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2008/07/03 10:53 KST


Small Businesses Thriving in North Korea: Sources

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Small-scale private businesses are quickly spreading in North Korea with the tacit approval of authorities who are unable to supply citizens with sufficient food and consumer goods, sources well-informed on the communist country said on June 30.

   "Private startups with less than eight workers have been on the increase, with North Korean residents trying to make the utmost use of the government's measure to introduce a general market in March 2003," one of the sources said.

   North Korea has expanded general markets across the country to cover industrial products because of a crippling state rationing system, and levied a kind of income tax and other fees on sellers.

   It is said that about 155 general markets, replacing farmers' markets, have been established throughout North Korea.

   The thriving businesses are mostly household manufacturers of groceries and consumer goods, restaurants and automobile repair services, the sources said, adding that some residents are even acquiring leasing rights from state-run trade agencies or firms to import commodities from foreign countries.

   Pyongyang has given tacit approval to those businesses due to their role in supplying badly needed consumer goods and contributing to the state coffers, but is trying to prevent a market economy from spreading, they said.


IOC Requests Koreas to March Together in Beijing

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recently requested that athletes from the two Koreas march together during the opening and closing ceremonies at the Summer Olympics in Beijing, a high-ranking government official in Seoul said on July 1.

   "Jacques Rogge, president of the IOC, has recently asked South Korea's National Olympic Committee (NOC) to arrange a joint Olympic march between the two Koreas," the official told reporters, requesting anonymity. "I understand he made the same request to North Korea's NOC too," the official said.

   Seoul will convey to Pyongyang its hope to have such a joint march through any possible channel, he said.

   Athletes of the two Koreas marched hand-in-hand at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the 2004 Athens Olympics.

   Inter-Korean relations have soured since the new conservative South Korean government pledged to take a tougher stance toward Pyongyang and strengthen its alliance with the United States in late February.

   North Korea has accused South Korean President Lee Myung-bak of being a "traitor" and a "U.S. sycophant," refusing to return to dialogue with Seoul.