South Korean home appliances slipping in under crafty covers

Choi Song Min  |  2017-03-17 17:18
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Although the North Korean authorities have strengthened their crackdown on sales of South Korean home appliances, the number of residents looking for such products is reportedly increasing, inspiring new techniques to avoid surveillance.

"Recently, in major cities including Pyongsong (South Pyongan), Hamhung (South Hamgyong), and Chongjin (North Hamgyong), there are an increasing number of people looking for South Korean products like TVs and laptops. The merchants and customers use alternative words for Korean products to avoid the attention of security agents, a source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK on March 15.

"They refer to 'Samsung' as 'Ssung,' which is mixed with a Chinese accent, and 'LG' with the nickname 'G.' These words are preferred mostly by the donju (newly affluent middle class) because it not only helps them avoid detection but sounds trendy at the same time," the source said. 

Following the distribution of LED televisions to participants of the seventh Party Congress as gifts, a growing number of people are becoming interested in the quality and brand names of home appliances. The rise in solar panel installations at home has further driven demand for these appliances. 

"Laptops are popular among those at middle and high schools, as well as college students. South Korean products are especially popular because brands like Samsung and LG are known for their quality over the cheaper Chinese products," a source in North Pyongan Province added.

"The majority of laptop computers in the market are secondhand Chinese goods which sell for around 200,000-300,000 KPW, in accordance with 2015 prices. In contrast, South Korean products are hard to get even if you can afford the price, which is usually 2-3 times more expensive than the Chinese equivalent."

For those residents who wish to buy South Korean products with reduced risk, there are merchants who tag Korean goods with Chinese brands to disguise them. North Korea is becoming increasingly capitalistic, a place where vendors will go to great lengths to deliver anything the customers want, the North Pyongan-based source said.

"They are using the fact that most Chinese products are not regulated by the authorities. It seems like society is moving further toward capitalism," the source noted.

*Translated by Yejie Kim
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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