North Korea Reduces Target Figures For Overseas Trade Earnings

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Goods bound for North Korea at a customs checkpoint near the border in Dandong, China, in a file photo.
Goods bound for North Korea at a customs checkpoint near the border in Dandong, China, in a file photo.

Faced with a worsening trade environment owing to international sanctions, North Korea has reduced the target figure for earnings of foreign cash by its trade workers sent abroad, but even these lower figures are proving hard to achieve, sources say.

Targets have now been adjusted down by as much as 15 percent, sources say.

“But even though the yearly target figure has been reduced, overseas trade workers complain that the trade environment is so bad that it is difficult to earn even the adjusted amounts,” a source living in a Chinese border city told RFA’s Korean Service.

“North Korean authorities have acknowledged it is hard now for their workers to earn foreign money because of United Nations and international community sanctions on North Korea,” the source added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Most North Korean trade workers sent abroad did not achieve their target figure last year, the source said.

“The authorities have taken these circumstances into consideration and have decided to adjust the target figure. Otherwise, there may be various side effects, such as defections, if the authorities continue to order such impractical tasks.”

The families of North Korean trade workers sent abroad are often held hostage inside the isolated country to discourage defections embarrassing to the regime, sources told RFA in earlier reports.

The numbers of workers sent abroad have also now been scaled down to prevent “unnecessary competition” among the different North Korean trade groups and their employees sent to earn foreign money, the source said.

'Some don't care'

Also speaking to RFA, a source familiar with trade issues on the border with China said that North Korean workers sent abroad often find it hard now even to meet their own living expenses.

“Some don’t care about achieving their target figure, and are prepared to be summoned home [for punishment] because they gave up on their goals,” the source said, also speaking on condition he not be named.

Only a small number of such workers have earned their full quota in support of a plan to purchase fertilizers for North Korean farms, the source said, adding that trade workers have now also been tasked with providing funds for construction of a sightseeing railway on North Korea’s Baekdu Mountain.

“So they are being troubled with this as well,” he said.

Economic cooperation between North and South Korea, both formally at the Kaesong Industrial Park and in less official arrangements, has meanwhile completely stopped, further reducing earnings of foreign cash, sources say.

Formerly viewed as a symbol of cooperation between the two halves of the divided Korean peninsula, Kaesong was closed in February 2016 after North Korea ordered all South Koreans out of the complex, seized South Korean assets there, and declared the area under military control.

The move came a day after South Korea announced it was pulling out of Kaesong in retaliation for North Korean nuclear and long-range missile tests earlier in the year.

Reported by Joonho Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Soo Min Jo. Written in English by Richard Finney.





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