Who's Still Trading With North Korea?

By: Julien Assouline | Documentation

Earlier this year Trump threatened to stop “all trade with any country doing business with North Korea”, after North Korea tested a ballistic missile that it claims can reach the United States.

While the message is directed more towards China, who is the US’s biggest trading partner. There are still a number of countries that are trading with North Korea. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Observatory of Economic Complexity as of 2015 North Korea imports came from 76 different countries.

It is worth noting that a lot has happened since 2015, and some of these numbers are outdated. For example, the US no longer makes any trades with North Korea.

That said, some of the major themes still remain the same.

China remains North Korea’s biggest trading partner. It sold close to 3 billion goods imported by North Korea. To put things into perspective, China is responsible for 85 percent of the goods imported into North Korea. They are also responsible for buying 83 percent of the goods exported from North Korea.

China, however, banned all coal imports from North Korea on February 26, 2017, according to Thomson Reuters, after the country had repeated missile tests. This was a significant development as coal exports are North Korea’s most exported product, and include 47 percent (1.19 billion) of its exports to China.

India is the second biggest trading partner with North Korea. Yet only 3 percent of North Korea’s imports came from India, and 3.5 percent of its exports go to India.

On the European side, North Korea gets most of its imports from Russia. Russia is third in goods imported into North Korea, being responsible for approximately 2 percent of them. The biggest trade between the two countries involves coal briquettes which are 75 percent of North Korea’s imports from Russia.

From the North American side, the biggest player is Mexico, but is only responsible for one percent of all North Korean imports. From Mexico, 92 percent of goods imported by North Korea are raw plastic sheeting.

Asia dominates the trade with North Korea. Russia is in both Europe and Asia (75 percent in Asia, 25 percent in Europe), and including Russia, 95 percent of North Korean imports come from Asia, excluding Russia, 93 percent of imports come from Asia. Thailand and the Philippines are also the fourth and fifth highest exporters to North Korea.

Countries highlighted are only the ones who traded with North Korea.


The cleaning, and analysis was all done in Python.

I used D3.js to create the charts, and Scrollama to build the scroller. I used a mixture of HTML, CSS, Bootstrap, and stickyfill to build the page layout.