Scroll over the chart for more detail.
►▼ Where is this data from?
This data is collected from the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), and includes adjustments for unreported Chinese crude oil exports to North Korea. 2020 data is collected from Chinese Customs, and adjustments for unreported Chinese crude oil exports are estimated by the author. Data on China merchandise trade as a share of total North Korean merchandise trade is also calculated using figures from KOTRA, with adjustments for inter-Korean trade using data provided by the ROK Ministry of Unification. (Inter-Korean trade includes trade through the Kaesong Industrial Zone.)
►▼ How reliable is this data?
As with any mirror trade statistics with North Korea, this data should be taken with a grain of salt, as it excludes trade in services, illicit activities, informal border trade, unreported aid, etc..., and is subject to errors or discrepancies on the part of reporting agencies. Additionally, this data does not account for "cost, insurance, and freight" adjustments, which means that North Korea may be paying more than reported for its imports to cover shipping-related costs, and may be receiving less income than reported for its exports, as shipping-related costs paid by Chinese importers are incorporated into the prices reported in the data.
The KOTRA dataset used in this chart accounts for some of the deficiencies found in reported data (for example, by estimating the value of unreported Chinese crude oil exports to North Korea), but data on DPRK-China trade remains inherently imprecise. North Korean exports to China after 2017, in particular, are likely to be largely omitted because of the scope of UN Security Council resolutions restricting North Korean exports. (Exports of prohibited items have continued to some extent or another, but are no longer captured in trade data.)
►▼ How much of China's trade with North Korea is re-exported to/from third countries?
China does not report re-export or re-import data regarding its trade with North Korea. (Re-export data does not appear to be typically included in any Chinese trade statistics.) Nonetheless, anecdotal evidence suggests that a significant portion of North Korea's trade with third countries is routed through China, even though the total value of this trade is difficult to quantify. For example, garments produced in North Korea have reportedly entered international supply chains under a "Made in China" label, and internationally-produced luxury goods are frequently transshipped from China to North Korea. (Although UN sanctions prohibit the export of luxury goods to North Korea, only a handful of goods are specified, and it is up to individual countries to define most luxury goods; China has not published such a list of luxury goods prohibited for export to North Korea.) Additionally, in 2016 one Russian expert estimated the total value of Russian trade with North Korea to be as high as $1 billion -- tenfold the reported value of this trade -- with much of it taking place via China.