State companies irked by Kim Jong Un order to find foreign investors amid 'Peace Olympics'

Kang Mi Jin  |  2018-02-09 16:30
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In line with efforts to ease sanctions and attain recognition as a normal member of the international community, North Korea has recently ordered high-level organs to use the Olympics as a basis to identify foreign investors and establish new foreign currency-earning operations in the country.

"Using the occasion of the Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea, sports, construction, and other sectors have been ordered to recruit foreign investors," a source in Pyongyang told Daily NK on February 6. "The authorities are desperate for new sources of foreign currency as the majority of construction companies in North Korea these days are having trouble acquiring building materials."

Government-affiliated traders are now expected to expand their operations and acquire more foreign investments than before, despite the continuing downward trend in the wake of international sanctions.

"The science and technology departments and material manufacturing industries have received orders to find new investors through their operations abroad," the source added.

But such talk of "finding foreign investors" is much easier said than done for North Korea. The cadres receiving these orders are reportedly worried that recent moves by the central authorities to promote a new image of peace during the Olympics will not be enough to overcome the North's lasting reputation as an unreliable business partner.

"(The North) had investors from China and even Canada as recently as 2016, but it has become nearly impossible to find investors since last year," the source said, adding that cadres are feeling extreme pressure and stress from the latest orders.

According to an additional source in Pyongyang, the organizations tasked with carrying out the orders are expressing frustration over Kim Jong Un's nuclear and missile tests, which they believe are scaring away potential investors.

He relayed a conversation he had with a person working for a central government organ, who quipped, "Do they think it'll be easy to find foreign investors when the whole world is against us? They already ask us to collect money from the ground and the sky, and now they're asking us to find more money where it doesn't exist."

Despite the expected difficulties in carrying out the orders, individuals and companies are attempting to appear eagerly compliant so as to avoid being scapegoated in the case of the plan's failure.

"Cadres have noted that they fully expect a number of people to get the axe by the end of all this," he said. "Many are also complaining over the uselessness of participating in the Olympics, saying it will only bring them more problems."

*Translated by Colin Zwirko

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