Interest in China’s Economy Spreads in NK

Some North Koreans who travel across the
border to China with special permits are said to be coming together in groups
of five to six members to open a business and broaden their understanding of
the market economy, the Daily NK has learned.

Ive recently seen
these travelers from North Korea come from Sinuiju and cross over into Dandong
[China], saying they want to learn about the market economy,
a China-based source close to North Korean issues reported. Five or six people act as one group and open up a company,
conducting illegal economic activity in the country.

The source added, Compared
to last year, it
s true that the overall number of
travelers has decreased, but less of them are satisfied with the money their
relatives used to send them, so there
s a change in
attitude.
She explained, They
believe learning the skills to make money is more important than just earning
money, and they try to understand how the economy in China works.

Because of the reality in which those in
powerful positions and traders dominate the market in North Korea, even if
merchants invest money they have made, they are unable to receive a license to
trade directly with China. This is why they are only able to play the role of
middlemen, importing products for foreign-currency earning trade companies.

The source explained this as reason for North Korean residents’ eagerness to travel to China, where they can learn about the economy once
gaining entry with a special personal visa. During the famine of the 1990s, the
North Korean authorities began issuing this class of visa for residents to
visit relatives in China from whom they could obtain much-needed food and money
to bring back with them to the impoverished country upon their return.

Those hoping to receive this type of visa
must meet a strict set of conditions: [1] be over the age of 55; [2] have
children and a spouse in North Korea; [3] have no family members that have been
sent to any type of detention center; [4] not have been sent to any type of
detention center themselves; [5] must have family abroad [China] and, [6] pay
the required fee.

However, Pyongyang believes these travelers
are the root of information exchange in and out of the country and are reducing
the number of permitted travelers, while boosting ideological teachings for
these individuals. The cost for visas has also doubled, with the State Security
Department
s anti-espionage department raising it to
1,000 USD from last year
s 500 USD, according to the
source.

Travelers who have paid the 1,000 USD fee
and come to China run their own businesses and set the goal of earning 10,000
USD each,
the source said. A
five or six person group puts together a business and distributes manufactured
goods such as clothes through North Korea-China customs.

These individuals also invest 2,000 RMB
each to pool together 10,000 RMB and open a company with an owner and
accountant, known as so-called
patriotism firms. The source explained that the use of patriotism in this case is not of that for the state, but for money and capitalist concepts. Through these companies, people reap profits
from Chinese products they bring in via servi-cars [vehicles used to transport
cargo and people in lieu of an adequate public transportation system] to sell
in North Korea.

Their Chinese is not very good, so when
they
re buying goods at markets in places like
Shenyang, some of them get scammed, but what they get from it is experience in
the marketplace and an understanding of the distribution system,
the source said.

Meanwhile, some travelers choose to invest
roughly 2,000 RMB a month in classes around Shenyang and Dandong, where they
learn specific skills such as baking and making ice-cream, according to the
source.
There are a large number of travelers who say
they want to introduce massage therapy to the North Korean market,
she added. Some return with related
equipment, saying they will be able to make a lot of money providing people
with massages, because there is not enough medicine in the North.

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