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Inter-Korean trade hits 8-year low in 2013

All Headlines 11:27 February 23, 2014

SEOUL, Feb. 23 (Yonhap) -- Trade between South and North Korea fell to its lowest level in eight years in 2013 due to their strained relations, data showed Sunday.

Inter-Korean trade reached US$1.15 billion last year, down a whopping 41.9 percent from the previous year's $1.98 billion, according to the data from the Korea International Trade Association (KITA).

South Korean exports to the North nose-dived 41.1 percent on-year to $531.8 million, with imports from the communist country sinking 42.5 percent to $617.2 million.

The 2013 inter-Korean trade volume was the lowest since 2005, when the figure came to $1.06 billion.

The KITA attributed the tumble in inter-Korean trade mainly to the suspension of a jointly run industrial complex in North Korea.

The industrial zone in the North Korean border city of Kaesong screeched to a halt in April last year as Pyongyang withdrew all its workers, citing heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Its operations resumed more than five months later.

The Kaesong Industrial Complex, viewed as the crowning achievement of the historic 2000 summit meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas, remains the only viable economic link between Seoul and Pyongyang, hosting some 120 South Korean companies that employ more than 44,600 North Korean workers.

In contrast to the plunge in trade with South Korea, the North's trade with China, its chief ally and largest benefactor, jumped 10.4 percent on-year to a record high of $6.54 billion last year, according to the data.

Between 2009 and 2014, North Korea's trade volume with China, the world's second-largest economy, had been growing an annual average of more than 40 percent, the data showed.

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