Greenhouse businesses sprout up in North Korea's former coal country

Moon Dong Hui  |  2018-05-08 15:04

Businesses in North Koreas coal-producing region have built greenhouses where vegetables are grown, packaged, and shipped all over the country, report inside sources. 

We cant export coal, so weve changed our lifestyle, said an inside source from South Pyongan Province on May 3 during a telephone conversation with Daily NK. These days, the residents in this area use greenhouses to make a living. 

If you go to the coal mine regions, you will have a hard time finding a household that hasnt built a greenhouse. In the Tokchon Region, about 80% of residents are operating greenhouse businesses and the party cadres are proactively encouraging this, the source continued.

South Pyongan Province has a number of mines all aimed at earning foreign currency, including Bukchang, Dokchon, 2-8 Youth Jikdong, and Chonsong. Many in the region previously worked in the mines to earn their living, but they are adapting to the sanctions by looking for new methods to make money. 

Because exports have been blocked, top quality coal has become available for us to use in our boilers to heat the greenhouses, an additional source in South Pyongan Province added.

Some residents, who lacked this access previously, have responded by saying, The situation is good, and, It would be good if coal exports dropped altogether. 

She explained that the greenhouses are used principally to cultivate cucumbers, tomatoes, and pepper. The produce is then packaged for sale and distributed to Sinuiju and Pyongyang. Thanks to the development of logistics methods including taxis and privately-operated trucks, a sound basis for profitability has been established. 

But not all residents have been able to reap the benefits of these developments. 

Daily NK earlier in May reported that coal prices have fallen dramatically, and coal miners have not been able to make as much money as in the past, putting them in hard times. Recently, children as young as 10 years old have been seen filling backpacks with coal and selling it.

Asked about how widespread the benefits are, a separate source in South Pyongan Province answered, Starting a greenhouse requires purchasing plastic sheeting [to cover the house] and a heater, so it can be an expensive business to enter. Those without the materials or the capital to do so are falling behind.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 2371, adopted last August, completely prohibits North Korea from exporting mineral products such as coal and iron ore.  
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