North Korea has ordered military-run trading agencies to smuggle in construction materials needed for national projects set to be completed by Oct. 10, the anniversary of the founding of the country’s ruling communist party, Daily NK has learned.
“The authorities ordered the Kangsong Trade and Songsan Trading companies, among others, to acquire construction materials on Mar. 19,” a Daily NK source in China said on Mar. 24. “These trade companies are affiliated with the military and have the influence it takes to get what’s needed for construction projects.”
Since the closure of the Sino-North Korean border in late January, North Korea appears to have set up a system where military-affiliated trading companies are handling the brunt of smuggling into the country. Daily NK reported on Mar. 16 that military-run trading companies continue to import face masks and hazmat suits.
Kangsong and Songsan trading companies have headquarters in Pyongyang along with offices in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province. They have primarily focused on bringing in goods through Dandong, China.

Daily NK sources said the trading companies are at the stage of identifying what items need to be smuggled into the country. The trading companies reportedly plan to send teams to China this week or the next to create a list of items they can acquire in the country.

Generally, military or Cabinet-run trading companies focus on importing construction materials for large national projects along with military supplies and luxury items for the country’s elite.

Daily NK sources suggest that most of these companies are now focusing on securing supplies for the Pyongyang General Hospital project, which broke ground recently and is set to be completed by Oct. 10.

North Korean trading companies will have a difficult time acquiring the materials they need from the Chinese, according to Daily NK sources in China.

“Not all factories, stores and logistics companies have returned to normal operations because of COVID-19,” one source told Daily NK. “It’s not clear whether the trading company teams will be able to acquire what they need here.”

Daily NK sources speculate that North Korean trading companies will first find out what items they can acquire from Chinese traders and then begin smuggling operations from the end of March.

Multiple Daily NK sources have also speculated that Sino-North Korean trade will resume immediately before or after Apr. 15, Kim Il Sung’s birthday.

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