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Fish linked to North Korean guards' diarrhea declining in value

By
Elizabeth Shim
Kim Jong Un's upcoming birthday on Sunday has been designated as the most significant holiday of 2017, sources in the country say. The occasion will be marked by state distributions of fish, according to Radio Free Asia. File Photo by Rodong Sinmun
Kim Jong Un's upcoming birthday on Sunday has been designated as the "most significant" holiday of 2017, sources in the country say. The occasion will be marked by state distributions of fish, according to Radio Free Asia. File Photo by Rodong Sinmun

SEOUL, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- The price of a type of fish that may have been the cause for a diarrhea outbreak among North Korean border guards is taking a dive, according to sources in the country.

Prices are plunging because of rumors leader Kim Jong Un is expected to give out Japanese sandfish as gifts to the people on the occasion of his birthday, Radio Free Asia reported Wednesday.

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It would not be the first time the North Korean leader has given the commercially important fish as a state-sanctioned present.

In December, a diarrhea outbreak that North Korean soldiers cynically described as a "gift from Kim Jong Un" was likely caused by a free supply of spoiled Japanese sandfish, sources in the country have said.

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Kim's birthday is Jan. 8, but already prices of the fish have decreased dramatically, according to RFA.

Prices have surprisingly declined in areas like Yanggang Province, where seafood is often sold at a premium, one source said.

"As soon as the central authorities decreed Kim Jong Un's birthday as the nation's most significant holiday of the year, the price of Japanese sandfish suddenly fell," a source in the province said, adding the market was reacting to the rumor of free provisions.

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A second source in the province told RFA North Korean fish vendors are worried they will suffer losses after purchasing the fish at a higher price.

Some vendors are opting to give up on selling the fish and drying it to preserve as food.

The source added the greatest beneficiaries of the fall in prices are "Chinese traders" who can "purchase all the fish at a low price" in North Korea then resell the goods in China.

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