000 tons of grains and other produce from China in the January-July period, the report also showed.

Annual food imports from China stood at 155,000 tons in 2008 and they have steadily grown to reach 380,000 tons for the whole of 2011, it said.

Another ministry audit report also showed that since 2004, South Korea has so far paid a total of $245.7 million in salary to North Korean laborers working in the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a joint inter-Korean industrial project in the North Korean village of Kaesong.

Becoming fully operational in 2004, the industrial complex is designed for South Korean manufacturers to utilize inexpensive North Korean labor there as part of economic cooperation policies toward the communist North.

The report showed that a North Korean worker in the industrial zone earns an average $128.3 every month as of the first half of this year.

The average monthly pay stood at $68.1 in 2006 before steadily growing to $109.3 for last year.

South Korean employers at the Kaesong complex pay their wages in U.S. dollars, and the North Korean government deducts nearly 45 percent of them for welfare and other expenses, and pays the remaining amount in North Korean won or in the form of coupons to its Kaesong workers, it said. (Yonhap News)