Foreign-currency earning companies operate despite Party Congress

Although the North Korean authorities
declared a five-day holiday for the duration of the 7th Party Congress, inside
sources have noted that foreign-currency earning enterprises dealing with China
have been allegedly ordered to continue conducting business without
interruption. These actions are being viewed as an attempt to reclaim funds
lost on the regime’s exorbitant spending on the Party Congress.  

“The
Party Congress opened today [May 6], and most residents throughout the country
were instructed to cease working and watch the Party Congress on television.
But foreign-currency earning enterprises involved in cross-border trade with
China are exempt and were explicitly instructed to continue operations,” a
source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on May 6.  


In the Chinese border city of Dandong, a large truck is loaded with coal tar headed for
Pyongyang construction sites as the Party Congress opens (photo taken on May 6).

The source speculated that an urgent need
for foreign currency is behind the decision to exempt these trading bodies from
the political proceedings. Hundreds of trucks belonging to trading companies
have been seen loading up with freight in China and traversing the Sino-North Korea Friendship Bridge in Dandong before entering the Sinuiju Customs House in North
Korea.
 

The single most prevalent commodity coming
in from China on these trucks is coal tar, which is needed for street paving
and waterproofing at Pyongyang housing construction sites. Domestic North
Korean companies pay a premium for the material, invariably in dollars, for
which a proportion is siphoned off as much-needed funds for the cash-strapped
leadership.
 

In contrast to the ongoing activity by the
foreign-currency earning enterprises, said a separate source in North Pyongan
Province, the official general markets across North Korea have remained
shuttered during the Party Congress, drawing continual complaints from
residents who are reliant on them for survival. Special guards have been
circling areas surrounding the markets, tasked with finding and punishing alley
merchants
attempting to make a living, the source claimed, noting, “It is being
said that those caught will be charged with a political crime, so there haven’t
been any attempts to go out and sell.”

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