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N. Pyongan Province’s trade activities are still under heavy central government control

While North Korea’s provinces are now allowed to conduct a certain level of trade thanks to the “20×10 regional development policy,” trade remains tightly under the control of the central government in North Pyongan Province, Daily NK has learned.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on Tuesday that trade between the province and Dandong, in China’s Liaoning Province, is now even more strictly controlled than during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, trainloads of construction materials such as steel, glass, cement and aluminium were allowed to pass from Dandong to Sinuiju despite the tight controls imposed by the closure of the national border during the pandemic. But more recently, imports of construction materials have fallen sharply, the source said.

As a result, the construction of a high-rise apartment complex in Sinuiju has slowed down due to a shortage of materials.

“It is China’s fault that North Korea cannot actively import construction materials,” the source claimed, adding that trade relations between the two countries appear to have cooled abruptly this year.

“Chinese customs authorities have recently stepped up inspections of goods shipped to North Korea. The Chinese government seems to be very sensitive to the fact that items on the UN Security Council sanctions list are entering North Korea through China,” another source in China told Daily NK.

Significantly, the China-based source explained that the Chinese authorities are banning the export of products made of metals such as steel and aluminium, which are among the items banned by the UN sanctions on North Korea.

Previously, Chinese traders had used their connections in the customs service to pay bribes disguised as taxes in order to export sanctioned items to North Korea. In recent days, however, the customs clearance process has become more complicated, making it harder to get sanctioned items into North Korea, the source said.

“Because the items that North Korea imports from China can be more closely monitored in Dandong than in other places, North Korea is having more sensitive items on the sanctions list brought in through Hunchun or shipped in from southern ports instead,” the source said.

In short, given the fact that Dandong is at the center of international attention regarding sanctions on North Korea, the authorities are re-routing transactions through other areas that receive less international attention.

Trade restrictions in other border areas lifted

Amid these developments, the strict trade controls imposed on North Hamgyong and Yanggang provinces after the border closure due to COVID-19 have recently been lifted. As a result, official trade has soared compared to last year, and smugglers are also doing brisk business.

The North Korean authorities appear to be giving the provinces considerable leeway in trade, allowing them to import the construction equipment and machinery needed to implement the 20×10 regional development policy.

“The areas where most smuggling takes place are, in order, North Hamgyong Province, Yanggang Province, Chagang Province and North Pyongan Province. During the pandemic, only government-approved items could be brought in, but now the authorities don’t seem to care what else you bring in as long as you have government-approved items,” another source in North Korea told Daily NK.

Translated by David Carruth. 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.

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

Read in Korean

March 29, 2024 at 08:00AM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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