Impact of DPRK-PRC relations on border region livelihoods

Monday 28th July, 2014

The relationship between China and North Korea has changed fundamentally in recent months; the fact that the DPRK has been criticizing China as being “a country without principles” is only one of the many indicators of this shift.

In the early morning of the 26th July, 2014, New Focus made contact with correspondents on the North Korean side of the DPRK-PRC border, who relayed in detail the current conditions and trends on the border.

When asked whether the lives of North Koreans on the ground were perceived to be worsening on account of the changing relationship between China and North Korea, sources responded negatively.

“Not at all. When iron ore and logs were being sent to China in return for rice, oil, gas and construction materials, none of the ordinary North Koreans felt any benefits from that trade – they got nothing.”

“It’s actually better for the people when ‘official’ trade is low, and resources aren’t handed over by state agents at giveaway rates. While this may mean smaller profits and reduced bribes for party officials, trade suspension does not concern ordinary people, not least because most of the outside goods that they depend on are smuggled in through ‘illegal’ channels.”

“Whether the children (North Korean state agents) trade with China or not, the business of adults (illegal traders) carries on. For example, yesterday [the 25th] at dawn, we delivered 50 sacks of herbal medicine safely to China.”

With regard to on the ground North Korean perceptions of DPRK-PRC relations: “Talk of the worsening relationship between China and Kim Jong-un are widespread and on the lips of many people. Some shake their heads at the current state of North Korea-China relations, even expressing skepticism about what a child (Kim Jong-un) can know and do about outside relations.”

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