A year after North Korea closed its borders to prevent the spread of COVID-19, joint ventures between North Korea and China in the border regions are reportedly suffering from severe financial hardships. 

A source in China told Daily NK on Feb. 7 that some of the North Korea-China joint ventures in Yanji and Hunchin, Jilin Province, are even going to such lengths as changing industries following a lack of business due to the COVID-19 situation. 

Most of the businesses that are changing industries are factories that process marine products imported from North Korea and Russia. The source said that the amount of work has decreased with the fall in imports after North Korea’s border closure. 

As a result, marine products manufacturing companies are reportedly attempting to shift industries to other food processing industries. 

The source explained that due to the COVID-19 situation, however, many Chinese-operated local businesses are also undergoing financial difficulties and attempting to change industries, leading to fierce competition for work. 

Daily NK has also learned that North Korean workers employed by the struggling joint venture companies are not being adequately paid. 

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In this photo taken by a Daily NK source in Dandong, North Korean restaurant workers are seen unloading supplies from a vehicle. / Image: Daily NK

Daily NK understands that many North Korean workers complain about psychological anxiety due to the decreasing wages and lack of work. 

This is because North Korean overseas workers are not exempt from paying into the country’s “loyalty fund” even if their wages have been reduced. 

Meanwhile, North Korean restaurants located in the border regions between North Korea and China are also known to have experienced financial troubles. As the number of foreign visitors has decreased due to COVID-19, the number of local visitors has also declined because North Korean restaurants are more expensive than local restaurants. 

A source told Daily NK that “North Korean restaurants in Jilin Province cannot extend their contracts with the Chinese landlords as their businesses are not going well.”

The restaurant owners are reportedly looking for Chinese co-operators and considering moving the restaurants to slightly different areas in the province where they expect business to be better, as it would be difficult to move the restaurant managers and female service workers to other provinces. 

Changing areas would incur moving costs and new contract fees, but the North Korean restaurant owners are considering whether they should just bite the bullet and move to expand their sales even a tiny bit. 

“North Korean workers and managers remaining in China are going through hard times due to COVID-19,” the source said. “Some of them lament that although they cannot make any proper money, they still need to pay regular taxes, and their debts keep increasing.”

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