North Korea suspends the production of popular cigarette brand

Kang Mi Jin  |  2017-03-06 17:53
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Production of a popular brand of North Korean cigarettes has been abruptly suspended on Kim Jong Un's orders, and the cigarettes have virtually disappeared from markets nationwide. 

The brand in question is 'Kumsugangsan, Korean for land of natural beauty. A source in Pyongyang told Daily NK that during a meeting to promote the production of domestic goods, Kim Jong Un was reported to have said that the name of the cigarettes produced in collaboration with China does not accurately reflect the real state of North Korea. 

Soon afterward, the cigarette was no longer produced and was replaced with the 'Pyongyang' brand cigarette the source told Daily NK on February 28.

"Each cigarette factory produces their goods according to the annual tobacco production index. The company was forced to produce 'Pyongyang' instead of 'Kumsugangsan despite predetermined production plans. In order to keep up the levels of production and subsequent profit, it was decided that the 'Pyongyang' brand would be sold at 4,000 KPW, on par with the cost of Kumsugangsan.

Kim Jong Un allegedly told cadres at a gathering that "Kumsugangsan conjures an image of verdant mountains and pristine waters, which is not in line with the reality of our country, according to the source, who explained this to be a criticism of the countrys extensive deforestation and insufficient protection or maintenance of waterways.

This is not the first time Kim Jong Un has alluded to such problems. During a site visit to the Central Tree Nursery in Pyongyang in 2014 he said, [The] forest resources of the country shrank in bulk during the Arduous March [period of widespread famine in the mid-1990s], and the state of forest denudation is very serious. 

Kim Jong Un appears to be trying to promote himself as a benevolent leader of the people who is fully engaged with the realities of the country. These efforts, however, leave few favorable impressions on residents.

"Some manufacturers complained about the contradictory nature of the order, saying that if a cigarette is scrapped solely because the name fails to reflect the actual state of things, then the possibilities are endless--for example, the supposed free education and free healthcare provided to people. They think the whole notion of the mandate is totally illogical, a source in Ryanggang Province said.

The fact that the measure centers on cigarettes has also invited ridicule. Public awareness campaigns to curtail smoking have been regarded in a similar light, given that Kim Jong Un appears in public and across state media while happily chain smoking.

"The television awareness campaign segments refer to men who smoke as 'cultureless, senseless, and rude.' So naturally a lot of people joke among themselves when they see Kim Jong Un continuously smoking in front of elderly senior cadres," a source in South Pyongan Province added.

*Translated by Yejie Kim
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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