The tough new economic sanctions the UN slapped onto North Korea coupled with the cooling Chinese economy are turning some of the toniest business addresses in the border town of Dandong, China into a tough sell.
While the Chinese economic slowdown has affected the real estate market across the country, the economic sanctions have forced North Korean officials and businessmen to pull up stakes and are causing vacancies in buildings in the border city that were impossible to get into just a few months ago, RFA’s Korean Service has learned.
“The vacancy for office buildings in Dandong city has increased due to Chinese economic recession,” said a Chinese businessman familiar with the marketplace. “But office buildings located near Yalu River have a vacancy rate two times more than others.”
The Yalu divides Dandong from the nearest North Korean city of Sinuiju. Unlike the DMZ that divides North and South Korea, the Yalu isn’t bristling with razor wire and patrolled by armed guards. Dandong has long been North Korea’s gateway the world.
That began to change in March after China agreed to join South Korea, Japan and the West in supporting the economic sanctions the UN placed on North Korea after Pyongyang exploded a nuclear device and launched a long-range ballistic missile.
While there were questions raised about Beijing’s desire to punish its neighbor and ally, it looks as if the sanctions have teeth, even though they may be biting the landlords in Dandong as much as the North Koreans.
One building, the Best Landmark, was once a prime real estate for North Korean and Chinese businessmen. Since the sanctions went into effect, advertisements for vacancies in the 30-story twin towers on Binjiang Road are now showing up on local media.
“This office building was once envied by others when the rental rate was high for those who parceled out these office rooms,” said one Chinese resident. “There are many lease advertisements now, especially for this building, in the daily newspapers and real-estate advertisements.”
Because Best Landmark housed North Korea’s consular office and is located near the Dadong customs house, it was especially popular with businessmen involved with the lucrative trade in North Korean coal and non-ferrous metals, a Chinese source told RFA.
Now the consular office is gone and so are the North Korean steel and coal traders, the source said.
A Chinese source who owns a 200 Pyong (About 7117 sq. ft) office room in the Best Landmark told RFA that the lessee left without fulfilling the lease.
“There is a one year contract, but the lessee who has been staying in the office for the past five years has left the room without any notice and abandoned the contract,” the source said. “Now, the room is vacant.”
Reported by Joonho Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Jackie Yoo. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.