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N Korea at crossroads

North Korea's trade value falls to half previous low in 2018

Almost all of isolated country's trade is with neighboring China

North Korea has been the subject of international sanctions for more than a decade.

SEOUL -- North Korea's total trade with other countries fell sharply in 2018, the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency announced on Friday, as long-term sanctions continue to take their toll.

The total value of North Korea's trade, excluding that with South Korea, was $2.8 billion in 2018, down 49%. It was the second straight annual drop and the first time the figure has fallen below $3 billion. Exports plummeted 86% to $240 million, and imports fell 31% to $2.6 billion.

Trade with China, North Korea's largest trade partner, came in at $2.7 billion, a 48% decline from 2017. China made up 95.8% of North Korea's trade, 1 percentage point more than the previous year. Russia is the country's second biggest trading partner, accounting for 1.2% of its trade.

International sanctions imposed on North Korea related to its nuclear weapons program mean the country cannot export things like mineral fuels, apparel or marine products. As a result, shipments of light industry products have increased. Exports of clocks and clock parts surged 1,534%. Shipments of products like wigs also grew.

North Korea imported $360 million worth of crude and processed oil, 14% of inbound shipments.

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