SEOUL, June 21 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's economic reliance on China deepened last year as prolonged international sanctions and frozen economic exchanges with South Korea further jolted its moribund economy, a report showed Tuesday.
Bilateral trade between North Korea and China was estimated at US$5.71 billion in 2015, accounting for 91.3 percent of the North's total trade, according to Hyundai Research Institute.
The amount jumped from $488 million in 2000, with the ratio more than tripling from 24.8 percent, the Seoul-based think tank said.
"North Korea's trade is relying more on China in the wake of continued international sanctions and soured inter-Korean relations," the institute said.
China's share in North Korea's exports had skyrocketed from 6.7 percent in 2000 to 92.1 percent in 2015, with the amount rising from $40 million to $2.48 billion.
Imports from China rose from $450 million in 2000 to $2.95 billion in 2015, with the reliance ratio increasing from 31.9 percent to 77.6 percent.
The share of raw materials in North Korea's export to China rose from 37.9 percent in 2000 to 53.3 percent in 2015, while the share of raw materials in the North's imports from China tumbled from 28 percent to 1.5 percent during the period.
Sales of mineral resources, such as iron ore and coal, were the biggest source of hard currency for the reclusive state, while Chinese electronics topped the list of imports last year, the institute said.
"North Korea have expanded imports of intermediate goods and sold them as finished goods," said Lee Yong-hwa, a researcher at Hyundai Research Institute. "North Korea's income level is believed to have improved as it has expanded imports of Chinese consumer goods and capital goods."
Pyongyang's reliance on China is expected to further rise this year as it was slapped with additional U.N. sanctions in early March following its fourth nuclear test and long range missile launch earlier this year.
The U.N. sanctions ban exports of mineral resources, including coal, iron, gold and rare earth metals, from North Korea, if the proceeds are used for its nuclear or arms program.
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