Meeting with a Korean-Japanese Business Woman

[imText1]When I was running a jeans factory for five years in America,

My factory was producing GUESS jeans under OEM contract and luxury shirts. At that time, I was looking for a sewing factory to manufacture jeans in North Korea. And I met Ms. K with an introduction from the third Rakwon Trading Company’s manager Lee Moon Sub.

Because her pronunciation was a bit weird, she seemed a Korean-Japanese who immigrated into North Korea. Manager Lee confirmed that by saying Ms. K learned sewing skill in Japan. So I decided to visit her factory.

In the factory, located in Pyongchon District, Pyongyang, there were about 30 workers producing women’s blouse. The blouses looked comparably high-quality, so I asked who would consume. Ms. K replied that the blouses were for the female central Party members.

Ms. K was talkative. And she was so nice that I even felt as if I was meeting with a lost sister. Although she earned credit for her skill and was running a factory, I took pity upon her because I understood the vast gap between life in Japan and in North Korea.

Ms. K’s factory started as a joint-stock company with a Korean-Japanese sewing factory in Japan, and she was expecting to export clothes to Japanese market. In order to produce jeans, particular sewing machines were necessary, and the machines could be imported from Japan, Ms. K told me. So we decided to bring materials to produce jeans and fabricate some samples by next time.

And then, my guide set a dinner schedule with Ms. K that day. We met at a special room in Hotel Koryo. During the dinner, Ms. K held my hand and said that I reminded her brother left in Japan. She asked me about my American life, as if she was lingering attachment to her Japanese life. I realized that she wanted to tell me something private. Ms. Kim divorced in Japan and came to North Korea with her son. I could see that she was regretting that decision. Little drunken, Ms. Kim said she should have left her son in Japan with his maternal grandmother. I got nervous because the guide was with us.

And Ms. Kim continued with praise for the Great Leader and the Dear Leader. She said “thanks to our Great Father Kim Il Sung and Dear General Kim Jong Il, I am happy and can even visit Japan once a year.”

And she emphasized, seemingly willingly, that it was much better to live in North Korea as a Korean than living under Japanese racial discrimination. To me, she was doing so because of the guide. I felt sorry for her.

At the end of the dinner, Ms. Kim asked me if she could treat me as her brother. Although she boasted her own car sent by her brother in Japan and the Dear Comrade’s grace, I could comprehend her loneliness. She did not have any relative in North Korea.

And after the dinner, Ms. Kim led me and the guide into her room and asked me if she could measure my size for a suit. I told her that she could if she did for my guide, too.

I was scheduled to leave Pyongyang the day after next day. Surprisingly, however, Ms. Kim brought a set of suit on the next day. When I said it felt somewhat big, she took the suit and brought back in the morning of my departure day. I was moved by her present.