Printing of North Korean 2021 calendars delayed due to lack of imported ink

North Koreans have typically exchanged calendars as gifts on the New Year, but this was rarely seen this year with calendars not only hard to find but also expensive

North Korea reportedly ran into difficulties printing up its 2021 calendars due to a lack of materials imported from China.

In a telephone conversation with Daily NK on Thursday, a source in Yanggang Province said printers in Pyongyang were delayed in printing up the calendars “because they couldn’t get printing ink.” The source said that publishers “just barely distributed the calendars by the end of the year.”

This means that while publishers such as Shining Star Publishing House and Foreign Languages Publishing House print up calendars every year, they were late in doing so this year because none of them could get their hands on enough imported ink to print all their calendars.

Publishing companies usually produce and distribute the next year’s calendars between late November and early December, but this year, they had to wait until late December to get their calendars out, a delay of about a month or a month and a half.

Because of this, there were even rumors among merchants that calendars would not be produced for 2021.

Publishing houses hurriedly began printing calendars in middle to late December, but because they could not get enough ink, they printed far fewer copies than in years past, said the source.

A 2021 North Korean calendar provided by a source in the country. / Image: Daily NK

Throughout the country, with calendars in short supply, market prices for them are reportedly six times what they were last year.

As recently as last year, North Koreans exchanged calendars as gifts on the New Year, but this was rarely seen this year with calendars not only hard to find but also expensive.

Some North Koreans are saying that calendars are in such short supply this year they will become “symbols of wealth.”

Moreover, a look at the calendars shows that print quality is greatly inferior to years past, said the source.

North Korea absorbs profits from calendar sales into Workers’ Party coffers, but it seems 2021 will not be a lucrative year.

Meanwhile, North Korean trade with China posted its lowest numbers ever last year. According to China’s General Administration of Customs, trade between North Korea and China in November amounted to just USD 1,273,000, about USD 400,000 less than the previous monthly low of USD 1,659,000 it recorded in October.

Sino-North Korean trade has continued to fall since the closure of the border, hitting new record lows by the end of last year.

“It appears the side-effects of suspending trade are gradually growing worse,” said the source. “People were pretty shocked to hear that calendars couldn’t get printed due to ink shortages.”

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Seulkee Jang is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to