North Korea recently established the “External Trade Information Technology Exchange Center” under the Cabinet’s Ministry of External Economic Relations, Daily NK has learned. The new organization is located in Pyongyang’s Nungra Trade Company building.

A source in North Korea told Daily NK on Tuesday that preparations for the establishment of the new organization began in early March on orders from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and that these preparations ended in early April. “Its offices cover an entire floor of the Nungra Trading Company building, and there is even a signboard,” he added.

According to the source, the new organization has been tasked with digitalizing, storing, and managing documents related to foreign trade activities.

Up until this point, viewing trade-related documents was only possible offline (through, for example, the sending of documents through the mail). The COVID-19 pandemic, however, appears to have led to new thinking among North Korea’s leadership about how to digitalize these documents. Kim’s order directed the Cabinet to create a new organization that would set up and manage a comprehensive online system to view trade-related documents.

The order emphasized that the establishment of the new online system would be a “short cut” for traders to “develop their qualifications” while operating in a uniform manner under the guidance of the communist party.

A view of the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge. / Image: Daily NK

The order also highlighted the idea that modern trade is a “war of the brain, electronics and talent” and that traders are in dire need of understanding trends related to global trade.

“The center will store secret documents related to trade while managing and operating an online program that allows [traders] to easily view documents containing the latest trade-related information, success cases, and developmental trends. [The center] will also manage the internet-based network needed for this program,” the source said. “[The program] is essentially a digital library for those working in the trade sector.”

Following Kim’s order, the center’s director and party secretary set about making preparations to establish the center. The center has one department that stores and manages secret trade-related documents and another department that collects, digitalizes, and updates various trade-related documents on a regular basis.

The center has around 100 employees, including researchers and engineers who graduated from some of North Korea’s best universities (including Kim Il Sung University, Kim Chaek University of Technology, among others), along with researchers from the Academy of Sciences and employees from the country’s Invention Office.

All employees have been issued entry cards, and the authorities are reportedly paying close attention to setting up security-related measures for the new organization.

“The Nungna Trading Company building has its own security force managed by the company, while the new center will have its own contingent of Ministry of Social Security [MSS] officers standing guard,” the source said. “There are plans for the MSS to create a checkpoint to manage the center’s security.”

The new center is currently building a separate internet-based network for the program and providing traders all over the country with access to it so they can view trade-related documents.

*Translated by S & J

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.
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Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.