Car washing services popular among ‘donju’

As more affluent households known as donju
in North Korea purchase automobiles, car washes that are equipped with imported
cleaning equipment and hand wash services are becoming more popular outlets for
making money, Daily NK has learned. 

“There are more donju who own cars and
those involved in transport services these days, so car washes that come with
latest machines and hand wash services are gaining popularity as ways to make
money,” a source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on Friday.

An additional source in South Pyongan
Province confirmed this trend.

He added, “The rise in market activities has led to
proactive investment from donju who look to capitalize on lucrative
opportunities. Car washes with machines first appeared a few years ago, but
more recently, hand car wash services are showing up and increasing

Just until a few years ago, a few foreign
currency earning companies monopolized the car wash market, but now donju are
jumping in as well. The former usually run the operation with import machinery,
while the latter try to set their services apart by running hand washes.

“The good thing about using a machine wash
is that it’s fast, and the place comes with amenities like stores and
restaurants alongside gas stations. So drivers can rest there and use it with
great ease,” he said. “They’re also well situated and have flashy
exteriors, so cadre members and cars used for foreign currency jobs frequent
these places.”

Hand car washes, on the other hand, use
water supplied from rivers through motors and pumps. Workers spray cars with a
hose, while using cloths to clean the inside of the car as well, said the
source. Although it takes longer to get the cars cleaned, drivers enjoy it
because the vehicles are more thoroughly cleaned, and the female cleaners are
mostly attractive, the source asserted.

Up until the late ‘90s, most car owners,
cleaned their own cars down near rivers or small streams, but since 2010, new
car washes have been popping up along riversides in Sinuiju, Pyongsong,
Sunchon, and other large cities. These days, hand car washes are starting to
emerge as new money-making operations. Car washes in North Pyongan Province
make use of water from the Chongchon River, while those in South Pyongan
Province draw their supply from Taedong River.

The prices of machine and hand car washes
do not differ greatly, he explained, so competition is stiff. In a bid to procure patrons, donju owners dress young women up
in fashionable clothes and have them hit the streets to attract more customers.

Small cars cost around 30,000 KPW for a
wash, while trucks and large cars go for roughly 50,000 KPW, according to the
source, who maintained a strong outlook for the industry with few state-imposed regulations. 

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