North Korean Smugglers Backed by Army Evade Chinese Customs Post

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North Korean soldiers stand on a boat near the border with China in a file photo.
North Korean soldiers stand on a boat near the border with China in a file photo.

North Korean traders working for an army-run clothing manufacturer are successfully dodging Chinese customs controls, moving their products across the border by unguarded routes in an effort to earn cash for sanctions-hit Pyongyang, sources say.

The manufacturing firm, called the 800 Trading Company, receives orders for custom-made apparel from a company in Longjing city in northeastern China’s Jilin province, a source in North Hamgyong province in North Korea told RFA.

The company tried recently to send finished goods to China through the customs post at North Korea’s Hoeryong city, RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“But the Chinese customs post at Sanhe, just across the Tumen river, did not approve their delivery,” the source said.

After holding their goods in storage at Hoeryong for ten days in mid-September, the 800 Trading Company loaded them onto trucks sent from North Korea’s Rason city, a special economic zone, for transfer to an unknown location, the source said.

The clothing was then moved illegally into China on two separate dates, Sept. 28 and Oct. 2, through Inge-ri town near Hoeryong, a second source told RFA, adding that North Korean border guards “were aware that it was being smuggled.”

“This is evidence that North Korea’s Central Committee is pushing textile exports even by smuggling,” the source, a Hoeryong resident, said.

The goods were moved across the river late at night to avoid drawing attention, the source said.

“The 800 Trading Company blocked the road into Inge-ri town from 1:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. on Sept. 28 and used five 15-ton trucks to move the goods across the river to China with the help of the border guards,” he said.

A second delivery using six trucks was made in the early morning hours of Oct. 2, the source said.

“After they delivered the goods to China, they were given textiles by the Chinese firm to take back to North Korea for processing,” he said.

Also speaking to RFA, a second source in North Hamgyong said that the clothing was taken by trucks instead of directly by rail from Rason, a main trade hub, “because textile exports are being blocked by Chinese authorities.”

“The 800 Trading Company’s late-night delivery of the goods by way of Inge-ri town was a large operation, so many residents of the area would have been aware of it,” the source said.

“The Central Committee would have to have given direct orders for this to be done,” he said.

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





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