North Korea's trade volume sank 18% last year from a year earlier, ending five years of straight growth, due largely to a drop in the prices of its key trading items such as coal and overall shipments, a South Korean trade agency said Wednesday.
The North's overall trade volume came to US$6.25 billion in 2015, compared with $7.61 billion the previous year, according to the state-run Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA). The reclusive country's outbound shipments fell 15% on-year to reach $2.7 billion, while imports also dropped 30% to $3.55 billion over the cited period, the data compiled by the agency showed.
Consequently, the communist state's trade deficit reached $850 million last year, narrowing 33% from the previous year, according to South Korea's (Yonhap) News Agency. The North's trade volume has been on a rising path since 2009 reaching an all-time high of $7.61 billion in 2014.
But a drop in prices of key trade items such as coal, coupled with a slowdown in China -- its strongest ally -- led to a decline in overall trade volume, KOTRA said. Bilateral trade volume between North Korea and China came to $5.71 billion last year, down 16.8% from a year earlier, The figure accounted for 91.3% of the North's overall trade in 2015, slightly higher than the previous year's 90.1%.
North Korea's dependence on China for trade has been increasing steadily since 2005 when its trade volume with China exceeded 50% of its overall trade. Russia, another North Korean ally, was the country's second-largest trading partner in 2015, with bilateral trade volume reaching $84 million, followed by India with $77 million and Thailand with $50 million.
The North's largest export item was fuel such as coal, the shipments of which dropped 8.1% to $1.08 billion. The item accounted for 40.2% of its overall exports, the data showed. Exports of clothing rose 5.5% on-year to $800 million, with its portion in the North's entire export rising to 29.7% from 24.1% in 2014.