A North Korean who smuggled in cooking oil from China was arrested and is now under quarantine at a medical center in Ryanggang Province, Daily NK has learned. 

“A smuggler who was planning on selling various cooking products through wholesale distribution at markets on Kim Il Sung’s birthday was arrested a few days ago,” a Ryanggang Province-based source told Daily NK on Apr. 26. 

According to the source, the smuggler crossed the Yalu River into China to receive the smuggled goods.

After being arrested on Apr. 18, the smuggler was transported to a preventive medical center by quarantine officials on Apr. 19. There, the smuggler was given a medical examination and is currently in isolation. The man is expected to be severely punished by the authorities for his actions.  

Why, then, did the smuggler cross the border given the risk of punishment he faced? 

North Koreans usually go on many spring outings and like to hold family gatherings on and around Kim Il Sung’s birthday (Apr. 15). Demand for cooking products is especially high during that time. The smuggler may have violated strict travel rules because of his desire to earn a lot of money. 

The way the smuggler was arrested, however, contrasts with many past arrests of smugglers in North Korea. Daily NK sources said that local retailers who received the smuggled goods noticed the manufacturing dates of these products were after the Sino-North Korean border was shut down in late January. 

The retailers decided to complain about the matter to the wholesale sellers and ended up confirming that the products had recently been smuggled in from China. Rumors about the origin of the products and even news of a smuggler crossing the border into China soon spread.

It was not long before local police launched an investigation. After his arrest, the smuggler later confirmed the rumors and confessed the truth to the police. 

Still, there are many residents who sympathize with smugglers given the difficult economic circumstances they typically face. 

According to Daily NK sources, all those who came in direct contact with the smuggler, including wholesalers and four family members, have been placed under quarantine. The smuggled goods were also confiscated and incinerated.

*Translated by Gabriela Bernal

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.