N. Korean authorities arrest food seasonings wholesaler

The authorities found one ton of saccharine in a storage facility in the woman's house, a source told Daily NK

A North Korean wholesaler was recently arrested by the Ministry of State Security for smuggling in a large amount of food seasonings from China, Daily NK has learned.

The wholesaler, a 53-year-old woman from Hyesan, smuggled in saccharine and other seasonings from China and sold them to stores throughout the country, including in Chongjin, North Hamgyong Province, a Daily NK source in Yanggang Province said on Friday. He added that the North Korean government currently restricts such smuggling due to fears over the spread of COVID-19 from China.

Other wholesalers reported the woman to the MSS after noticing that there had been a sudden increase in the supply of saccharine and other seasonings in the domestic market, the source, who requested anonymity for security reasons, told Daily NK.

The woman was found to have committed a “crime against the state” by “secretly communicating” with “enemies” through her smuggling of large amounts of food condiments into the country from China. The woman’s crime was also reported to the Central Committee, according to the source.

“Kim Yo Jong handed down an order to the MSS’s border inspection team on Aug. 21 to report on the arrest and public execution of all those who were involved in the incident, and for the commanders of border patrol units where the smuggling occurred to also be punished,” the source said.

Hyesan murdered
A photo of Hyesan, Yanggang Province, on North Korea’s border with China. / Image: Daily NK

A 43-year-old woman allegedly connected with the smuggling operation has disappeared, while the 26-year-old head of a border patrol unit defected from the country after finding out that the smuggling operation had become the target of an investigation, according to the source.

North Korean authorities believe that the 43-year-old is still in the country and have placed her on a wanted list; leaflets with her name, age, picture, and descriptions about what she was wearing have been distributed to locals as part of efforts to find her.

The 50-year-old woman – the only person to be arrested so far – told the authorities that she had imported 2.6 tons of saccharine and 1.4 tons of seasonings and distributed them by vehicle to Chongjin, Hamhung, Pyongsong and other areas. According to the source, the authorities have already found one ton of saccharine in a storage facility in the woman’s house.

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Kim Yoo Jin is one of Daily NK's freelance journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.