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Thursday, July 18, 2024

N. Korea’s private business grows amid systematic extortion

North Korean administrative agencies are increasingly permitting private business activities, while simultaneously exploiting these businesses through systematic extortion.

A Daily NK source in North Pyongan Province, speaking anonymously due to security concerns, reported on Thursday that city and county people’s committees’ commercial departments have been granting more permits to private businesses, often under the guise of welfare service or public catering networks.

This trend marks a significant shift from the period immediately following the enactment of the Law on Welfare Services in November 2022 and the Law on Public Catering in December of the same year. During that time, many private operators either voluntarily closed their businesses or had them confiscated due to intensified restrictions and crackdowns.

The apparent relaxation of controls on private businesses seems to be motivated by the government’s desire to levy taxes and generate funds for state construction projects. Consequently, a variety of privately-run establishments have proliferated across the country, including beauty salons, restaurants, grocery shops, bars, shipping and delivery services, and even academies.

Even street merchants are now paying taxes to secure fixed stall locations. The cost of obtaining a fixed spot typically ranges from USD 500 to USD 1,000 in bribes, with an additional USD 100 to USD 300 required to convert a mobile stall into a permanent one.

A resident of Sonchon County, North Pyongan Province, recently obtained a business license for a beauty salon after paying USD 500 to the local people’s committee’s commercial department. However, this initial payment was just the beginning of ongoing financial demands.

Officials from various agencies overseeing private businesses regularly visit these establishments, finding fault with their compliance to operating regulations as a pretext for extortion. The beauty salon operator lamented, “Commercial department officials criticize me for not using North Korean-made products like perm treatments, shampoo, and rinse. I can’t complain if I want to keep my business running. I have no choice but to pay what they ask.”

The source concluded, “To avoid sudden business suspension, you need powerful officials backing you. In this country, ordinary people without money or connections find it increasingly difficult to survive.”

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. 

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

Read in Korean

July 09, 2024 at 05:30AM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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