Jinbei trucks roll in, ‘donju’ distribution operations rise

Amidst the growing private economy in North
Korea, a number of people are growing wealthy by cashing in on the expanding
distribution industry. Recently, a growing number of these newly rich are
purchasing China’s Jinbei brand of small 2-3 ton load trucks to facilitate business
operations, Daily NK has learned. 

“Recently, Jinbei trucks coming in from
Dandong Customs House through to the Sinuiju customs office in North Korea are
becoming very hot items in the transportation market,” a source in North Pyongan
province reported to Daily NK on September 16th. “Foreign-currency earning
enterprises are importing these smaller Jinbei trucks which are quite different
from the 20-30 ton load trucks that were previously the norm.”

This information was cross-checked via an
additional source in the same province and a source in South Pyongan Province.

As North Korean coal exports have decreased
and domestic market activity has picked up, the small trucks have become more
useful for delivering goods to local markets. “Ordinary men use bicycles or
motorbikes to distribute goods, but the rich are able to buy these small 2-3
ton load trucks and use those instead,” he explained.

These trucks, as with most vehicles in
North Korea, are first imported by foreign-currency earning enterprises and
sold unofficially to individuals with the cash to pay up front and in
full–i.e. the donju. Because possession of vehicles is still officially
forbidden in North Korea, the car remains registered under the name of the affiliated
enterprise’s name; the entrepreneurial individual utilizing it kicks back a portion of his–or, less frequently, her– profits to the company.

Although the majority of buyers and sellers
of actual goods in the markets are women, for the most part it is men who are
working on the distribution side of things. Previously, women made up almost
the entirety of workers in the private economy; however, with the entry of more
and more men into the distribution industry, the structure of the market is
changing, according to the source.

While women have long been able to
participate in market activities if they have the seed money to get started,
men must go through a complicated approval process to do so, he added. Even to get started in the transportation sector they must make regular payments to their
workplace in order to obtain outside work approval in addition to securing a vehicle. 

Nonetheless, for a growing number of North Korean men, the potential fiscal rewards far outweigh the hassles and headaches incurred during the byzantine process required to get started in the distribution industry.

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