College Students Turn Middlemen in Pyongyang

[imText1]An inside source told the Daily NK recently that about 20 to 30% of business agents in Pyongyang are university students.

Since the late 90s, college students started working as agents between artifacts buyers and sellers.

Pyongyang middlemen usually connect local merchants in border areas with retailers in Pyongyang. Aside from trading foreign goods, they also take part in the artifact business around Kaesung, which was the capital of Koryo dynasty from the 10th to the late 14th century and is thus full of ancient artifacts.

College students lack funds, so their only way to earn money is to work as agents.

The insider said “Pyongyang’s college students are the smartest and most well known for their business skills. Among them, students from Kim Chaek University of Technology are among the best. It is reasonable to assume at least two out of every ten students have been working as trading agents since the March of Tribulation in 1990s.”

“Students are perceived as trustworthy because they are from middle class families. And those who are from local provinces and studying in Pyongyang have advantages.”

Most of these business-practicing students are former army veterans, especially those who are interested in earning money rather than studying. A few poorer students who have not enlisted are also engaged in the business.

According to the source, these students rarely attend classes and bribe college administrators in order to graduate. During the “farming support period” every Spring and Autumn (a time when every college student is required to work on farms) business-students are exempt from labor and instead buy food for those who participate.

A defector from Pyongyang said, “There is little to learn at universities and society is beginning to lean toward capitalism, so there is no shame in doing business as college students. Another reason for these business practices may be influx of army veterans into colleges.”

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