(Seoul, Yonhap, 2011/11/06) A joint study of Chinese data by Yonhap News Agency and Seoul-based IBK Economic Research Institute showed that China imported 8.42 million tons of minerals from North Korea from January to September this year, worth US$852 million.
Over the first nine months of last year, China brought in 3.04 million tons of minerals from the North for $245 million. Most of the minerals were anthracite coals, the data showed. This year, of 8.42 million tons, 8.19 tons were anthracites. China is the sole major ally and the biggest economic benefactor for North Korea, a reclusive regime under international economic sanctions following its nuclear and long-range missile tests.
Cho Bong-hyun, an analyst at the IBK institute, said North Korea may be trying to earn much-needed hard currency as it aims to become a powerful and prosperous country by 2012. “Last year, North Korea ordered its institutions to meet their goals in foreign currency income by this year,” Cho said. “Since exporting minerals is a military business, we can see that the military is trying to meet its target. In addition, the steep mineral export growth was attributable to the lifting of the cap on the amount of mineral exports, as ordered by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.”
China appears to be trying to stockpile mineral resources at affordable prices, Cho added. North Korean anthracites were traded at an average of $101 per ton, whereas the international standard for quality anthracites is $200 per ton. “Given that North Korean coals are of very good quality, trade with China must have been made at a fairly low price,” Cho said.
Meanwhile, sources said North Korean authorities last month entirely halted its coal exports, as the impoverished country fears a shortage of energy resources during the upcoming winter. From January to September this year, China exported 732,000 tons of minerals to North Korea, most of them crude oil.
North Korea’s closed economy contracted for a second year in a row
(By Jeremy Laurence, Reuters, Nov 3, 2011) – North Korea’s closed economy contracted for a second year in a row last year due to international sanctions, sluggish agricultural production and a slowdown in manufacturing, South Korea’s central bank said on Thursday.
In a report issued by the Bank of Korea (BOK), the North’s centrally-planned economy was estimated to have shrunk 0.5 percent year-on-year in 2010 compared with a 0.9 percent contraction in 2009.
“Last year, the North Korean economy contracted as economic conditions at home and abroad worsened amid energy shortages and international sanctions and its manufacturing sector remained sluggish,” said BOK official Park Yung-hwan.
Seoul’s assessment of its neighbor’s economy does not auger well for the North’s ambitious drive to become a “strong and prosperous nation” by 2012 when it celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of the state’s founder Kim Il-sung.
The North currently ranks as one of the world’s poorest and least developed states. It does not release economic data, and the South calculates the figures through specialist institutes which monitor the North’s economy.
The BOK report said North Korea’s nominal gross national income (GNI) amounted to 30 trillion won (US$26.5 billion) last year, which is only 2.56 percent of South Korea’s GNI of 1,173 trillion won. Meanwhile, inter-Korean trade grew 13.9 percent year-on-year to $1.91 billion, the BOK said…
AGRICULTURE, MANUFACTURE DECLINE
…The North’s moribund economy has also been affected by poor agriculture production, as a result of summer flooding and a particularly harsh winter. The BOK said its agricultural and fishery industry contracted 2.1 percent last year from a year earlier, and its manufacturing sector declined 0.3 percent in 2010, the BOK said.
The North has suffered chronic food shortages for about two decades due to mismanagement, isolation and natural disasters, making it dependent on foreign donors to fill the food gap. Aid agencies say the food situation has worsened this year as foreign aid deliveries have slowed.
Seoul and Washington, which had been the North’s biggest food donors until a few years ago, have suspended food aid to the North over monitoring concerns. South Korea has also said it will only resume aid when the North denuclearizes. The United States sent a team to the North earlier this year to assess the food situation, but has said it is still undecided on resuming aid.
Pyongyang has reached out for help this year, saying it wants to rejoin regional aid-for-denuclearization talks. The North quit the talks more than two years ago…