Institute for Far Eastern studies (IFES)
According to the Japanese newspaper Choson Sinbo, a new online shopping mall in North Korea is enjoying popularity. “In Choson [North Korea] an e-commerce service system is being operated that handles food and all kinds of light industry goods,” the newspaper’s Pyongyang correspondent reported on April 2, 2015.
The newspaper explained that at the end of 2014, North Korea did a test-run of the system, and since the beginning of this year it has been in full operation. Since February of this year, they also started an e-commerce service that uses smart phones with communication functions.
Users access a computer network, and after joining the ‘Okryu’ e-commerce system, they can browse and purchase products.
In the Okryu e-commerce system, there are products of various name-brand commercial stores, restaurants and shops, including Changjon Haemaji Restaurant, Haedanghwa Restaurant, and Kumsong Foodstuff Factory.
On the homepage users are able to search for the products and when they decide to purchase a product they pay for it with an electronic card.
Currently, a variety of North Korean products are sold through Okryu, including various culinary dishes and food items, cosmetics and medical supplies, and footwear and bags. The Choson Sinbo said that “through Okryu [North Koreans] can even order naengmyon (cold buckwheat noodles) from the famous Okryukwan Restaurant.”
The newspaper went on to say, “This system has been a sensation among working-housewives, who can conveniently buy the products they need without going to the store […] There are also many users who choose products from Okryu’s homepage to send to friends or family during holidays and on birthdays.”
According to officials from the General People’s Service Bureau, “If the same types of products produced at several stores or factories are posted on the computer network, people will choose to purchase goods that are higher quality and cheaper in price. As a result, production units will begin competing in the areas of cost-saving and quality improvement.”
The newspaper added, “In the future the ‘Okryu’ homepage will not just contain the pictures of products, but it will also contain audio and video and become a fully multimedia website.” The e-commerce system is “also exploring a service that would make it possible for travelers to make reservations and search for information about accommodations at their respective destinations.”
Here is what KCNA had to say (2015-4-2):
Online Commercial Service Begins in DPRK
Pyongyang, April 2 (KCNA) — Online commercial service system, called “Okryu”, is run by the General Bureau of Public Service in the DPRK.
Citizens can make a search for their necessities like consumer goods and medicines even with mobile phone after joining in the system and ask for delivery.
Jong Sol Hwa, an official of the general bureau, told that the system helps consumers easily purchase their necessities at a lower cost.
Here is a translation of a longer April 2 article in the Choson Sinbo about the Okryu service:
E-commerce Service Okryu (옥류): Delivery also Possible
Search for Goods Online and Pay with Card.
North Korea has launched an e-commerce site mostly for food items or various light industry goods.
Order Okryu-gwan’s Noodle via Mobile Phones
People’s Service General Bureau(인민봉사총국) operates an e-commerce site called 《Okryu》. It started test operation at the end of 2014 and has run the service since the beginning of this year. 《Okryu》 is based on nationwide intranet and electronic payments systems and its operating principles are 《Put People’s Convenience First》 and 《Serve the Best Domestic Goods》.
It has also started since February the e-commerce service via mobile phones.
After customers access the internet and join the site 《Okryu》, they search for the products and order them.
People’s Service General Bureau(인민봉사총국) connects with nationwide commerce service units and make people purchase various goods without inconvenience at low prices.
On the website, popular products from well-known stores, restaurants, and commerce service units of each region including Changjeon Haemaji Restaurant(창전해맞이식당), Haedanghwa Service Complex(해당화관), and Keumsong Food Industry(금성식료공장).
Customers can search for and browse the goods they want on the website and pay when they order with electronic cards.
They can also ask corresponding commerce service units via phone call the features of their products before purchasing.
Diverse domestic goods including food and groceries, cosmetics and medicine, and shoes and bags are sold through 《Okryu》. Even cold-noodles from the Okryu Restaurant can be ordered.
There is also a delivery system ensuring the speed and the accuracy. Many different affiliated transportation companies under the People’s Service General Bureau(인민봉사총국) undertakes the delivery tasks.
The e-commerce service has gained popularity due to its convenience, especially for housewives who go to work as they can purchase without going directly to stores.
There are also consumers purchasing through 《Okryu》 to buy presents for their family and friends around holyday or birthday.
Opportunity for Low Price・Quality Competition
The persons from the People’s Service General Bureau emphasize the purpose of this service; to secure people’s convenience as much as possible through 《our products》, the best quality domestic goods.
According to their explanation, as many but the same types of products from different stores or factories are listed on the site, people find the products with lower price but higher quality. In consequence, there must be the competition for cost saving and quality improvement among production units.
“The e-commerce is only in its beginning stages, we will keep trying to collect people’s opinions actively and to secure their convenience, they said.
《Okryu》 is planning to include multimedia such as audio and video as well as the images of the products. Also, it will launch the service that tourists can search for accommodations of each region and make a reservation for them.
1. Here is the original report in the Choson Sinbo.
2. Here is coverage in North Korea Tech.
3. Here is coverage in UPI.
4. Here is coverage in NK News.