June 03, 2023

Striking black gold: How North Koreans became coal entrepreneurs

Coal is relatively easy to produce, so business-state partnerships have turned profits

Recent UN sanctions putting so much emphasis on mineral exports from North Korea unavoidably attract much attention to exports of North Korean coal to China.

Indeed, coal shipments to China, which were almost unnoticeable as late as 2000, currently constitute roughly 40 percent of all North Korean exports, as reconstructed through the statistics of North Korea’s trade partners (the actual share may be somewhat lower, since not all North Korean trade deals are counted). Because prices have been falling on international markets, the share of exports also began to slide in recent years, but remains high.