SEOUL, Aug. 25 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's economy appears to be continuing to slow down due to global sanctions, the protracted anti-epidemic campaign and damage from recent heavy downpours, Seoul's unification ministry said Tuesday.
In a report to lawmakers on key inter-Korean issues, the ministry said that the North is facing a "triple whammy," which is making it hard for Pyongyang to achieve its intended major economic goals by the 75th party founding anniversary in October.
"(North Korea) has been striving to make economic achievements in time for the 75th party founding anniversary, but an economic slowdown continues amid the triple whammy of sanctions, coronavirus and damage caused by heavy rains," the ministry said.
North Korea saw its trade with China, its biggest benefactor and trading partner, plunge 67.2 percent on-year during the first half of this year to US$411 million, the ministry added.
North Korea's tight border controls put in place since early this year to ward off the coronavirus virus have apparently taken a toll on its trade with China. It was also recently pummeled by heavy downpours, which reportedly wrought havoc on its rice-producing areas.
With unusual candor, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un acknowledged "shortcomings" in his five-year economic development plan last week due to severe and unexpected internal and external challenges. He said that he will unveil a new development scheme in a rare party congress to be held in January.
The ministry said that it will continue to push for cross-border cooperation in the humanitarian area irrespective of political and military situations and that it will seek joint efforts with international aid agencies to that end.
The ministry also vowed to keep seeking "small-scale trading" with the North in a way that will "steadily" expand "room" for inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation.
Inter-Korean relations remain stalled as North Korea has not responded to Seoul's calls for exchanges and cooperation since the no-deal summit between Pyongyang and Washington in early 2019.
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