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China-N.K. Border City Center for Food Smuggling

Posted June. 30, 2008 03:04,   


A day after the destruction of North Korea’s cooling tower in Yongbyon, many people in Dandong, a city in the Liaoning Province, China, were exercising or dancing in groups to the music along the river that faces Shinuiju, a North Korean city, early in the morning as usual. South Korea and North Korea’s popular songs were being played.

Citizens in Dandong where 80 percent of the trade between China and North Korea takes place are more interested in North Korea’s conditions and inter-Korean relations than Chinese living in other provinces.

○ Good for North Korea, good for Dandong

Most citizens were well aware of the destruction of the cooling tower because the scenes were aired several times on Chinese television on Friday evening. But there were mixed views about whether the toppled cooling tower would make a breakthrough in the inter-Korean relationship.

Mawin, 42, who was strolling, said, “I was impressed to see late night news about the destruction of the cooling tower. I hope that the strained inter-Korean relationship since the start of the new South Korean administration could get better.”

When asked about whether an improved inter-Korean relationship would affect the development of Dandong, he said, “When Shinuiju said to be designated as a special development district, many South Koreans came to Dandong to invest.”

A man in his 50s who identified only his last name Wi said, “I hope that South Korean supporters can take the train in Seoul and pass Shinuiju and Dandong, and go to Beijing as they planned for the Beijing Olympics in August.”

Seong Gu-dae, the leader of the Korean Community in Dandong, who has been actively engaged in helping North Korea through a Korean Church in Dandong, said, “I hope that the collapse of the cooling tower can address North Korea’s nuclear issue and help boost the aid project for North Korea.”

○ Food smuggling is rampant

As food conditions in North Korea has become worse recently, sources said food smuggling from Dandong to North Korea is rampant. With soaring international crop prices, China limited food exports this year, and the official food export to North Korea has also drastically been cut.

According to the Dandong Maritime Customs, food exports to North Korea from January to May this year reduced by 50 percent year-on-year. The export of flour stopped in January, and there has been no official rice and corn exports since April.

With the drastic drops in food imports to the country, more in North Korea are smuggling crops, even more than the actual import amount. As a result, more are getting caught smuggling.

A source in Dandong said, “Recently, (smugglers) are exporting two- or three-year-old corn and flour from Shandong and Hunan provinces to North Korea through boats on the Amnok River bordering China and North Korea.”

The source also said, “Combined with risk costs, it cost 50 yuan per ton to smuggle grains through the river, but early this year, it soared to 200 yuan and even up to 500 yuan recently.”

Citizens in Dandong said this kind of demand for old crops will decrease to some degree when the potato harvest begins soon in North Korea.