Who’s doing business with North Korea? | CNBC Explains

Who’s doing business with North Korea? | CNBC Explains

It may look like your typical fast food
joint, but the businessman behind this Singapore-based restaurant
has made history in North Korea. He opened the country’s first fast food
restaurant in Pyongyang back in 2008. But who would want to do
business with North Korea? It’s not as unpopular as you think. At least 80 countries traded
with North Korea last year. North Korea continues to be hit by UN and American
sanctions, but that hasn’t stopped its economic growth. In fact, its economy grew at its fastest
pace in nearly two decades last year, with its GDP expanding 3.9%,
surpassing its neighbor South Korea. North Korea’s top trading partners vary
depending on which source you look at, but no matter how you slice the data,
North Korea’s most important ally is China. The Chinese border town of Dandong is
separated from North Korea by just half a mile. At least 80% of North Korea’s
trade is with China, and two-thirds of that trade reportedly goes through this
single-laned bridge connecting the two countries. Coal is North Korea’s largest export and last
year, China bought $1.2 billion worth of it. The Chinese also have a huge appetite for its seafood,
which is perceived to be cleaner and tastier. In the first half of this year alone, the Chinese
bought almost $100 million worth of seafood. China has been putting more
pressure on its neighbor. It suspended coal imports and banned banks
from providing financial services to North Korea. In September, Chinese sanctions began to bite. Chinese imports of coal were down more than 70%,
while its exports of petrol fell by almost 100%. Sino-Korean ties seem to be cooling. When North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
sent Lunar New Year greetings this year, the first card didn’t go to Chinese leaders,
but instead to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia and North Korea go way back. The Soviet Union made up half of North Korean trade
for almost 30 years, until it collapsed in the 1990s. But Russia is ramping up its involvement. It announced in 2015 that it wants to increase trade
with North Korea ten-fold to a billion dollars by 2020. But they aren’t quite there yet. Bilateral trade between the two
countries decreased from 2013 to 2016. But in the first quarter of this year, Russia’s trade with North Korea more than
doubled to $31.4 million year-on-year. President Vladimir Putin recently said Russia exports
40,000 tons of oil to North Korea a quarter. So that’s about 160,000 tons a year. That’s a fraction compared to China, but also more than four times what the UN estimated for Russia in 2015. But it’s not just limited to trade. Siberia faces persistent labor shortages. Enter North Korean labor. The U.S. State Department estimates that around
20,000 North Koreans are sent to Russia to work for Russian companies, making
an estimated $170 million for the regime. It’s estimated that more than 50,000 North Korean
workers are employed in foreign countries, mostly in Russia and China, but also in
countries like Qatar, Malaysia and Poland. North Korea is estimated to make $1.2 and
$2.3 billion annually from exported labor. North Korea is big on defense, so maybe it’s no surprise
that it sells weapons to a vast global network. Sources estimate that North Korea
made $300 million in arms sales in 2015, and its list of clients is large and varied. The UN intercepted two North Korean arms
shipments to the Syrian government this year, as well as 30,000 grenades to Egypt. Other North Korean customers
include Iran and Yemen. Another important piece of the North
Korean money-making machine is Africa. Goods traded with North Korea across Africa
amount to more than $100 million annually. The UN is investigating seven African countries for
possible violations of its sanctions on North Korea, ranging from military
training to weapons sales. In the midst of a lot of this activity seems to be North
Korean-owned enterprise Mansudae Overseas Projects, which is behind several huge
construction projects across Africa, building everything from ammunition factories
to apartment blocks to giant statues. The UN estimates that tens of millions
are being made by Mansudae in Africa. It’s clear that North Korea is
eager to drum up new business. It even published a new guide on its
investment and business environment. But as geopolitical tension grows and more
countries suspend trade with the Communist state, North Korea’s business ambitions
may have to stay put. Hi, thanks so much for watching. You can check out more of our videos here and here. We’re also taking your suggestions for
anything you want explained, or reported on. Remember to subscribe and see you next time!

