Despite slapping a ban on the entry of foreign nationals into the country amid coronavirus concerns, China has given an exemption to North Korean traders, Daily NK has learned. 

“A special measure that allows citizens from both countries to cross over the border was put into place from midnight on Mar. 27,” a China-based source told Daily NK on Monday. 

“Mainly traders have applied for special temporary trade permits to conduct cross-border business activities,” he added. 

China’s foreign ministry announced on Mar. 26 through its official website that the country had decided to temporarily suspend entry into China by foreign nationals with visas or residence permits. 

Only North Korean traders who have been “pre-approved” for travel can reportedly receive temporary entry permits into China. They must have health certificates to prove they do not have COVID-19 as well as work-related certificates issued by North Korean authorities, Daily NK sources said. 

Temporary travel permits are expected to be issued to North Koreans who focus on the import of medicinal supplies, fertilizer and construction materials. 


A key issue between the Chinese and North Koreans during negotiations on the exemption agreement reportedly centered on the sale of North Korean minerals to China. 

Daily NK sources said that North Korea agreed to supply China with various coals, gold, silver, copper, zinc, and other mafic minerals for prices discounted by some 40% than normal. 

The two countries reportedly agreed to transport the minerals by boat because of practical difficulties surrounding the transport of the goods over land.

They also agreed to start transport of the minerals in September, when the two sides ostensibly believe the threat from COVID-19 will have dissipated. 

UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea ban the export of minerals from the country. 


Some Daily NK sources suggested that China’s blanket ban on foreigners entering the country may have to do with failures by the Chinese to control outbreaks of COVID-19 in the country. 

“COVID-19 patients continue to crop up in the border area between North Korea and China as well as the three northeastern provinces—Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang Province. Local disease control units have blocked entry into individual villages, barred travel between villages, and are generally preventing information from getting out,” one China-based source said. 

“China is resorting to banning the entry of foreigners into the country because they may just be unable to control the spread of the disease,” he speculated. 

Fears over the continued spread of COVID-19 in China has sparked fears among some North Korean traders.

“North Korean traders are hearing from Chinese traders that COVID-19 infections are still spreading in the country, so they’re worried about whether they should even enter China,” another source in China told Daily NK.

*Translated by Violet Kim

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