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Kangwon Province’s plan to improve quality of consumer goods comes under fire

At a year-end party meeting, North Korea’s provinces were ordered to improve the quality of consumer goods and basic foodstuffs as their first task for the development of light industry in 2024. Provincial party committees have now submitted their plans for consumer goods and basic foodstuffs to the central government in Pyongyang for approval.

Speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons, a Daily NK source inside North Korea said Monday that Kangwon Province‘s party committee sent its New Year’s plan to Pyongyang on Jan. 8. In the plan, the province pledged to “contribute to the qualitative improvement of the people’s lives by improving the quality of consumer goods and basic foodstuffs as our first task and waging a struggle. The central government ratified the plan in late January.”

In the plan, Kangwon Province said it would “change the reality that people have to pay a lot for imported goods at basic food stores in markets,” noting that the province imports all basic foods such as cooking oil, spices, soy sauce, vinegar, black pepper and sesame seeds from China.

The provincial authorities also said that local residents depend on expensive daily necessities imported from China, such as facial cleansing soap, laundry soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, towels, razors, toilet paper, and liquid soap, and pledged to switch to domestically produced items.


The plan called for “the beginning of an age when imports will naturally disappear and people will simply prefer locally made products by making basic food and consumer products that are better than imports.”

Specifically, the province’s plan called for the local production of basic foods and daily necessities and the creation of public demand by selling them at below-market prices in state-run shops.

The plan appears to reflect the North Korean government’s policy of increasing public preference for state-run shops over markets by “normalizing” the production of industrial goods by state-run enterprises and the operation of state-run commercial networks.

Ultimately, Kangwon Province has signaled its desire to produce and sell many food products and daily necessities locally, generating revenue for the provincial party and helping to stabilize public livelihoods while creating a consumer culture that prefers locally produced products over imports.


Pie in the sky?

But Kangwon Province’s resolution has come under fire for being divorced from reality. “The plan is simply full of hard-to-achieve things that seem to show how completely ignorant [provincial authorities] are of the realities facing the province,” the source said. “Officials and ordinary people alike are criticizing the plan.”

In fact, the snacks, candy, and instant noodles currently produced by the province’s food factories are so bad that no one buys them. The authorities end up forcing shop owners to buy them at government prices or throw them away. Critics wonder how the province will suddenly produce quality goods at below-market prices.

Officials at light-industrial factories, which are required to produce items immediately, also complain. Factory officials have no idea how they will suddenly produce large quantities of high-quality goods – or with what supplies – under the current circumstances.


In addition, critics say that all the machinery, major supplies, and raw materials used in light-industry factories are imported from China, so the province cannot produce goods that are “fully indigenous.”

“However, since imports have recently entered the market, people have been buying Chinese-made spices and oil, and they are worried that the imports will suddenly stop,” the source said. “To improve the lives of the general public, one must first examine what policies the people need. A ratified plan that is just full of things the central government wants to hear is not good.”

Meanwhile, at the 19th Expanded Meeting of the Political Bureau of the Eighth Central Committee in late January, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said, “The failure to satisfactorily provide the people in local areas with the basic necessities of life, including spices, food, and consumer goods, has become a serious political problem that our party and government can never avoid.”

With Kim lambasting the state of the provincial economy, provincial party committees have been drawing up follow-up measures. However, they seem unable to come up with fundamental solutions to improve their respective situations.


Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler.

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. For more information about Daily NK’s network of reporting partners and information-gathering activities, please visit our FAQ page here.

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February 06, 2024 at 11:30AM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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