North Korea Sees Chance of Better Trade Following Inter-Korean Summit

Pyongyang tells its trade workers to arrange investments, look for openings as tensions ease.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (L) shakes hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in following a joint statement in Panmunjom, April 29, 2018.

North Korea is looking forward to greater trade opportunities and a chance of eased international sanctions in the wake of successful talks with the South Korean president last week, with government officials telling trade workers in China that better days are coming, North Korean sources say.

In one meeting in the Chinese border city of Dandong, North Korean consulate officials showcased the role of national leader Kim Jong Un in creating what they called a “turning point” in Pyongyang’s relations with rival South Korea, a North Korean trade worker in the city told RFA’s Korean Service.

“On April 28, they held a propaganda session for trade workers and business representatives to talk about Kim Jong Un’s ‘greatness,’ which they said had led to the successful meeting between the leaders of the North and South,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“They said that as North Korea’s supreme leader, someone who always worries about his country’s fate, he had crossed the border at Panmunjom to meet the South Korean president, and that together they had discussed plans for future economic cooperation,” he said.

Consulate officials also said that Kim had displayed “courage and insight” in pledging to end Pyongyang’s nuclear tests and shut down its test sites, the source said.

“They said that our country has come to a turning point,” he said, adding that the main theme of their address was the beginning of a North-South economic exchange.

“They also claimed that Kim’s recent visit to China has created advantageous conditions for trade with China, and they said that if a North Korea-U.S. summit meeting can now be successfully arranged, this will lead to an easing of sanctions, and North Korea can become a major trading power.”

Also speaking to RFA, a second source in Dandong said that the Central Committee of North Korea’s ruling Korean Workers’ Party has now ordered North Korean trading companies to use “the current situation” to attract foreign investment and set up joint ventures, especially to create facilities to generate and transmit electric power.

“Solving North Korea’s problems with electricity is now their priority task,” he said.

“These days, they are making international calls from Pyongyang to trade representatives in China to tell them to arrange investments, even from South Korea,” he said, adding, “Kim Jong Un must be desperate because of the international sanctions.”

“Even if the situation goes smoothly, though, a better economy and better lives are just a hopeless dream, since the party and the military have exclusive control over business and trade,” the source said.

Reported by Hyemin Son for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Richard Finney.