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South Hwanghae Province residents catch leeches, earthworms to earn money

Residents of North Korea’s South Hwanghae Province are eager to catch leeches and earthworms to make money, Daily NK has learned.

“People in Haeju and other parts of South Hwanghae Province are obsessed with catching leeches. Smugglers in Yanggang Province on the border buy up leeches and sell them in China,” a source in the province told Daily NK on Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

According to the source, some Haeju residents have long specialized in collecting dried leeches. They buy as many leeches as they can find and then sell them in bulk to smugglers in the border area of Yanggang Province.

Smugglers in Yanggang Province buy leeches not only from South Hwanghae Province, but also from South Hamgyong Province and other parts of the country, and then sell them in China for a profit.

Currently, leeches are selling for about RMB 550 (USD 75.76) per kilogram for large leeches and RMB 380 (USD 52.34) per kilogram for small leeches. In other words, 100 grams of dried leeches can fetch RMB 38-55, depending on their size.

Since smugglers in the border region have been mixing shipments of leeches with earthworms to get them into China, North Koreans are seeking out earthworms as well. Earthworms are much cheaper than leeches, selling for RMB 10 to 20 per kilogram. Smugglers try to cut costs by mixing earthworms with the leeches they sell.

As cheap as the worms are, they still bring in a little money, so North Koreans desperate for cash go to great lengths to catch both leeches and earthworms.

“If you can sell a few leeches or worms, you can keep food on the table, so people take their kids out to catch leeches instead of sending them to school. You can get a rash from these leeches if they stick to you while you’re catching them. But people ignore the pain and focus on catching leeches to increase their income,” the source said.

Leech prices rise due to higher quality standards

Recently, however, smugglers in Yanggang Province are not buying as many leeches as they used to because quality standards have risen.

“In the past, smugglers could add one kilogram of earthworms to every 20 kilograms of leeches they sold to China and still get paid without a problem. But today, Chinese traders inspect the leeches more carefully and reject any batch that contains earthworms. So the price of the leeches has dropped by KPW 40 to 50,” the source said.

“In light of these changes, even North Korean leech collectors have recently been buying only those with good coloration and that have been thoroughly dried until they rustle. It’s getting harder and harder for both catchers and buyers to make money.”

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 25, 2024 at 01:00PM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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