Commodity Turnover: North Korea-Russia Trade Set to Resume from Major Low

By | October 26, 2022 | No Comments

North Korea appears, according to a report from the Daily NK, prepared to resume pre-pandemic levels of trade with the Russian Federation. How this will work under sanctions is anybody’s guess, especially since Moscow appears to be at least considering violating UN provisions against hiring DPRK citizens as workers. Yet as economic data from the following Russian translation shows, North Korea-Russia trade has an incredibly low threshold from which to grow. 

The Eastern Economic Forum, held in Vladivostok from 5-8 September, was the site of a meeting between the Primorye governor Oleg Kozhemyako and North Korean Ambassador Sin Hong Chol. Sin appeared to lead what was likely a small delegation to the meeting, where the North Koreans could rub shoulders with officials from the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic as well as the largest foreign delegation, sent from China and headed by Li Zhanshu, a CCP Politburo Standing Committee member who has since become famous for assuring CCP Chairman Hu Jintao that he could leave the 20th Party Congress without a fuss. On September 6 — in other words, shortly before or after meeting with the North Korean ambassador — Oleg Kozhemyako spoke with Vladimir Putin; the Kremlin’s readout of their conversation did not touch on North Korea explicitly, but, citing “53,000 job openings for 9,000 unemployed” in the region, it was vitally clear that North Korean laborers could serve an important function. Kozhemyako and Sin’s conversation, along with some trade data, is covered in the following translation: 



Commodity turnover with the DPRK in the Russian Far East has been completely stopped[1] 

Vladivostok, October 25 – RIA Novosti. Commodity turnover between Russia and the DPRK through Far Eastern customs has stopped completely, said the head of the Russian Far East Customs Administration, Yuri Ladygin.

The reason for this, he said, was the UN sanctions laid against Pyongyang.

“We don’t trade with North Korea at all on account of these restrictions that the UN placed on North Korea. It has been possible to send foodstuffs and medicine there – but we haven’t traded anything else” Ladygin said. 

With that, he expressed hope that trade would resume with the border opening.

“We will see what kinds of goods will be in demand in North Korea; it’s not clear yet,” the head of the customs administration added. 

According to data from October 2021, external commodity turnover between the DPRK and the Russian Far East fell 300-fold – to twenty tons, whereas the year before it had amounted to 5,800 tons. In light of this [decline], Russia didn’t export anything [to North Korea], while it mostly imported organic chemical compounds (accounting for 99.2% of the total volume) as well as cars and mechanical items (0.8 percent) from the DPRK. 

During a meeting with Primorye governor Oleg Kozhemyako during the Eastern Economic Forum, DPRK ambassador Sin Hong Chol stated that the border will open as early as September, and that trade in goods between Russia and North Korea will resume. According to Ladygin, however, Pyongyang has shifted this period, so the Khasan-Tumen River checkpoint may be open in late October. 


Original article by RIA Novosti. Translated by Anthony V Rinna.


[1] Source: Commodity turnover with the DPRK in the Russian Far East has been completely stopped [Товарооборот с КНДР на Дальнем Востоке полностью прекратился], RIA Novosti, October 25, 2022,


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