North Korea’s domestic economy is booming amid international sanctions, as reported on October 11 from Pyongyang by the Choson Sinbo, a Tokyo-based pro-North Korean newspaper.
According to Tongil News, a Seoul-based cable and pay television service, one example of the booming North Korean economy is the 13th Pyongyang Autumn International Trade Fair, which took place at the Three-Revolution Exhibition House between September 25 and 28.
The pro-Pyongyang newspaper said that the annual trade fair demonstrated “local companies’ high performance in constantly expanding the scale and scope of their businesses to meet the people’s ever-increasing demand for commodities.”
At the fair, many local companies, including the Bukchonggang Trading Company, the Chongkyechon Technology and Trading Company, the Rason Ryongson Joint Venture Company, and the Songchongang Trading Company, attracted people’s attention with their new products.
The Bukchonggang Trading Company, which participated in the fair for the first time, presented a high-quality food ingredient made with the essence of sea cucumbers. The product is advertised to be good for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. It is the first North Korean company to produce a health food using sea cucumber extract.
The Chongkyechon Technology and Trading Company introduced Korean ginseng tea, ginseng powder, ginseng coffee, and various other popular ginseng products developed by the ginseng research center in Kaesong.
In particular, it was said that many visitors to the trade fair showed interest in a variety of products, especially those with functional benefits. For example, the Kyongsubong Trading Company, which is known for its research and development as well as production and sales of toothpaste, introduced more than twenty different types of toothpaste fortified with vitamins, nanosilver, aloe vera, and common bamboo. The Oil Trading Company, a manufacturer of various foodstuffs, also captured visitors’ attention with its new ‘functional’ beverage, Susosu.
In the area of cosmetics, while brand products such as ‘Bomhyanggi’ (Spring Fragrance) – produced by the Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory – and ‘Unhasu’ (the Milky Way) – produced by the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory – had long been popular among North Korean women, the newly-introduced ‘Palsonnyo’ (Eight Heavenly Fairies) appeared a favorite at this year’s fair.
Overall, more than 250 companies from North Korea, Syria, China, Cuba, Iran, Italy, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Taiwan introduced electronic products, machinery, building materials, consumer products, foodstuffs, and other daily necessities at the trade fair. Over 20,000 people were said to have visited the Three Revolution Exhibition House every day to attend the fair.
Of note is that in recent years both the number of local North Korean companies participating in the fair and the number of their products on display have constantly increased.
As well, one noteworthy trend is that not only companies in Pyongyang but also those in provincial cities are beginning to exhibit their products at the international fair. Furthermore, as North Korean consumers’ concern for health seems to be rising, the introduction of new health products also seems to be increasing.
– The Institute for Far Eastern Studies