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Why North Korea Chooses Self-Sufficiency: Changes in the North Korean Economy in the First Quarter of 2021

  • Author Jangho Choi
  • Series214
  • Date2021-06-07
Aiming to discuss the changes in North Korea's economic strategies and policies, and the reasons why North Korea suddenly resumed trade with China in March 2021, this article is largely composed of two parts. The second section introduces the debate between South Ko-rean economists about North Korea's economic strategy and policy changes. The last section attempts to analyze the reasons why North Korea has suddenly resumed imports.
The COVID-19 pandemic and recent sanctions against North Korea are causing rapid chang-es in the North Korean economy. In the academic community studying the North Korean economy in South Korea, various topics are being discussed about these changes in the North Korean economy. The first topic is how the North Korean economy is seeing rapid changes in its economic strategy. The second topic is why North Korea's economic management system is showing horizontal centralization. The last topic is why North Korea does not resume imports to China despite increasing eco-nomic difficulties.
Why North Korea suddenly resumed trade with China in March 2021. North Korea resumed trade with China on a small scale in March 2021. Trade has reportedly been resumed, but exports have been negligible and only a small amount of goods have been imported. Imports were completely suspended for six months from mid-September 2020 to mid-March 2021, and then imports were abruptly resumed in March 2021. Imports from Chi-na totaled $12.98 million, and exports to China totaled $4.55 million from January to March. The imports conducted in March were non-commercial in nature and led by the authorities. Most of the imports came from the necessities required for industrial production, especially in the agricultural sector. Agricultural materials, that is, fertilizer raw materials (urea, ammonium phosphate, organic sulfur compounds ‒ 71.0%), agricultural vinyl (8.2%), pesticides (insecti-cides, herbicides ‒ 5.4%), etc. were mainly imported. Other imported goods included news-papers and printing paper (8.3%), detergent raw materials (sodium hydroxide ‒ 2.7%), and low flash point fuel for steel production.
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