North Korea cracks down on the manufacture of counterfeit products

Border guards in North Pyongan Province along the Amnok River.
Border guards in North Pyongan Province along the Amnok River. Image: Daily NK (Taken in February 2019)

North Korea’s police force has recently announced plans to ratchet up crackdowns on the manufacture and smuggling of counterfeit products, according to North Korean sources.

A source in Ryanggang Province told the Daily NK on June 17 that the MPS announcement was made on June 11 and was aimed at the entire North Korean population, including workers in the civilian and military economies.

The announcement underscored the complete ban on manufacturing of any counterfeit good, the source said, adding that violators face “harsh punishment.”

“At a time when all the people are working hard for the country, it is not right for some factories to be making counterfeit products. The entire people should fight against the manufacture and smuggling of counterfeit products, poorly-made products, and fake pharmaceuticals,” the notice read, according to the source.

The announcement also called on those who committed such crimes to turn themselves in and if they failed to do so they would face severe punishment.

Specifically, the announcement stated that anyone who fail to turn themselves in will have their factory and production materials confiscated by the state and their factory operations shutdown.

The advisory appears to be connected with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s emphasis on cracking down on counterfeit products and smuggling. Multiple sources told Daily NK it also likely relates to the “counterfeit Songak Soju” incident, which led to a number of deaths. North Korean authorities appear to be trying to prevent such an incident from occurring again.

North Korean authorities also view smuggling outside the purview of the state as damaging the “socialist economic order” and are trying to eliminate these activities from occurring.

Section 119 of North Korea’s criminal code states, “Anyone who commits an act of smuggling faces at least one year in a forced labor camp. Anyone who smuggles items controlled by the state faces at least five years in a forced labor camp.”

North Korea considers smuggling as serious offenses that “damage the economic management order,” along with creating fake currency and not paying taxes.

A separate source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK that the North Korean authorities may have made the announcement as part of efforts to prevent defections and international calls.

“The authorities want to create the pretext to eliminate both defections across the border and strengthen its control over the people,” he said.