A market in Yanji City, Jilin Province, China, which usually sells a large proportion
of marine products sourced from North Korea. Image: Daily NK
UNSC Resolution 2371 is beginning to have an impact on China’s northeastern provinces (Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang), hubs of bilateral trade between China and North Korea.
A number of Chinese factories in Jilin Province are refusing to hire new North Korean workers (on August 11, some Chinese factories announced their intention to stop employing North Korean workers), and North Korean fisheries products have been disappearing from markets in Yanji city.
The Chinese authorities have announced their intention to ban imports of minerals including coal, iron ore, lead and lead ore, and maritime products from North Korea starting from August 15. However, the volume of imports of North Korean fisheries products had already been in steady decline prior to the announcement.
“Now you can hardly find any North Korean fisheries products in the markets of Yanji city. This must be due to the new UNSC resolution which included a ban on North Korean fisheries products,” a source familiar with North Korean affairs in China told Daily NK on August 14.
According to a report by Yonhap News Agency, Dandong city (Liaoning Province) has intensified inspections of North Korean fisheries products passing through customs due to the new sanctions. In addition, the Dandong city authorities closed the fishing season around the Dong river from May to September, leading to a shortage of North Korean fisheries products in China. A similar turn of events has occurred in Yanji city (Jilin Province) following the adoption of UNSC Resolution 2371 on August 6.
According to the source, North Korean fisheries products imported into Yanji have been more popular than Chinese products because they are high quality but relatively cheaper.
“At the markets in Yanji city, North Korean fisheries products have been very popular among Chinese customers, but now they’re expensive or absent,” the source said.
As the sanctions on North Korean maritime products have been implemented, Chinese enterprises engaged in the sector and the North Korean authorities are all expected to suffer losses. In particular, the Chinese enterprises in Hunchun City, which have been processing imported North Korean fisheries products, are likely to face significant issues.
The Hunchun government announced in January that sales of processed marine products in 2016 increased by 46.4% compared to the same period the year before, and the profits realized for processed marine products increased by 47%. As the business of processing marine products prospered in Hunchun, the volume of exports by North Korea’s fisheries industry also increased. The North Korean authorities ramped up export volumes of fisheries products because they were not included in the previous list of UNSC sanctions.
A source in North Hamgyong Province estimated that the Rason region of North Korea, adjacent to Hunchun in China, which has been earning large amounts of foreign currency due to the export boom in fisheries products, is set to face catastrophic losses under the new UNSC sanctions.
The ban on fisheries products may well impact the North Korean military authorities, he said, as the export of fisheries products was a primary source of foreign currency for them.
“Because there are many Chinese enterprises deeply engaged with the North Korean military, it is highly likely that they will continue to do business illegally. The key focus of the new sanctions against the North must therefore lie in stamping out such activities,” he noted.