March 23 (UPI) -- Earning foreign currency overseas is increasingly challenging for North Korea as the global economy could be headed into a recession, according to a South Korean think tank.
The Korea Institute for Economic Policy and Planning said in a report on China-North Korea trade issued Monday the North Koreans were already struggling under the weight of heavy sanctions, Yonhap reported.
A significant number of North Korean guest workers have been repatriated in compliance with United Nations Security Council sanctions Resolution 2397, KIEP said.
Additionally, Chinese tourism to North Korea, a significant source of income for Pyongyang, has declined drastically in the wake of COVID-19, South Korean researchers said.
Chinese tourism to North Korea may have risen steadily since the first U.S.-North Korea summit in 2018. Chinese tourists in July and August 2018 averaged about 1,800 people per day. According to South Korean estimates in 2019, North Korea made about $44 million annually from foreign visitors.
KIEP said in its report North Korean imports of foreign goods, mostly across the Chinese border, is expected to decrease. Restrictions at the border are factoring into the slowdown and recovery is not expected until the second half of 2020.
"COVID-19 is likely to have a negative impact on the North Korean economy in the short term, but if the problem is resolved early in the first half of 2020, it will have a limited impact in the medium to long term," the South Korean research report said.
Despite the border shutdown, North Korea is allowing in cargo ships, KIEP added.
North Korea has grappled with other calamities in the recent past, including typhoons and heavy rains in 2016.
Bang Sun Nyo, identified as the head of North Korea's meteorological bureau, said Pyongyang will be working to prevent natural disasters by "establishing a system for forecasting weather-related events, including heavy rain, hail and typhoon," according to North Korean propaganda service Naenara.
The systems would monitor the Taedong and Yalu rivers, Bang said.