PETALING JAYA: Bilateral trade between Malaysia and North Korea has grown over the years, involving mainly palm oil and chemical products.
Statistics provided by the Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade) revealed that Malaysia’s exports to North Korea last year were mainly palm oil and palm-based agriculture products, paper and pulp products.
Malaysia imported RM7mil worth of chemicals and chemical products from North Korea last year.
It also bought machinery and equipment from there.
The trade volume was a big jump from 2012 when only RM21,000 in total trade was registered between the two countries.
Bilateral trade had since risen to RM7.77mil in 2014 and RM22.7mil in 2015, but dropped to RM18.89mil last year.
The drop was due to lower exports from Malaysia to North Korea despite a significant increase in imports totalling RM8.2mil.
In December, Matrade chief executive officer Datuk Dzulkifli Mahmud said Malaysia hoped to increase trade with North Korea.
He had said that North Korea was looking to make Malaysia the gateway to South-East Asian markets.
“There are still a lot of uncharted areas that both nations can explore for the benefit of our trade and economy as a whole,” he said.
In terms of investments, the Malaysian Investment Development Authority said they had not approved any manufacturing projects from North Korea in Malaysia.
A recent report by the Financial Times stated that there were 80 North Koreans employed in the construction and mining sectors in Sarawak.
It quoted analysts as saying that Malaysia’s engagement was driven by commercial opportunities, as well as a tradition of non-aligned diplomacy.
A diplomatic row has erupted between the two countries following the assassination of Kim Jong-nam in Malaysia.
North Korean Ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol accused Malaysia of colluding with South Korea over the death and that they could not trust the local police investigations.
Malaysia has also recalled its ambassador to Pyongyang.