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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
A North Korean online store can now deliver goods within 24 hours at no extra cost, state-run online media Arirang-Meari reported on Friday.
The online store “Abnal” (앞날) – which translates to “future” – reportedly now provides “more interesting and diverse” services.
“Customers can purchase goods at any time and place through the mobile communication network at the store,” Arirang-Meari reported.
“In particular, it is scoring a great hit with the customers by enabling instant payment by card and offering various additional services and free delivery service within 24 hours.”
A poster for the service published by Arirang-Meari claimed the e-commerce platform also provides “immediate return services.”
The store also promotes its price competitiveness, with a tagline saying goods are sold at “a cheap price.”
Arirang-Meari also said the e-shop has “guaranteed the highest-level of quality at a price convenient for customers.”
“Abnal” in Sunnae-dong, Mangyongdae District, is “recognized as an influential store in the DPRK” due to the service, it reported.
While shops offering home delivery have existed in North Korea for a few years now, Abnal is the first to claim a free 24-hour service.
In December, the Tokyo-based pro-DPRK newspaper the Choson Sinbo reported that the e-commerce website “Manmulsang” was offering delivery services on a national scale.
Arirang-Meari reported in July last year that a North Korean company had launched a new online store “Unphasan” which offered services including payment on delivery and pre-ordering.
Despite various delivery services being mentioned by media outlets, one frequent visitor to the North told NK News that North Koreans would likely prefer to purchase products in person.
“Even if this service does exist, people wouldn’t trust it and would still want to visit a store physically and pay the bills using… different foreign currency,” the source said.
North Koreans tend to use a combination of different hard currencies including dollars, yuan, and euros alongside North Korean Won (KPW) to purchase goods, they added.
There are also limitations in running an online store for mobile phone users, the source continued, given that the North’s intranet “is very limited for phone access.”
South Korean analysts said that delivery in 24 hours would only be feasible for customers in Pyongyang.
Lim Eul-chul, a professor at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) of Kyungnam University, said North Korean companies have stepped up competition due to a recent boom in the IT and mobile industry.
“Taxis are now delivering products nowadays even though there are vehicles specialized for shipping including box trucks,” Lim told NK News, explaining that delivery within 24 hours is “quite possible.”
But, he said, customers would be limited to the “rich middle class.”
Another analyst said delivery services first appeared in the mid-2000s.
“Food delivery was introduced at that time,” Kim Young-hee, team head of the North Korean Economy Department at the Korea Development Bank (KDB), told NK News.
“Even though the delivery services are different from the ones provided by the online store, services existed for delivering [foods] to homes by wire telephone or cell phone.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: NK News