North Korean Products Fail to Sell on Chinese Online Sites

2016-10-24
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The Yalu River in the Chinese border town of Dandong, opposite the North Korean town of Sinuiju, Feb. 8, 2016.
The Yalu River in the Chinese border town of Dandong, opposite the North Korean town of Sinuiju, Feb. 8, 2016.
AFP

North Korean medicines and other products offered on Chinese e-commerce sites are largely failing to sell, with consumers opting instead for products manufactured in rival South Korea, sources say.

Goods produced in North Korea and listed for a fee on Chinese sites such as taobao.com and tmall.com include ginseng liquor, cigarettes, and cosmetics, as well as medications touted for their efficiency in treating cardiovascular disorders and cerebral hemorrhage, one source told RFA’s Korean Service.

“But most of these are never sold, or almost never sell,” said RFA’s source, an online trader based in Dandong, China, on the border with North Korea.

“For example, in the case of the medicine Hyeolgung Bullojeong, which is used for treating cardiovascular problems, fewer than 100 cases were sold in a month,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“In comparison, South Korean products—especially cosmetics, electronic products, and foodstuffs—have been selling from 10,000 to 100,000 cases per month.”

Also speaking to RFA, a Chinese online seller who had been asked by a North Korean trade worker to offer Hyeolgung Bullojeong on the Tabao site said that he had sold only one bottle of the product in a month.

“I didn’t expect that this would be in great demand right from the start, but I never thought that North Korean products would be completely ignored by Chinese consumers,” the source said, also asking that he not be named.

North Korean products offered on Chinese e-commerce sites are listed mainly at the request of North Korean trade workers, the source said.

“And the Chinese sellers don’t care if the products sell or not, because the products are not their own,” he said.

“Chinese shoppers tend to purchase only best-selling products,” a third source—the manager of a Chinese e-commerce site—told RFA. “And since North Korean products have such a poor track record, they will be shunned by Chinese shoppers forever.”

Meanwhile, new restrictions by the China Food and Drug Administration on the online sale of unregulated medicines mean that North Korean medical supplies will probably disappear from Chinese e-commerce sites “in the near future,” sources said.

Reported by Joon-ho Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Hyosun Kim. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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