“Remove Tags, then Sell Them”

The North Korean authorities are reportedly reacting more strictly than normal to overt sales of products from South Korea in the country’s domestic markets.

One Korean-Chinese man engaged in business in Pyongan and Hwanghae Provinces told The Daily NK on June 11th, “They’re cracking down hard on products from the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the jangmadang, and are reacting more strongly than before to South Korean products, too. There are no South Korean goods on sale openly.”

Sources say that in many cases this means that traders are being told to remove tags indicating South Korean origin.

The same trader explained, “Community watch guards come to the jangmadang and tell us to remove tags written in Chosun then sell them. They are thoroughly cracking down on things saying ‘Made in Korea’. Even though the clothes are of good quality, and therefore clearly South Korean, if there is no tag, then they are not prohibited.”

Currently, used clothes are said to be selling better than new ones, however. This is partly because people have little cash and are gravitating towards the cheaper prices, and partly because they don’t trust new products.

The trader explained, “The image of South Korean clothes is good as far as used clothes selling better than new ones goes. People think that new clothes are of poor quality and really expensive.”

He explained the reason for the low quality, saying, “Currently, producers are buying fabric in China to bring back and manufacture clothes in Chosun, and then they put ‘Made in China’ tags on them.”

A woman’s short-sleeve t-shirt is now worth 5,000 won for a new one but just 1,500 won for a used one. Since the price difference is huge and new ones are of questionable quality, decent used ones sell better.

Another source from Changbai in China corroborated the story, explaining, “Everybody from North Korea asks us to send them used stuff to sell. We go to Guangzhou to buy used clothes smuggled in from South Korea, and send them to North Korea. The demand from North Korea for South Korean used clothes is pretty high.”

Meanwhile, due to mobilization for seasonal agricultural work, the North Korean markets are currently operating from 5 PM to 7PM. They normally open at 2 PM.

However, the Korean-Chinese trader explained that despite the afternoon market closures, farms are facing an uphill battle, saying, “Since anyone who wants to survive has to trade, the number of traders has doubled. And since almost everyone is trading and their focus is on that, there is no way the farming work can go well.”