Order of Car Confiscation Issued in North Korea

Kim Min Se, Reporter from Shinuijoo  |  2007-02-21 13:46
▲ Nissan is popular among North Korea's new-rich class ⓒ Daily NK
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il recently ordered to confiscate all of the Japanese cars operating in North Korea.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, quoting an insider source, reported that Kim, after watching a wrecked Japanese car blocking his way from the late Kim Il Sung’s mausoleum on January 1, issued the edict.

Therefore, North Korean authorities started to collect and prohibited use of Japanese cars except a few that were gift of Kim Jong Il to several movie actors and athletes and those belonged to police and army Corps of Engineer.

However, it is questionable whether such order would be actually carried out while the country is heavily suffering lack of means of transportation. This is why some analysts suggest that Kim’s order is aimed at tightening the control of society.

So far, most of the middle-class North Koreans or low-ranking party officials have been using Japanese cars, whereas the richest riding Mercedes. Also, Korean-Japanese who immigrated into the North are fond of the cars they used to drive in Japan. So the number of Japanese-built cars is more than that of any other country. While still ordinary people could not even dream of possessing a Japanese car, the price of it has been significantly lowered since early 90s when smuggling of used automobiles from Japan through China began. These cheap, imported Japanese used cars are favorites of North Korea’s small-but-growing group of businesspeople.

In fact, Japanese used cars are the most beloved among North Korean people.

A North Korean businessman who is involved in Sino-Korean trade in Dandong, China, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday “Now, everybody is riding car instead of train because of poor electricity situation. If Japanese-made cars are confiscated, how can we move around?”

The person, Mr. H, said that he used a Nissan early this month and questioned the order’s practicability (the confiscation order was issued on January 1).

And H suggested that the order might have been confiscation of ‘illegal automobiles.’

According to H, many rich North Koreans register their cars as public use, in collaboration of public companies. Public companies sell their plates to those who offer cash. Once registered as public use, one’s car does not have to pay tax and is easier to receive travel permit thus attractive to the businesspeople.

In addition, H conjectured another reason: Kim Jong Il could have abhorred Japanese participation in anti-NK economic sanctions.

North Korean authorities distributed Russian Volga automobiles and Romanian Dacia sedans to local party secretaries and senior army officers in the 80s. However, after the communist bloc’s collapse, spare parts have no longer been provided and most of the cars are now unusable. As a result, North Korean government allowed import of Japanese used cars from China in mid-90s.
 
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