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The Sino-North Korean Friendship Bridge, which connects the Chinese city of Dandong with the North Korean city of Sinuiju. (Image: Daily NK)

North Korean authorities have recently carried out an “ideological lecture” related to trade for officials based in China. The lecture apparently underscored that the authorities would tolerate no smuggling, but left officials who attended anticipating that China-North Korea trade will soon expand.

According to a Daily NK source in China on Friday, North Korean authorities gathered North Korean trade representative cadres for a general review in the Chinese city of Dandong earlier this month. Cadres from Shenyang attended, too. 

During the review, the authorities condemned unofficial trade without official sanction in harsh language, warning that officials who take part in smuggling or other illegal activity “would lose everything right away.”

Basically, they threatened that the authorities would not tolerate — under any circumstances — importing into North Korea unapproved items or mixing undeclared items with officially approved items, as was past practice.

In particular, North Korean authorities reportedly generated a climate of tension in the room as they listed examples of people executed for smuggling last year.

The source said the authorities provided a detailed account of a woman who was shot after she was caught smuggling in Nampo. He said the room was terrified as the speakers recalled how she was executed by anti-aircraft gun, obliterating her body.

The authorities also used the review to convey an order regarding the clothing of officials in China.

The lecturer ordered officials from wearing leather clothing, saying that if ordinary people wear the same leather apparel worn by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, it harms Kim’s majesty and dignity.

In fact, even before Kim started wearing leather, North Korean officials in Northeastern China wore leather jackets as a basic winter garment. Now they cannot – even in China.

Meanwhile, after the review, North Korean officials in China are saying unofficial trade led by the state will soon expand.

They believe the North Korean authorities have plans to expand unofficial state-led trade, which is why the lecture emphasizing the eradication of smuggling was held.  

In fact, according to the source, the lecturer said not much time remains before trade is opened up.

North Korean authorities have restarted freight train service between China and North Korea, but the lecturer’s comment suggests trade could expand even further.

More specifically, North Korean authorities are reportedly moving towards full-scale exports to China of minerals currently restricted under UN sanctions.  

Even until recently, North Korea had been exporting coal and minerals such as zinc and magnesia clinker via transshipments on the high seas, but this means the country has plans to expand exports.

The source said it appears North Korea will export high-value minerals to China soon. He said because of this, Chinese traders are regularly contacting North Korea.

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Seulkee Jang is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to