College Students Turn to Middlemen in Pyongyang

Daily NK
Yoon Il Geun
12/3/2007

An inside source told the Daily NK recently that about 20 to 30% of business agents in Pyongyang are university students.

Since the late 90s, college students started working as agents between artifacts buyers and sellers.

Pyongyang middlemen usually connect local merchants in border area and retailers in Pyongyang. Besides trading foreign goods, they also took part in artifact business around Kaesung, which was the capital of Koryo dynasty from 10th century to late 14th, and thus full of ancient artifacts.

College students lack funds, so their only way to earn money is to be agent.

The insider said “Pyongyang’s college students are the smartest and known for their business skills. Among them, students from Kim Chaek University of Technology are best. It is reasonable to assume at least two out of ten students have become working as trading agents since the March of Tribulation in 1990s.”

“Students are perceived as trustworthy because they are from middle class families. And those who are from local provinces and studying in Pyongyang have advantages.”

Most of these business-practicing students are former army veterans, especially those who are interested in earning money rather than studying. A few poor students who have not enlisted do business.

According to the source, these students rarely attend classes and bribe school college administrators in order to graduate. During “farming supporting period” every spring and autumn (every college student is mandatory to work at farms twice a year), business-students are exempt while buying food for those who participate.

A defector from Pyongyang said “There is little to learn at universities and society is changed to capitalist, so there is no shame for doing business among college students. The other reason might be influx of army veterans into colleges.”

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