Despite a cooling political climate in 2014, North Korea’s trade with China still accounted for more than 90% of its overall trade matrix. While overland imports and exports often move through smaller, less official trade channels and are resultantly difficult to quantify, North Korea’s maritime fleet can be tracked with precision and accuracy.
As the DPRK publishes no trade data of its own, analysts have traditionally relied on third party mirror statistics to build a picture of North Korea’s commercial interactions with the world. Although a useful tool, these statistics are often subject to error, and the various trade databases show little consistency when it comes to the DPRK. China for example, reports no data concerning its North Korean imports or exports to UN Comtrade, widely regarded as the most comprehensive database of its kind in the world.