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Monday, June 27, 2011

Statistics on DPRK – PRC trade

Data on North Korea’s trade with other countries is scarce, and there are stark contrasts in recent estimates from South Korea and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in terms of both volume and composition.

North Korea’s imports and exports, excluding those with South Korea, reached US$4.17 billion last year, according to a report published last month by the South’s state-run Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA). The North’s trade with China — its chief ally and benefactor — amounted to some $3.5 billion, or 83 percent of the reclusive state’s total trade with other countries, the report said. Inter-Korean trade, meanwhile, reached $1.91 billion in the same period.

The findings were based on an analysis of annual trade reports filed by countries that deal with North Korea, as Pyongyang does not provide its own economic data.

The IMF, however, estimates North Korea’s total trade volume at 5.91 billion euros ($8.39 billion) last year, about double KOTRA’s figure, according to a recent report by the Voice of America (VOA), which cites the European Commission. The IMF estimates North Korea’s trade with China at some $3.9 billion, which is similar to KOTRA’s estimate, but accounts for a much smaller proportion of the total volume at 46 percent.

These figures are also based on data from North Korea’s trade partners, but appear to include some of these countries’ exports and imports with South Korea, according to experts.

The IMF’s estimates may be affected by errors in distinguishing the North from the South, while KOTRA’s South Korean staff are able to filter out many of these mistakes, the experts said. The trade agency’s figure may also be smaller because it relies on official data from governments, while the IMF collects its material from a wide range of sources.

“We do not reflect figures that we do not see as normal trade, such as foreign aid or under-the-table transactions,” a KOTRA official said on the condition of anonymity.

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