A picture of Onsong County, North Hamgyong Province, taken in February 2018. / Image: Daily NK

Last month, a North Korean couple was investigated and exiled to a remote area after they fell afoul of the authorities while running a bakery.

A source based in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Dec. 25 that “a couple from Wangjaesan-ri, Onsong County, was abruptly arrested in mid-November” because they had “made a fortune” from selling mooncakes, a kind of Chinese pastry, at their bakery. “The police dragged them away,” he reported. “After an investigation into their crimes was completed, the whole family was banished to the countryside.” 

“The couple was accused of producing ‘counterfeit’ mooncakes and of using ‘capitalistic methods’ such as paying wages to their employees,” the source explained. In addition, they both were charged with smuggling after flour sacks were discovered in their home.

As a result, “they were branded as the kind of people who are obsessed with personal business and don’t care about national affairs,” the source added. 

The husband and wife were reportedly beaten during the course of their interrogation to the extent their faces became disfigured. Sources said that the family was driven out of Wangjaesan village and is currently living near the coal mines in Onsong County.


Mooncakes are usually imported into North Korea from China and ordinary North Koreans frequently use them as gifts.

The North Korean couple also imported their mooncakes from China at first. They soon began to produce their own pastries, however, and sold them at local markets over the course of three years, Daily NK sources said. 

The couple’s bakery was family-run in the beginning until they eventually had the means to expand their operations and hire employees, thereby increasing production.

A view of a school in Onsong County, North Hamgyong Province. / Image: Daily NK

They then allegedly established a logistics network in other counties surrounding Onsong County. The couple’s bakery also benefited from various entrepreneur support programs run by the government as their bakery amassed more profits, sources said. 

Their bakery’s mooncakes were reportedly better than their Chinese counterparts – and once this spread by word of mouth, demand grew to a point where merchants from other regions came with trucks just to buy them.


The main charges against the couple for using “capitalist methods” to run their bakery contradict recent moves by the Kim Jong Un regime to bring more elements of market capitalism into the country’s economy, Daily NK sources pointed out. 

The Kim regime has long promoted the “local production” of various products. The couple’s production of mooncakes in North Korea could easily be linked with the kind of behavior the North Korean government has been promoting. 

Sources that spoke to the Daily NK suspect that either a government institution or those envious of the couple might have found a way to put their bakery out of business. 

*Translated by Violet Kim and edited by Laura Geigenberger

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to