Trade between North and South Korea fell over 99 percent in March, following the closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) in February, figures from the Korean International Trade Association (KITA) show.
After Seoul called the project to a halt in response to the DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests, both imports and exports crashed from totals of over $100 million in January to just over to only a fraction of that by March. Figures for the more recent months have not yet been made available.
South Korean import totals suffered the sharpest drop. Prior to the February closure the South imported over $140 million’s worth of goods, falling to just $11,000 in March.
Exports suffered similarly the KITA numbers show, dropping from nearly $120 million to just over $1 million over the three month period.
South Korea withdrew from the complex on February 10, so during that month trade in the zone still totalled nearly $60 million.
According to Seoul’s Ministry of Unification (MOU), the remaining $1 million in exports is accounted for by tuberculosis supplies provided by the Eugene Bell Foundation, a DPRK focused NGO dedicated to combating the disease in the country.
The KIC was the hub of trade between the two countries, where South Korean companies employed around 55,000 North Korean workers in numerous factories. In the first three months of 2015, South Korean exports from the KIC were valued at nearly $360 million, as compared to just $149 million over the same period this year.
Up until January 2015, the value of the trade between the two countries was at its highest level in years. Media reports in September that year claimed the value of the trade in the zone had returned to totals not seen since before sanctions imposed in 2010, when North Korea torpedoed a South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan.
Seoul gave no indication the zone would be reopened in the near future. At the time of the closure the MOU attracted controversy for claiming that 70 percent of the money sent to North Korean through the KIC was used to fund the North’s weapons programs.
Minister Hong was forced to later backtrack on the comments, with critics pointing out the admission could put South Korea in breach of UN sanctions.
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Featured Image: Sonbong Textiles Factory North Korea by Ray Cunningham on 2013-06-24 10:48:22