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. Do the research the company polaris that makes atvs and side by sides are made in China who are in with north korea and north korea nuclear rockets are even called polaris with the same north star emblem on them it sure is strange because we are lied to and told they ate made in the USA ?

  2. South Korea is the 10th largest economy on Earth, North Korea is among the poorest. 3% economic growth for a poor economy is practically nothing. 3% growth for an economy of 2 trillion is like adding one North Korea every few months.

  3. Nk's economic stagnation is not simply due to the regiem itself. No one can survive in the post-coldwar age if one is in fact still in war with the biggest super power on earth. If the US still does not want to give a peace treaty to the nk, the nk people will continue to live in this miserable condition. If the US government continue to threaten it, Kim has no other way out except becoming a nuclear power to defend itself.

  4. @cnbc Your videos are really cool. Please make a video on Why dollar is the strongest currency among others

  5. Unlike India… China gives no fucks about US Sanctions… China doesn't care about the US muscle power and can trade with both Korea, Russia, Iran… and also with USA

  6. 0:36 it should be 1990 rather than 1900 on the bottom left
    0:50 China is the top trading partner of both Koreas no matter how you slice it

  7. Video is incomplete. Even though India is 2nd and 3rd on the list, there was not a single comment on India-NK economic relationship

  8. North Korea people are very much better than the communists China Chinese. The communists China Chinese leaders n regime are the lowest grade of animals in the world. You go near them you will die, n all your wealth n properties will be stolen by them. Mr Kwokmiles is a China Chinese who escape the draconian law of the communists China Chinese leaders. Now he is in America under America protection from assassination by the communists China Chinese leaders n regime. He expose all their evils deeds. All communists leaders are very very corrupt, stealing their state funds and killing their helpers for the money laundering. They had siphoned Trillions of dollars into America and their deputy Cheng chin Hong laundering the ill Monies in Australia. Their helpers are seow chin wah, woo seow hwei, Jack ma, lately they kill Wong chian of HNA. See how evil are the communists China Chinese leaders n regime.

  9. UN is controlled by US what the heck are they bothering Africa for cus it trade with N KOREA? Their (US ) enemy is not our enemy. Humanity first. Greetings from Lusburg ( Sierra Leone ). We love the North.

  10. Brazil unfortunately was one of top partners traders with North Korea ??… Our leftwing likes corrupt government, and criminals… sorry about Brazilian politics finances the wrong around the world!

  11. you don't mention the swedish trillionaire dynasty Wallenberg's export of nuclear material to North Korea? embarrassing

  12. So irrelevant comparison. How do you even compare the economy of South Korea and North Korea? You made a comparison to make it sound like North Korea’s economy was comparable to the South Korea’s when it is actually 32 billion dollars GDP (probably this data is wrong anyways) versus South Korea’s 1600 billion dollars. In the same sense, North Korea’s economic growth has surpassed that of the United States. Does it prove anything???
    I enjoy watching CNBC but this hurt CNBC’s reliability big time. Please don’t put out misleading datas.

  13. The United nations need to investigate the United states. I heard America is putting people in cages. Separating familes..its like they started their slave trade all over again. But then again..look who they elected president. America first and make America hate again.

  14. North Korea(natural resources) and South Korea(services such as advertising, IT, and finanace). The combination of both of these nations are deadly.

  15. Interesting video. It would have been far more credible if the presenter was shot in North Korea ratehr than Singapore.

    Incidentally, most of the buses in N.Korea exactly what you would see in China – same brands like KingLong, pretty good ones (not the rust on wheels that we see in most developing countries).
    I visited Dandong recently – you have to go there and see for yourself to see what the trade through it actually looks like (this video does not capture even 10% of it)

  16. So Russia and China who are in the UN Security Council get to do business with North Korea despite the sanctions but the African countries are being investigated?? Like if you understand me, comment your thoughts.

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