Other North Koreans living in Seoul said relatives had been requesting more money over the last year, not only to ride out the sanctions but also to cover what they said was the growing cost of bribes paid to North Korean officials, who are also trying to profit from the new cash economy.
In Hunchun, one of China’s biggest garment manufacturers, Younger, recently built a sprawling factory complex where North Korean workers make men’s suits for the Chinese market. The North Koreans work alongside Chinese workers, receive the same wages and live in apartment blocks about three minutes from the plant, a manager said.
Even though the sanctions require that North Korean workers return home, those working in Hunchun are most likely doing so legally, local businesspeople said. Their contracts appear to be written for short-term work, which is not covered in the sanctions, they said.
In Hunchun, seafood sellers said they were still fetching top prices for North Korean live crab, considered a delicacy because it comes from the North’s unpolluted waters.
The crabs were trucked on a short trip from North Korea into the port of Vladivostok in Russia, then south over nearly 60 miles of bumpy road to Hunchun, a journey of up to 10 hours. They said the detour through Russia gave the crabs a cover of legality, and the Chinese are building a new road that will allow them to arrive more quickly.