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N. Korean traders going all out to receive permits: report

All Headlines 13:19 June 20, 2016

SEOUL, June 20 (Yonhap) -- North Korean trading companies are making all-out efforts to get trade permits so they can earn as much foreign currency as possible, a media outlet reported Monday, citing sources in the reclusive country.

According to the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA), the North's state-run trading firms, as well as state agencies, are competing to broaden their business boundaries as a way to export minerals and herbal plants.

Earlier this year, the United Nations slapped its toughest-ever sanctions against the communist country for its fourth nuclear test and long-range missile launches. The move has hurt the North's ability to trade with the outside world.

Quoting a source in the North's northern province of Ryanggang bordering China, the RFA said that, previously, the export permit for tree logs in the region was given to a specific company under the control of the North's General Bureau of Reconnaissance, but now it has been given to two others under the People's Armed Forces Ministry.

In Ryanggang Province, there are some 30 trading companies that are under the direct control of the central government, according to the source. In addition, there are dozens of other commercial organizations of various firms that are given permits that allow them to sell their products in other countries.

"These trading organizations are competing to get export permits from the regime for such minerals as tungsten, gold, zinc and copper, and even the scraps from the mineral smelting factories there," the source told the RFA.

The source added the traders are exporting whatever items they can. The source pointed out that logs, bracken and mushrooms, as well as other goods and produce, are being shipped out of the country.

Another source told the RFA that the state trading entities even started cracking down on the country's private traders in a bid to sell more goods imported from China.

The state-run traders are trying to hold dominant positions vis-a-vis the rising affluent North Korean class called "donju," who earn money by trading with China. Literally meaning "masters of money," donju are people who made cash through business ventures.

North Korea depends heavily on China for exports, with 90 percent of its overseas shipments bound for its closest ally. Of the total, coal accounts for nearly 40 percent, serving as a major "life line" for foreign currencies.

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