border, china, north korea, dprk, defectors, defections. remittance
A marker delineating the border between China and North Korea (Wikimedia Commons)

North Hamgyong Province’s trade bureau is working hard to ensure the survival of as many trade companies as possible following orders by the central government to merge or close companies deemed ineffective.

“The provincial trade bureau is under a great deal of stress due to the government’s instructions regarding the merger and closure of trade companies,” a source in the province told Daily NK on Monday.

North Korea is carrying out several measures to either combine trade companies or eliminate them altogether as part of broader efforts to restore a system in which all trade is administered by the state, he explained. 

With trade companies facing the very real prospect of elimination, many are making every effort to survive, with the hope that trade will resume in earnest once the country’s borders are reopened, the source added. 

The source said that the North Korean government believes that it does not need trade companies that focus solely on either imports or imports. During the trade company registration process, the government is setting precise figures for imports and exports and emphasizing that only trade companies that can actively pursue both activities serve the state’s economic interest.

“To be officially recognized as a trade company, an organization must provide logical and adequate proof that it has met the government’s requirements. After clearing the provincial review process, its application is forwarded to the central government for final approval. This approval process has become considerably more rigorous, which is creating a headache for trade companies,” the source said.

The provincial trade bureau is working diligently behind the scenes to ensure the survival of as many trade companies as possible, the source explained, adding that without a large number of trade companies, the bureau cannot count on sufficient income.

“Since the standards set by the government aren’t realistic, the provincial trade bureau is looking for some way to save trade companies that just don’t have the figures to back up reasonable documentation. As they draw up survival plans, the bureau is scrambling to contact people affiliated with the central government on the understanding that bribes and connections are their best option,” the source said.

“The provinces will wrap up their approval process for trade companies in mid-May and the central government will finish its confirmation process by June 30. That will mark the end of trade company registration for this year,” he added.

Translated by David Carruth. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

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