Thursday October 24, 2019

North Korea Bans Imports of Chinese Pork on Fears of African Swine Fever Epidemic

“North Koreans prefer Chinese pork to domestically produced pork, because it has thicker layers of meat and fat,” said the source

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chinese pork, african swine fever
The import ban seems to have had no effect on the price of pork, making the source believe that Chinese pork is still getting in. Wikimedia Commons

North Korean authorities have banned imports of Chinese pork as an African swine fever (ASF) epidemic rages north of the Yalu River border between the two countries.

According to the latest update from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, China has seen 138 ASF outbreaks since August 2018 and more than a million pigs have been culled since the initial outbreak in Liaoning province, which borders North Korea.

North Korea’s ministry of agriculture confirmed the country’s first ASF outbreak in Chagang province on May 23 and South Korea’s ministry of unification has proposed discussions on how the two Koreas can work together to stop the further spread of the disease.

But RFA sources in North Korea say Chinese pork is still being sold in local markets. “A few days ago I heard from a customs official that North Korea has completely blocked all imports of pork and beef from China to prevent the spread of African swine fever,” said a source from North Hamgyong province in an interview with RFA’s Korean Service on June 2.

chinese pork, african swine fever
Pigs stand in a barn at a pig farm in Jiangjiaqiao village in northern China’s Hebei province on May 8, 2019. Pork lovers worldwide are wincing at prices that have jumped by up to 40 percent as China’s struggle to stamp out African swine fever in its vast pig herds sends shockwaves through global meat markets. RFA

“North Koreans prefer Chinese pork to domestically produced pork, because it has thicker layers of meat and fat,” said the source. “I heard that in some areas, including Pyongyang and Sinuiju, they are trying to control pork sales, but no action has been taken yet in North Hamgyong,” said the source. The source said that the ban is quite rare, especially since diseases among livestock are common during this part of the year.

“There have been infectious swine diseases in the past, but they never banned the import of pork from China. At this time of year, we are usually hit with infectious swine diseases and many pigs are culled, but none of the residents bury the dead pigs,” the source said. The import ban seems to have had no effect on the price of pork, making the source believe that Chinese pork is still getting in.

“The price of pork is between 14 and 15 Chinese Yuan (slightly more than $2) per kilogram, which is the same as before the authorities banned Chinese pork. Even though customs authorities are blocking pork imports from China, there is so much pork being smuggled in,” the source said. Another source, also from North Hamgyong, said the ban is strange, given that North Korean customs officials generally follow the lead of their Chinese counterparts.

“On the first of the month, pork that was to be brought in from China was quarantined at North Korean customs and sent back. It is unusual for our customs office to block this pork shipment because it didn’t have any problem going through Chinese customs,” said the second source.

“That [particular] pork shipment was to be brought in by a Chinese citizen of Korean descent who is a restaurant owner in Rason,” the second source said. “He thought there would be no problem going through customs because he regularly brings in pork from China. But the Wonjong customs office did not let it pass through on orders from the Central Committee,” the second source said.

chinese pork, african swine fever
“North Koreans prefer Chinese pork to domestically produced pork, because it has thicker layers of meat and fat,” said the source. Wikimedia Commons

The second source said the restaurant owner was surprised his shipment was held back. “He has had no problem bringing in pork from China for several years now. Even when swine fever [started] spreading in China, he kept bringing it in. It’s the first time he has been stopped and he’s totally bewildered,” the second source said.

The second source said that the price of pork remains stable despite the ban, and no cases of ASF have been reported in Rason. Even so, residents have become fearful of the disease.

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“[They think] African swine fever is highly contagious and has a fatality rate of 100%, but Chinese pork is still being sold at the local markets and no restrictions have been announced,” said the second source. According to a USDA fact sheet, ASF is deadly only to domestic and feral pigs and does not affect humans. People can, however, spread the virus by coming in contact with the bodily fluids of infected livestock.

According to a source in South Pyongan province, North Korea has not culled pigs in any of its state-run farms where an ASF outbreak has occurred. The pigs instead were supplied to sausage factories at low cost. This has caused a flood of sausages to enter the market, cutting the price of sausage in half. (RFA)

Reported by Jieun Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong. 

Next Story

UN Human Rights Accuses North Korean Government of Starving its People While Building up Military Power

U.N. human rights spokeswoman, Marta Hurtado, says bribery in North Korea has become an essential means of survival

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FILE - A man stands among sacks of wheat on the banks of Yalu River near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, January 29, 2014. VOA

The U.N. human rights office has accused the North Korean government of starving its people while building up its military power. It finds people are trapped in a system of endemic corruption and repression, which keeps them mired in lifelong poverty and deprivation.

The report is based on first-hand accounts of more than 200 escapees interviewed in South Korea during the past two years. Witnesses say North Korea’s social and economic system is based on the pervasive practice of bribing officials. U.N. human rights spokeswoman, Marta Hurtado, says bribery in North Korea has become an essential means of survival.

“The constant threat of arrest and prosecution provides State officials with a powerful means to extort money and other favors from people desperate to avoid detention in inhumane conditions,” she said. “In addition, the living conditions and treatment of detainees can also depend on the payment of bribes.”

poverty, military power
The report finds nearly 11 million people, or more than 43 percent of the population, are undernourished and in a perpetual state of hunger. Pixabay

The report finds nearly 11 million people, or more than 43 percent of the population, are undernourished and in a perpetual state of hunger. While people are scrounging around for food and other basic necessities, the report says huge resources continue to be spent on the military.

Official figures put the percentage of the national budget allocated to the military at between 14 and 16 percent. But Hurtado says estimates by non-governmental organizations believe that sum could be as high as 50 percent.

She tells VOA her agency acknowledges the importance of U.S. talks with North Korea in efforts to try to reduce its nuclear arsenal. But she says human rights have to be at the core of these negotiations.

poverty, north korea
U.N. human rights spokeswoman, Marta Hurtado, says bribery in North Korea has become an essential means of survival. Pixabay

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“It is clear that all the money, all the energy, all the brains that are used to focus on nuclear issues and nuclear development, if it would be focused on raising the standard of living of the population, the situation would be a different one,” she said. The report recommends drastic reforms in the criminal code and, especially in the establishment of the rule of law in North Korea.

In assessing the findings, Human Rights Chief Michele Bachelet says people must not be arrested, detained, prosecuted or subjected to extortion. This, simply for trying to acquire an adequate standard of living. (VOA)