North Korea’s Organization and Guidance Department (OGD) recently inspected a commerce management center in Chonchon County, Chagang Province, Daily NK learned last Friday. Though now deceased, North Korean “female hero” Jong Chun Sil remains the “honorary director” of the center.

Jong Chun Sil invented a household ledger called “Our Family Ledger” and was the first in the country to establish a manufacturing facility in a commerce management center. The government rewarded Jong for her efforts to improve the people’s lives with North Korea’s highest order, “The Order of Kim Il Sung,” and twice declared her a “Hero of Labor.” Jong was later selected to serve as a delegate in the Supreme People’s Assembly.

The Chonchon County commerce management center produces large quantities of silkworm cocoons and nutria furs every year and sells them to the state. The money earned from the transactions are supposed to go back into the Chonchon County community. However, the OGD recently conducted an inspection of the center due to a trade worker’s alleged connection with smuggling. 

According to a Daily NK source in Chagang Province, the center came under suspicion because a trader in his 40s named Jon was caught using a counterfeit trade permit for his commercial activities in the Rason Special Economic Zone. Jon conducted illegal trade for over ten years by posing as Jong Chun Sil’s nephew, earning himself the ire of those around him.

A petition was filed against Jon in Rason earlier this month. Rason customs authorities requested at the 13th Plenary Meeting of the 14th Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly that traders working with the customs office bear a portion of the costs of disinfection supplies needed to enforce the “Law on Disinfection of Imports.” When Jon refused to pay these costs, the customs office reported him to the Central Committee.

A factory in Manpo, Chagang Province. / Image: Kang Dong Wan

When the OGD began investigating Jon after receiving the petition, they found that he had been using a counterfeit trade permit affiliated with the Chonchon County commerce management center for his commercial activities. When the Ministry of Commerce learned of the situation, they sent several employees to Rason to investigate and found that Jon had been smuggling and trading nutria furs with the counterfeit permit for several years.

Because the furs that he smuggled originated from the Chonchon County commerce management center, the Ministry of Commerce conducted an investigation into the center. Ministry of Commerce officials and the provincial prosecutor’s office joined forces to conduct the investigation. They found that the center sold only 60% of the furs they produced to the government, while siphoning off the other 40% as “goods of inferior quality.” 

The National Quality Management Commission sent five inspectors with expertise in assessing animal pelts to Chonchon County to confirm the quality of the allegedly “inferior” nutria furs. When the inspectors appraised the “inferior articles,” they found that the goods were in fact of “first class, superior quality.”

The OGD recommended that the Chonchon County commerce management center’s party committee be dissolved in a report sent to Kim Jong Un. The source said that while it is possible to make personnel changes, it is unlikely that the part committee will be dissolved because the center is a special facility used to convey Kim Il Sung’s achievements. 

Meanwhile, the prosecutor’s office arrested the head of import and export sales and the quality inspectors associated with the Chonchon County Quality Inspection Office for “criminal greed and waste of national property.”

“It looks like these people will receive a sentence of ten years of re-education through labor,” the source said. “If a Chagang Province resident [is sentenced to re-education through labor], he or she will usually end up at the province’s Songgan prison camp. However, the judges are concerned that [the people involved in the Chonchon County Commerce Center smuggling operation] might serve too light a sentence [if sent to Songgan], so they are considering sending them to a prison camp in a completely different province.”

*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.