Chinese border city seeing surge in North Korea trade, activity

By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |  June 18, 2018 at 11:13 AM
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June 18 (UPI) -- Vibrant activity has resumed at the Chinese border city of Dandong, where, according to Chinese authorities, housing prices have been rising at the fastest rate among a group of 70 Chinese cities.

South Korean newspaper Asia Economy Daily reported Monday freight trucks and tour buses could be seen crossing the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge, and North Korean restaurants that once refused South Korean customers were welcoming them again.

A street lined with ethnic Korean businesses known as "Koryo Street" has been selling North Korean products.

One storeowner told the paper North Koreans bring "in bundles" of agricultural goods like "honey, berries and mushrooms."

"They sell them to us," the merchant said.

The South Korean press report noted more North Koreans on the streets of Dandong, carrying bags of goods.

The North Koreans wore state-sanctioned badges on their clothing, an indication their travel to China has been approved by the Kim Jong Un regime.

North Korean workers in Dandong are a source of cheap labor, said one owner of a massage parlor.

"Here you can hire a North Korean worker for one-third of the money paid to a Chinese worker," the source said. "Half the wages they earn goes to the North Korean government, the rest goes to paying fees, they are then only left with a few bills of foreign currency."

Expectations are running high the sanctions that froze activity across the China-North Korea border will be lifted.

Data from China's National Bureau of Statistics show the price of new real estate in Dandong is up 5.3 percent from April to end of May 2018, according state network CCTV.

In North Korea, marketization is expanding, and the number of markets has increased from more than 200 in 2010 to more than 400 in 2016. Another 46 markets were added in 2017, according to Choi Soo-young, former researcher at Korea Economic Research Institute, writing in South Korea's Sisa Journal.

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