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North Korea wig exports to China 'doubled' amid sanctions, report says

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea wig exports to China 'doubled' amid sanctions, report says
Advertisements for North Korea wigs have been seen in the Chinese border city of Dandong (pictured). File Photo by Stephen Shaver | License Photo

May 6 (UPI) -- North Korea has been quietly earning foreign currency through the export of wigs, a product that like other "craft works" are not subject to sanctions, according to a Japanese press report.

The Asahi Shimbun reported Monday advertising for "cheap" wigs has been visible in the Chinese border city of Dandong, along with promotions for false eyelashes.

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Both products are exempt from sanctions, according to the report.

International sanctions that are being enforced in China in recent years have compelled North Koreans to look to alternatives to trading coal and textiles. The world's second-largest economy accounts for nearly all, or 90 percent, of North Korea's external trade.

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Turning to the wig trade comes at a time when North Korean business operators say they have "no other way" to make a living, according to the Asahi.

China-based sources told the Japanese newspaper factories with idle workers in North Korea have become an issue, and that state-sanctioned factories are "unable to do the jobs" they were engaged in.

Wigs, false eyelashes and hair products are taking up a noticeable portion of North Korea exports, doubling year-on-year in February to $2.4 million.

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In the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang, North Korea state-owned restaurants have been selling kimchi, a spicy pickled cabbage, to earn currency.

Beijing has played a key role in enforcing sanctions, and North Korea exports to China decreased by 88 percent in 2018, according to Chinese data.

But the trend could reverse because of the ongoing U.S.-China trade dispute, a U.S. analyst said Monday.

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Harry Kazianis, the director of Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest, said President Donald Trump should be "a little careful" because his "North Korea policy could blow up in his face."

On Sunday Trump had said he would raise tariffs on Chinese goods.

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