Authorities demand Chinese yuan for mandatory new license plates

Kim Chae Hwan  |  2017-10-14 14:40
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The North Korean authorities are enforcing a new law requiring all vehicle owners to re-register
and purchase new license plates. Image: Daily NK

The North Korean authorities began efforts to re-register all vehicles and motorbikes in the country late last year, ordering all license plates to be changed as well. While it appears the transition is nearing completion, sources have informed Daily NK that the new license plates must be purchased in Chinese currency, rather than North Korean Won. Accusations are rising that the regime is trying to extract foreign currency from its own people in the wake of international sanctions.

"Most vehicles have now switched over to the new plates as part of the government's efforts to re-register motor vehicles," a source in Ryanggang Province informed Daily NK on October 10.

As seen in the photo above, the new plates are blue with white lettering, while the old plates were white with black lettering.

But the transition is not being received well among the population. The mandatory re-registration is being enforced nationwide, and any vehicles that have not yet complied are being stopped at guard posts on major inter-city roads. Merchants and traders who make a living by transporting items across the country are complaining that they have no choice but to "bite the bullet" and pay up.

With the government charging 114 RMB for the new plates (approx 17 USD), the source described the move as "the regime openly acknowledging that the domestic currency is worthless."

Other officials are seeing it as an opportunity to extract additional fees. District police officers in charge of motor vehicle registrations have spontaneously attached a 200 RMB official state fee (approx 30 USD) to the transaction, as well as the option of paying 300 RMB (45 USD) for faster service.

Citizens are now openly complaining to each other about the order, saying that, "the government is exploiting the people and treating us like naive customers." Public sentiment continues to turn against the regime following the new move, although the authorities are insisting that the measure is "to improve visibility" of the license plates.

The authorities are also using heightened tensions with the US as another excuse. "They are trying to justify the need for switching license plates by claiming that the plates must be more visible since vehicles must begin operating primarily at night to avoid attacks from the US and South Korea, but this is just ridiculous," the source said.

But following the stream of illegal vehicle imports that began in the early 2000s, others are positing that the government is trying to reassert control in a new era of de facto private car ownership.

The authorities appear to be wrapping up their efforts to re-register all vehicles and enforce the purchase of new plates, a separate source in Ryanggang Province said, noting that "the government has raised further obstacles to those who have been using unregistered vehicles, preventing them from getting through checkpoints and continuing their business."

*Translated by Colin Zwirko
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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