Giant on the move
When people want to know what’s happening in North Korea, their first stop is often the Chinese border city of Dandong. It’s one of the few places where North Koreans interact with the outside world. There are truck drivers and traders, and also spies, missionaries and refugees, not to mention reporters.
We went to Dandong this week to see if we could find out about the impact of North Korea’s currency change. The government has capped the amount of old currency that could be traded for new, effectively lopping off the savings of many small traders and a new merchant class.
The Chinese traders told us that in North Korea, many shops and markets have closed while people wait to figure out the value of the new money. They tended to be reluctant to go on record, for fear that prickly North Korean customers would get offended if they were quoted saying anything negative.
But just looking at the goods for sale in Dandong gives a little idea of life in North Korea. North Koreans don’t buy heated floor mats popular with Koreans living in China’s Northeast, one shopkeeper said, because there’s not much electricity in North Korea.