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N. Korea-China trade in 2013 largely unchanged from previous year

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

SEOUL, Oct. 9 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's trade with China remained largely unchanged in the first eight months of this year compared to 2012, a government report showed Wednesday.

According to the Ministry of Unification, bilateral trade stood at US$4.01 billion during the cited period, effectively the same as the $4.1 billion tallied for the same period a year earlier.

The latest data showed North Korea's exports to its neighboring country reaching $1.89 billion, with imports hitting $2.2 billion for a deficit of $310 million.

Pyongyang mostly shipped out raw materials like anthracite coal and iron ore, along with clothing and some goods made under so-called improvement trade arrangements.

"There was an increase in coal and iron ore exports, yet earnings actually fell due to weak prices for these commodities," said a ministry official, who declined to be identified.

However, he said sales of clothing topped $290 million as of end-August, compared to $200 million during the same period last year.

On imports, the North brought in mostly crude oil, food and fertilizers from China, although overall numbers were down 6 percent on-year.

Imports of food and fertilizers were down 57 percent and 27 percent, respectively, with crude imports dipping 6 percent compared to the year before.

The North has been importing less food from China after a good harvest last year.

Meanwhile, the latest findings showed that the North is building large sports facilities and amusement parks in the capital city and large provincial cities. There has also been a push to build up the country's tourism industry, which includes urban beautification, as well as the construction of large-scale apartment complexes.

"The measures seem to be aimed at highlighting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's achievements and bolstering his image as a person interested in the welfare of the people," the official said.

However, he said that despite interest in various construction projects, the North is spending less money to build or refurbish roads, port facilities, power stations and other social overhead capital projects that could help the country in the long-run.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/yonhap-news-agency/131008/n-korea-china-trade-2013-largely-unchanged-previous-year