Three years after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the North Korean economy is finally showing signs of recovery. This is reported by the Japanese economic newspaper. Nihon Keizai Shimbun, who cleared Chinese customs statistics to report on May 25 that trade between Beijing and Pyongyang reached $684 million (€637 million) between January and April 2023, i.e. “91%” of what they were at the same time in 2019, the publication reveals.

In October 2020, North Korea interrupted the delivery of goods to China by trucks, ships and trains, which drastically reduced its international trade. So resuming this activity is fundamental to its economy, as China is by far North Korea’s largest trading partner, accounting for over 90% of its imports and exports.

Bypass sanctions

Since 2017, North Korea has been under United Nations (UN) sanctions that ban the export of certain products such as coal, steel, and textiles. But “North Koreans are really circumventing these measures” export these goods to China, the newspaper notes. For example, the sending of North Korean workers to China, although banned by the UN, continues:

“It seems that in Dandong [ville chinoise à la frontière nord-coréenne]70,000 to 80,000 North Korean workers work in textile or seafood processing factories.”

While trade has resumed, North Korea’s borders remain closed to all foreigners. “With their fragile healthcare system, the North Korean authorities fear that the resumption of the movement of people could lead to an influx of the virus from China. They are probably thinking about an opening date, focusing on the health situation in China.” explains Mitsuhiro Mimura, an expert on North Korea at Nigata Prefectural University, quoted in the article.