Even as the country devotes its efforts to dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, North Korea’s leadership is still conducting an anti-corruption campaign. Most recently, Daily NK has learned that the Trade Control Bureau and People’s Service Commission in South Hamgyong Province have been censored on charges of “disrupting the economic order.” 

The two organisations are being censored by the country’s Central Committee for allegedly raising prices and using teams in factories and other businesses to create fake labels.

Daily NK learned on Mar. 30, via a source in South Hamgyong Province, that a meeting of high-level Central Committee officials convened on Mar. 10 in the province to discuss the economic harm brought about by the two organizations. 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has long expressed serious concerns about corruption in his government. He called on his officials continue anti-corruption efforts at last year’s plenary session of the ruling WPK Central Committee and reiterated this goal at an extended meeting of the politburo in February.

Ri Man Gon, who headed the WPK’s Organization and Guidance Department, was publicly criticized and dismissed during February’s expanded politburo session for failing to manage anti-corruption efforts at a party cadre training institution. Furthermore, the chairman of a people’s committee in Chonnae, Gangwon Province, was recently expelled from the party on grounds of reckless drinking and failure to comply with measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The revelations surrounding price manipulation in South Hamgyong Province was reported to the central government by lower level officials in the province’s People’s Service Commission.

The People’s Service Commission is responsible for managing large restaurants in the province and manages the export of the country’s traditional foods overseas.

The Central Committee cadres who met on Mar. 10 concluded that the local trade bureau had been violating state-set prices for several years, increasing prices and producing counterfeit labels in order to sell goods for higher prices. 

The local trade bureau had reportedly been handing over imported dairy products and spices to the People’s Service Commission. The commission, for its part, also looked to turn a profit, resulting in prices two or three times more than normal by the time the products reached restaurants or stores. 

Daily NK sources also revealed that the commission had removed state price tags while importing food and garments, replacing them with fake tags produced by teams at local factories and businesses. 

“The two organizations are arguing that they took these actions just to meet state-set quotas,” one source said. “Somebody will be forced to take the blame because of the severity of the crimes.”

*Translated by Kathryn Beaver

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.