A Hole in North Korean Sanctions Big Enough for Coal, Oil and Used Pianos

China accounts for about 90 percent of North Korea’s trade. Half of that business is estimated to flow through Dandong, a boom-and-bust city whose fortunes are tied to trade with North Korea.


Trucks lined up in Dandong, China, at the customs area leading to Sinuiju, North Korea. Chinese officials inspect only about 5 percent of the containers in vehicles crossing the border.

Yonhap/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Virtually everything that keeps the North Korean economy afloat passes through here: Coal and iron ore come in, violating the sanctions, and crude oil flows out, exempted from them.

Smuggling is rampant. The export of North Korean rare earth minerals and…

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