North Selling Relief Goods: Report


A North Korean government-sponsored company has reportedly been selling products to North Korean citizens using the nonprofit aid products received from the international community, including South Korea during the Yongchon disaster of April 2004.

Members of a North Korean aid organization located in Dandong City, Liaoning, China stated that 70 to 80 percent of relief products including blankets and medical tools were not sent to the citizens of Yongchon.

One person involved in North Korean aid efforts in Dandong for more than five years said, “The products provided then were stored by Gwangmyung Co., one of the five major companies in North Korea, in a facility in Shineuiju and Pyongyang, and since late last year the products were sold in Yongchon and Shineuiju, as well as (areas unrelated to the disaster regions such as) Pyongyang.”

The source added that with the drought this year necessities were in higher demand, and aid products were popular for being ‘foreign made products’ from China and South Korea, making them much more expensive than North Korean goods.

According to aid personnel, with the influx of aid from the international community after the Yongchon accident, the North Korean government submitted a list of necessities. But many were unrelated to the accident. Under the circumstances, the North Korean government may likely have had the intention to sell the relief products to their citizens.

While transferring the goods, several aid organizations noted the hoarding of the North Korean government authorities, and commenced the direct transfer of products to the people and took photos of this process, but Gwangmyung Co. proceeded to recollect the goods after their departure.

After the demolition of the Yongchon area with the explosion in 2004, the world responded with emergency relief goods and donations. At the ‘South-North Talks for the Yongchon Disaster Aid’, North Korea noted specific products and numbers including 1000t of reinforcing rods, 1,500 desks, 50 blackboards, 50 TVs, and 10,000 tons of food when requesting aid from South Korea.

South Korea provided aid worth 70 billion won including 42 billion won by the Red Cross and the rest from civil organizations. The aid also included basic relief products such as tools to repair the roads, ramen, blankets, flour, and drinking water, as well as products for students including desks and blackboards.

One furniture company worked until Sunday by creating a production line specially to send 1500 desk sets to North Korea.

After the accident China and Russia promised $1.2 million and $450,000 of emergency relief funds, respectively, while the U.S. and Japan donated $100,000 worth of medical kits, followed by Ireland and France.

A member of a North Korean aid organization said, “North Korean traders that purchase the daily necessities in Dandong said, ‘if the products entering North Korea diminish with the UN economic sanctions, the prices of the relief products will increase.’”


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