Corruption in Sinuiju, and Women’s Union push to “find” more arable land

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

The Daily NK’s newsletter this week highlights two interesting articles from last week:

First, corruption among officials in Sinuiju involved in border trade with China is reportedly becoming more intense and raising higher sums. This is a great example of a piece of news where what happens in North Korea is precisely what the economic logic would dictate. North Korea is often said, for some reason, to defy such logic because of its opaque economic system, but it can most often be found if one scratches the surface a little bit.

When border trade closes down through a ban enforced by the state, it will of course not stop entirely unless massive force is deployed. Rather, some trade does go through, and this pushes up the price for economic actors to participate. At the same time, skirting around the rules is more dangerous than before because of the severity of the ban. Ergo, officials have to take higher bribes for their participation in this trade to be worth it.

Second, Women’s Union organizations in Yanggang province have been tasked with “finding” more arable land. As this blog has covered many times in the recent months, the government is at a point where it can do quite little to stimulate and improve the economic situation under the current system and international context. So, factories and workers are told to simply produce “more”, and “better”, usually without being given any tools to do so. And in this case, a mass organization is being ordered to “find” more land.

We’re of course not talking about uncovering any new fields or the like. North Koreans have been growing food in unlikely spots, such as around train tracks, for much of the duration of the state. It is such spots — “highland areas and rivers, along major roads and waterways, the ridges between rice paddies, and even the spaces between vegetable gardens” — that the order concerns.

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