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North Korea’s ban on fishing in 2020 rouses anger

In late September 2020, North Korea issued an order to all fishing companies on the east and west coasts to accurately record all processes to prevent people from going to sea and to tighten restrictions to ensure that “no one appears in their waters.”

The order came shortly after North Korea shot and killed an unidentified individual from South Korea who illegally entered North Korean waters off the coast of Kumdong Village, Kangnyong County, South Hwanghae Province.

Residents of Kangwon Province, who made their living fishing in the East Sea, were gripped with fear – so much so that they said they were more afraid of the government than of COVID-19.

In particular, people complained that they had no idea how to make a living when the state was directly threatening their livelihoods by cracking down on people going out to sea. For people who barely make a living from fishing, a ban on going to sea was nothing less than a death sentence.

However, North Korean authorities applied a double standard to certain fishing entities. They allowed boats belonging to the Central Committee’s Fishery No. 8 and the military’s July 27 Unit Fishery Enterprise – an agency that generates foreign currency for the military – to go to sea.

Operating with government approval, the two groups monopolized the fishing grounds of the East Sea, their boats returning full of fish each time they went out. The two units made a fortune selling what was left of their catch to wholesalers after giving up their government quota.

Meanwhile, the locals, who were in secret communication with the two fishing companies to get their fish wholesale for resale in the market, began to compete fiercely with each other to give the biggest bribes. If they had no money, they would offer anything they had, including saleable items such as their home electronics.

In addition, the North Korean authorities caused an untimely stir by telling locals devastated by the fishing ban that they could get cheap fish or dried seafood if they collected burlap bags that Fishery No. 8 and the July 27 Unit Fishery Enterprise needed to package their catch.

It was a golden opportunity for the locals to get seafood at a cheaper price. So everyone started buying burlap bags. As rumors spread, the price of a 40-kilogram burlap bag in the markets of Kosong County, Kangwon Province – usually between KPW 2,000 and 3,000 – skyrocketed to KPW 10,000 in the winter of 2021.

Government rouses anger due to double standards

North Korean authorities thus gave special entities a virtual monopoly on fishing by applying a double standard, using their tight control over who goes to sea to ban ordinary people from fishing – using COVID-19 quarantine efforts as an excuse.

Because of this, local fishermen complained about the double standard, as COVID-19 did not seem to apply to certain entities. “Was there one set of quarantine regulations to protect the people and another to protect special entities?” they asked.

One Kosong County resident said that some boat captains and crews “poured gasoline on their wooden boats and set them on fire at the pier in anger over the state’s double standard.” 

He added that in the end, “the Ministry of State Security arrested them as reactionary elements protesting the state’s quarantine policy, and they were never seen again.” 

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

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Read in Korean

March 27, 2024 at 06:30AM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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