mandag 10. mai 2021

China’s gateway to North Korea feels chill of Covid-19 border closure

“Any Taedonggang beer?” That was the first thing 31-year-old Simon (not his real name) asked for, as he took his seat at a North Korean restaurant in Dandong, China’s largest northeastern border city. The smiling, bright-eyed North Korean waitress responded in accented Mandarin: “Sorry we don’t have it any more.” Simon, a Chinese tourist guide, who has specialised in North Korea tours for four years, was certain of the reason. “It’s out of stock because nothing can be transported over.”

North Korea’s Taedonggang beer – named after the river running through its capital Pyongyang – stopped flowing into China last year, along with most other North Korean exports, according to official Chinese customs data. Pyongyang shut the country’s borders in January 2020, soon after the
new coronavirus emerged in China. Travel was banned and trade by road, rail and sea almost entirely suspended. Between 50,000 and 70,000 North Korean waitresses and factory workers were left stranded on the Chinese side of the border, according to estimates by South Korean research institutes.