New buildings are being built in the North Korean city Sinuiju, across the Yalu River from Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. North Korea's newly wealthy have an appetite for the latest products, including South Korean flat screen TVs, according to sources in the country. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo
March 15 (UPI) -- South Korean electronics are a status symbol in North Korea and are in high demand in North Korea's unofficial markets, according to sources in the country.
Products like Samsung laptops and LG flat screen televisions are popular among North Korean consumers who can afford them.
A source in South Pyongan Province told South Korean news service Daily NK that in cities like "Pyongsong, Hamhung and Chongjin" more people are asking vendors whether they have South Korean televisions and laptops.
"In many instances to stay out of trouble buyers and sellers are using code names for the products," the source said.
Samsung products go by the abbreviation "Soong," a Chinese pronunciation of the company, and LG goes by the code name "Jwi," which also means mouse in Korean.
Among North Korea's newly wealthy class of merchants, South Korean products have a positive reputation and are sought after for the "feeling of sophistication" they give consumers, according to the report.
North Korean curiosity regarding the latest electronics, such as LED TVs, grew after Kim Jong Un gave flat screen televisions to participants of the Seventh Party Congress in 2016.
The gifted televisions, however, were not of high quality and began appearing in the gray markets, according to Daily NK.
A second source told the news service North Koreans have begun purchasing solar panels as they buy more electronic products.
"Laptops are generally popular among university students, and also among middle and high schools students," the source said. "Among computers South Korea products are a symbol of wealth, and because of their quality LG and Samsung products are gaining in popularity."
Chinese products are cheaper but are in less demand, the source said.
South Korean products are banned in North Korea and are sometimes relabeled as Chinese products to avoid trouble with authorities, according to the report.