Beyond the promised initial return of remains that the North may have been holding in storage for years, the State Department said earlier this week that the two sides have agreed to restart searches for burial locations of US war remains in North Korea.
The meetings were the first between US and North Korean high-ranking officers since March 2009.
North Korea's black market, or Jangmadang, has grown to account for about 60 per cent of the economy, and is where individuals and wholesalers buy and sell Chinese-made consumer goods or agricultural products, according to the Institute for Korean Integration of Society.
Earlier this year, Pyongyang signed a deal committing to open a new chapter of relations with Seoul and Washington, establish peace and work together towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. The average annual income of North Koreans was just 5% of that earned by people in the South, the central bank estimated.
"The sharp decline in North Korea's exports a year ago is a direct effect of the sanctions", said Kim Byung-yeon, a North Korea economy expert at Seoul National University.
"The Panmunjom Declaration vows to announce the end of the Korean War within this year", she said.
The data for 2017 show that North Korean exports - of products such as coal, iron ore and textiles - plunged nearly 40% to just $1.8 billion. North Korea does not publish economic data. However, Bank of Korea's estimates are considered some of the most accurate among researchers.
Russia's envoy to North Korea also said on Wednesday it would be logical to raise the question of easing sanctions on North Korea with the U.N. Security Council.
United Nations sanctions announced last August had notably stepped up the pressure on the country by removing the parts of prior sanctions that had attempted to avoid humanitarian consequences. But Friday's statement is the North's first attempt to link the fate of the women to the August reunion and comes amid worries that a global diplomacy to push the North to give up its nuclear weapons is making little headway after a detente of the past several months.
US President Donald Trump says there is "no time limit" for North Korea to denuclearise and that there is no need to rush the process.
It may prove hard to maintain the worldwide consensus, however.
In light of North Korea's apparent success at smuggling fuel, the United States argues in its report that any further scheduled deliveries of fuel by China and Russian Federation should "immediately stop".