A new LED television manufactured in North Korea is a hot item at shops in Pyongyang that accept foreign currency, Daily NK has learned.
The TV, which is called “Hc,” is reportedly made at the Taedonggang TV Factory in Pyongyang’s Sadong District.
“The Rakwon Department Store, Taesong Department Store, Puksae Store and other stores in Pyongyang that accept foreign currency began selling the new Hc TV from Mar. 25,” a Pyongyang-based source told Daily NK on Mar. 27.
“The television has slots to plug in both SD cards and USBs and it can be carried around easily once you remove the stand, so a lot of people are trying to buy it,” he added.
While the TV has a “foreign-sounding name,” the authorities are not preventing their sale in the country because the TVs are produced locally, the source continued, adding, “The television is so popular that people are lining up to buy it. It reminds me of all those people who lined up in front of banks when the state rammed through its currency reform [in 2009].”
AN INVESTOR FROM CHINA
The Taedonggang TV Factory had, up until recently, manufactured TVs (with large vacuum tubes at the back) at the whim of state authorities. The televisions were used as gifts for regime loyalists during special occasions, including commemorations of the founding of Pyongyang’s top universities.
Daily NK sources have confirmed that the factory now produces the Hc TVs after receiving a loan from an unnamed Chinese national who lives in Shenyang, which is in China’s Liaoning Province.
In March, the Chinese investor reportedly concluded a contract with North Korea’s Ministry of External Economic Relations, along with an agency in the country that oversees factories. The contract stated that the investor would receive all profits from the sales of the Hc TV for the next three years to pay back the principle on his loan.
Interestingly, while North Korean officials have guaranteed that all profits from the sale of the television in North Korea will go to the investor, they are selling the TVs at a price higher than the selling point suggested by the lender. Daily NK sources said that the regime is essentially pocketing the difference between the investor’s suggested price and the actual, higher price the TVs are being sold for.
North Korean authorities also reportedly plan to use sales of the Hc TVs to collect as much foreign currency held by locals as possible in the short-term. Over the longer-term, they plan to shift sales of the TV to the export market as part of broader efforts to bring more foreign currency into the regime’s coffers.
MOVING TO LOCAL PRODUCTION
Another point of interest reported by Daily NK sources was that around 10 graduates of the Pyongsong College of Science’s Electronic Automation and Chemistry Department are being employed by the Taedonggang TV Factory.
“All of the required equipment, big and small, for the manufacturing process is being imported from China, while the labor in the production process is all North Korean,” a source said.
“The authorities sent over top students to the factory to better understand the semiconductors and electronic circuits imported from China so that they can later be produced here,” he added.
North Korean authorities are also placing serial numbers on the back of the television to prevent them from being copied, the first time this has ever happened, Daily NK sources reported.
Placing the serial numbers on the TVs is reportedly in accordance with a new stipulation implemented by the authorities following the start of production of the new Hc TV.
17-INCH TVS ARE ALL THE RAGE
The Hc TV sells in 15, 17, 19 and 21-inch models. Daily NK sources confirmed that the 17-inch TV is the most popular among shoppers at Pyongyang’s foreign-currency shops.
The unique selling point of the 17-inch model is that, compared to other models, it can be left on for eight hours on just a two-hour charge of its battery. Other models can only play for four hours with a two-hour charge.
The 17-inch model’s battery life is such a selling point that the TV is reportedly going for USD 550 – USD 50 more than other similarly-sized TVs.
“The price of the 17-inch TV increased by USD 50 in a single day because it’s so popular,” another source in Pyongyang told Daily NK. “The Arirang mobile phone [both the folding and sliding versions] were USD 300 went they first came out, but later went up to USD 500 and then USD 700. People know they have to buy the [17-inch] TV as quickly as possible before the price rises any further.”
There are signs the authorities are planning to sell the Hc television at wholesale shops outside of Pyongyang as well, Daily NK sources reported.
North Koreans living outside of Pyongyang, however, are reportedly less enthused about the new Hc TV given that there are already cheap USD 50 TVs from China on sale.
“People who live outside of Pyongyang are saying that its wiser to just buy a cheap Chinese TV and spend their money on rice to eat,” one source said.
“People living in Pyongyang and in other parts of the country are living in different worlds, which is only confirmed by their spending habits on products like televisions. People living outside of Pyongyang are saying that while they have to spend their money on rice to survive, those in Pyongyang don’t give another thought to spending their dollars on such things,” the source opined.
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