The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to limit oil provision to North Korea to 30% of current levels. It also blocks countries from purchasing garments and textiles produced by North Korea. With this in mind, it is worth finding out how North Korean merchants are reacting to this news.
To find out, Daily NK contacted a North Korean merchant, identified here as Mr. A to preserve his anonymity, on September 13, just one day after UNSCR 1375 passed. We sat down with Mr. A in China’s Liaoning Province, Dandong City. He has been active in various trade operations for decades. The mood of the conversation was dour, with Mr. A expressing his frustration from the outset.
Daily NK (DNK): It hasn’t even been a month since UNSCR 2371 passed, and now there is another new round of sanctions. What do the merchants think of this?
Mr. A: In broad strokes, I’d say at least 80% of us North Korean merchants in Dandong were stomping our feet and complaining that we have no work now as soon as the new sanctions were released. Joint ventures with Chinese firms are blocked, bank accounts are blocked, and use of North Korean laborers is limited. These were all important sources of money for us. There is no work left for us to do.
DNK: And the work that you were doing has effectively gone down the drain?
Mr. A: Yes. Recently, some of the projects that we have been proposing to the Chinese side have been rejected.
DNK: This happened to you personally?
Mr. A: I have mostly earned money by acting as an intermediary connecting North Korean and Chinese merchants. I charged a commission for playing this role. But if demand decreases for this service, there’s nothing I can do. I also used to take the profits I earned to purchase things that North Koreans need, such as materials, but now that has also become quite difficult to do.
The fall harvest is approaching in North Korea, which means that threshers and other agro materials are needed, but because of these sanctions, the work has dried up and I can’t buy them. I think this will have an effect on the size of the fall harvest.
DNK: The new sanctions have measures related to oil and textiles. What are your thoughts about that?
Mr.A: It has now become hard to send textile raw materials back to North Korea to produce those garments. I think the North Korean textile factories will struggle because of this. The authorities will definitely take a hit, but so will the residents.
In just a few months, it will become winter. Now even oil has become a target of sanctions. I think we residents will have a very hard time. North Korea and China need to improve relations in order for the lives of ordinary people to improve. Right now, I see no hope for that outcome.