Chinese traders have been voicing criticisms over their North Korean business partners for making unreasonable demands, even as the country is subject to economic sanctions. The traders are noting that cadres are only interested in personal gain, while ordinary North Koreans face increasing problems with food security.
For example, said a source close to North Korean affairs in China, one cadre from the border guard corps asked a Chinese merchant for high quality pig feed.
“The merchant laughed and agreed to send the product along within a few days while speaking to the cadre on the phone. But then he told his friends how surprised he was about the request. It was a bit unreasonable to buy high quality pig feed when ordinary North Koreans are struggling to feed themselves,” he said.
“The trader loaded a truck with the requested pig feed, but became depressed when he thought about the North Korean residents and how the cadres ignore their needs. He went around saying, ‘Are these North Korean cadres even human?’”
According to the source, these Chinese merchants have smuggled rice into North Korea for years. They’ve come to understand the financial resources of the average North Korean and find it disconcerting when cadres request high quality materials.
However, most merchants feel they are in no place to turn down the requests. Getting on the wrong side of these powerful individuals would have negative repercussions for business in the road ahead.
“North Korean cadres exercise their influence over Chinese traders. They use their relationships to get into business. The cadres’ wives raise about five pigs per year using high quality feed. They then sell the meat at a high price,” said a source in North Pyongan Province.
She added that the fact that animal husbandry isn’t their primary source of income is another subject of controversy. The side business just provides them with another way to accumulate wealth.
“When the cadres’ superior officers try to crack down on these illegal methods, the cadres state that they are simply raising pigs for their own needs,” she explained. “But if that were actually the case, it wouldn’t make sense for the cadres to go through all the trouble of getting top quality feed from China.”
Due to North Korea’s chronic food shortages, low quality animal feed is the norm. In contrast, animal feed from China contains a mix of soybean and corn, and animals that eat this mixture generally grow faster.