Kim Jong Un Orders North Korean Markets to Get Rid of Foreign Products


2015-07-17
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nk-goods-dandong-april-2013.jpg Goods bound for North Korea at a customs checkpoint near the border in Dandong, China, in a file photo.
AFP

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has issued orders to drive out foreign-made products from markets in the country and prohibit the import of others that the isolated nation can manufacture, sources inside the country said.

The directive followed on the heels of earlier calls by Kim Jong Un in January and May for North Koreans to use only domestic products.

“As the rumor spreads that the North Korean government will crack down on all foreign-made products in the local markets after local election for delegates, people making a living from trade have become very worried about it,” a source in Chagang province, who declined to be identified, told RFA’s Korean Service.  

Elections to provincial, municipal, city, county and district people's assemblies are scheduled to be held on July 19 — the first such voting since Kim Jong Un took power in late 2011, the state-run Korean Central News Agency announced last week. North Korean elections offer only one candidate on the ballot.

Security officers and custodians in charge of markets have been checking how many domestic and foreign-made goods — especially daily necessities — are being sold, adding to merchants’ anxiety, the source said.

An official in North Hamgyong province told RFA that North Korea has cracked down on Chinese products because it intends to drive them out of the country, but has left the customs clearance of such items alone to avoid a conflict with its neighbor that could turn into tariff action.

“I was told by North Korea’s central authorities not to stop travelers from bringing in products from China through customs, but to strictly prohibit the sales of the products in the market.”

North Korea is manufacturing many light industry products such as confectionery, cooking oil, medical supplies and clothes using raw material from China, he said.

Yet, the prices for these North Korean products, which are clearly marked as being made in the country, are much higher than those of similar ones manufactured in China, he said.

Sources inside North Korea also said Kim Jong Un’s instructions to drive out foreign-made goods meant eliminating private business because the government’s intention is to collect all money which is now circulating in the market.

North Korea has intensified its crackdown on foreign-made products since last November when Kim Jong Un declared at a cabinet meeting that the “preference for imports could lead to national ruin.”

A couple months later during his New Year’s speech, Kim Jong Un encouraged all citizens to use domestic products, saying that it was the “best form of patriotism to love and use our products.”

But a slogan publicized during the North Korean’s ruling Workers’ Party meeting on February 10 best summed up the leader’s goal in eliminating foreign goods from the country: “By getting rid of a preference for imports and localizing raw materials and facilities, our Workers’ Party is determined to create the best civilization that will be the envy of the world!”

Reported by Sung-hui Moon for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Yunju Kim. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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