North Korea has started an e-commerce service for both PC and mobile phones selling locally made products and delivering them to customers, a pro-North Japanese newspaper reported.
The General Bureau of Service for the People, which manages most of the restaurants in Pyongyang, began providing regular e-commerce services on New Year’s Day after a few months of test operations last year, the Choson Sinbo reported Thursday.
The service, called Okryu, is based on the national computer network and electronic payment system. Customers can look up the products they want on its website and pay via electronic card, the report said.
It has been also available via mobile phone since February, the report said.
Locals can buy a variety of locally made products including food and groceries, cosmetics, medicine and medical supplies, as well as shoes and bags, according to the report.
The bureau also runs several transportation services delivering the e-purchased products to customers. The report said that even the famous cold noodles (raengmyeon in the North Korean dialect, naengmyeon in South Korean) from the Okryukwan restaurant can be ordered online.
One social entrepreneur who visited Pyongyang and witnessed the service spoke highly of it.
“It was a bit slow, but looked quite modern and functional,” Choson Exchange director Andray Abrahamian told NK News. “The locals think the Okryu service is pretty cool.”
As the usage of smartphones and tablets increases, even a regular citizen in Pyongyang can now use this kind of service via mobile data network, an expert said.
“Under the regime’s science and technology modernization policy, people in Pyongyang are able to order foods using the mobile data network,” Korea Development Bank researcher Rhee Yoojin told NK News. “One of my sources told me that they used to order dishes by phone in 2008 but now they’re using mobile data to do that.”
Officials from the bureau told the newspaper that the e-commerce service aims to maximize convenience with the finest locally made products.
It promotes competition between various stores and factories through cost reduction and quality improvement by letting the customer buy better and cheaper products on the computer network, the officials said.
With a cutting-edge consumer service like this, Pyongyang is trying to revive its economy by encouraging domestic production and consumption, other expert explained.
“A few days ago, Kim Jong Un warned of people’s dependence on imported goods,” chief North Korean economy researcher of Korea Development Bank Kim Young-hui told NK News. “The regime could get some profit by selling imported goods but most of the revenue would flow out of North Korean state economy.”
“If the people consume domestic products, the whole revenue would remain inside its economy, facilitating the revitalization of its economy. I believe this is why the regime is promoting consumption of domestic products with this sort of consumer-friendly services,” Kim said. “This also indicates that the North Korean economy is reviving to some degree.”
The Okryu service will display richer product contents, not only with pictures but also with voice and video, the report said. An online accommodation search and reservation service is also on the way, the report said.
Picture: Jason Howie, Flickr Creative Commons