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N. Koreans prefer to produce electronics rather than wigs, false eyelashes

North Korea’s exports of artificial hair products, including wigs and false eyelashes, are setting new records, but North Koreans prefer to work with electronics rather than hair products, Daily NK has learned.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on June 18 that North Koreans who earn money through contract manufacturing would rather work on electronics than hair products. Electronics are not only easier to process, but such work also pays better.

Processing electronics pays a daily rate of at least RMB 20 (USD 2.75), while processing hair products (including wigs, false eyelashes, and false facial hair) pays a lower rate of RMB 15 (USD 2.07).

Work on electronic devices tends to be simpler, involving tasks such as winding wires or disassembling circuit terminals for parts recycling, than work on hair products.

A resident of Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province, surnamed Kim, makes a living from contract manufacturing. “I have tried wigs and eyelashes, as well as beading and embroidery. But if you get distracted for a moment, you’ll mess up the product and have to start over. Electronics are much better because there’s less room for mistakes and you get paid 50% more,” Kim said.

Chinese officials closely monitor trade in metals

Given North Korea’s high demand for electronics contract manufacturing, North Korean traders are bidding for more work from Chinese electronics companies. But because Chinese customs authorities are wary of items on the North Korean sanctions list, arranging more contract manufacturing for electronics is easier said than done.

Although trade between North Korea and China has increased since COVID-19, Chinese customs closely monitor the movement of any metal raw materials in or out of North Korea.

“Before COVID-19, there were construction sites where a thousand or more people could work [on contract manufacturing for electronic products]. But now there is only occasional work,” Kim said.

“Contract work for false eyelashes, wigs and bead threading has continued to increase since last September, but electronics work hasn’t even returned to 20% of pre-pandemic levels,” the source said.

“While we don’t get much work because of the sanctions, metal materials continue to slip across the border by being sandwiched between items that are not sanctioned. As long as a lot of people want to do contract manufacturing for electronic products, the work won’t dry up completely,” the source added.

Voice of America (VOA) quoted Chinese customs officials in a May 26 report as saying that North Korean exports of wigs and other hair products to China reached a record USD 78.91 million between January and April this year.

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 07:00AM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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