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Prices of daily commodities soar in N. Korea over U.N. sanctions, floods: businesswoman

All News 20:44 October 06, 2016

HONG KONG, Oct. 6 (Yonhap) -- Prices of daily commodities have jumped dramatically in North Korea, a businesswoman claimed Thursday, apparent fallout from both U.N. sanctions and the devastating floods that have hit the communist country.

Lie Ok-jin, managing director of Green Leaves Development Ltd., said that Chinese traders increased the prices of rice, sugar, flour and diesel oil by about 50 percent by taking advantage of the short supply of the commodities due to sanctions. China is North Korea's most important trading partner and a key source of food and fuel.

Lie, an ethnic Chinese who was born and raised in North Korea before moving to Hong Kong in 1973, also said North Koreans are going through tough times, as the value of North Korean currency has recently dropped by about 50 percent.

Still, it remains unclear whether she meant that the North Korean currency declined against the U.S. dollar or whether its foreign exchange rate was based on North Korea's official foreign exchange rate or on black market currency exchanges.

Lie, who said she traded raw materials such as coal and iron ore with North Korea, said the volume of her business with North Korea has been cut dramatically following the U.N. sanctions.

North Korea has been under the toughest U.N. sanctions ever over its fourth nuclear test and its long-range rocket launch earlier this year.

The sanctions call for, among other things, the mandatory inspection of all cargo going into and out of the North and a ban on the country's exports of coal and other mineral resources to cut off North Korea's access to hard currency.

Lie also said outside assistance to North Korea over its recent floods has been cut compared to that of previous years, even though drinking water, food and clothes are in short supply in flood-ravaged areas.

The U.N. has announced a plan to stage a campaign to raise some US$28 million to assist residents in the six North Hamkyong areas, which saw the country's worst-ever flooding. The U.N. estimates that 138 North Koreans were killed and 400 others are missing, with about 20,000 houses destroyed.

North Korea has been hit by devastating floods in recent years due in part to deforestation.

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