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N. Korean cargo carriers face tough time making profits despite rise in business

North Korea’s cargo carriers are getting more work as the volume of distribution in the country has increased with the end of COVID-19. However, the cost of transporting cargo safely and quickly is rising, making it harder for carriers to turn a profit. This situation has forced carriers to pay more in bribes as connections with powerful officials are crucial to making as much profit as possible.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Daily NK source in Yanggang Province said Wednesday that in the early 2010s it cost KPW 30,000 to send a 50-kilogram container south from the border town of Hyesan to cities such as Pyongyang, Pyongsong, and Chongjin. In early 2022, when travel was restricted due to COVID-19, the cost rose to KWP 40,000 or KPW 50,000, and after the end of COVID-19, it rose to KPW 60,000.

Except for the KPW 10,000 paid to the people who transport the cargo, the rest is used to bribe influential people, including railway officials.

As cargo carriers compete to bribe their way to the largest personal network, they now pay an average of KPW 40,000 to KPW 50,000 in bribes, the source said. As a result, transportation costs rise while only the powerful get richer.

“The amount of cargo you can send by train and the date of departure is entirely determined by who you know,” the source said. “Carriers know very well that the only way to get cargo to its destination quickly and safely is with the help of powerful officials.”

“Cargo carriers watch each other, and when they sense that someone else has better connections, they mobilize all their resources to grab those connections,” the source said. “The officials know this, and they sit there and help the carriers who pay more to deliver their cargo faster.”

Carriers with weak connections can’t be sure when cargo will arrive 

Carriers bite the bullet and pay more bribes to secure their connections because they cannot make money without the help of powerful people.

If they have connections, carriers can pocket more money from the cost of transportation, so they work hard to build relationships with powerful people.

“If you have weak connections, you always have to call several times to confirm that the cargo has been sent or to check the train schedules. But if the official you’re dealing with is a big shot, you don’t have to deal with such trivial matters,” the source said.

“If carriers regularly send five 50-kilogram packages four times a month, they can make enough money to worry less about where their next meal is coming from, so making connections with the powerful is becoming essential for carriers.”

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.

Please send any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

Read in Korean

June 24, 2024 at 05:41AM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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