Chinese boat smuggling North Korean goods stopped by Chinese authorities

North Korea patrol ship on the Amnok River near Sinuiju on October 8 (unrelated to article). Image: Daily NK

A Chinese smuggling ship was recently boarded by Chinese authorities as it was heading back to China after picking up goods banned under international sanctions in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province.

“A Chinese boat full of goods from several North Korean trading companies left [Sinuiju port] in mid-October, but was not heard from again,” said a North Pyongan Province-based source. “We found out that the boat had been stopped by the Chinese authorities and the goods were confiscated.”

“The confiscated goods were mostly electronics, women’s products like [fake] eyelashes, and clothes produced in a Sinuiju clothes factory,” he added. “There were around 450 sacks [of goods], with a total value of around 6 million yuan (approx 980 million South Korean won).”

Kim Jong Un makes an on-site visit to Sinuiju Textile Mill. Image: Rodong Sinmun

Chinese trading companies provide North Korean companies with raw materials through smuggling operations and the North Korean trading companies use North Korean workers to create the finished products, he said, explaining that these finished products are then smuggled back into China for sale. The smuggling of textiles, metals and electronic goods, however, violate international sanctions. The Chinese authorities, accordingly, have found it difficult to consistently turn a blind eye to such smuggling activities 

However, North Korean foreign currency earning companies [like trading companies] view smuggling operations to be excellent opportunities to earn money. Despite the severe dangers of smuggling goods banned by international sanctions, North Korean companies, which benefit from cheap North Korean labor, can earn significant profits through these dealings.

“When news that the boat had been stopped by Chinese authorities was heard, the North Korean trading companies made a fuss and called the trading companies in Dandong, China, incessantly,” said a separate source in North Pyongan Province with knowledge of the incident.

“The value of the goods confiscated was so high that the [North Korean] companies involved are now facing difficulties.”

Both sources reported that the Chinese authorities continue to crack down on smuggling activities in Dandong. Chinese border patrol vehicles are increasingly patrolling the banks of the Yalu River, while Dalian anti-smuggling officers appear to be taking preventative steps to eliminate smuggling in the area.