North Korea’s online shopping app is gaining popularity among the country’s younger generation

FILE PHOTO: A North Korean businessman using a cellphone at a local market. (NK daily)

A smartphone app that lets people buy items online from foreign currency stores has recently gained popularity in North Korea. According to a source in the country, many people are using the app because even people living outside Pyongyang can receive their orders within a week.

The source told Daily NK on Tuesday that the smartphone e-commerce app “Foreign Currency Shop Service 2.0” allows people to “Buy goods in real time, around the clock, using the government’s mobile payment scheme.”

To absorb foreign currency circulating in society, North Korea operates “foreign currency shops” which, as the name suggests, only accept foreign currency for purchases. The source said that mobile foreign currency stores are no different from their physical analogues.

“They have everything from daily necessities to furniture,” he explained.

North Koreans have been able to order items using smartphone apps for several years now. However, someone also seems to have developed an app for foreign currency stores. North Korean authorities seem interested in using the app to more efficiently collect foreign currency from the public.

The source said stores in 13 major cities have signed up for the app and are using it to sell goods. In fact, stores in Pyongyang – where most currency and department stores are located – use it almost exclusively.

Pyongyang residents are the main users of the app, although the source said donju (North Korea’s affluent entrepreneurial class) and a few executives in major provincial cities are also using the program.

“Through the app, residents of any province can shop at foreign currency stores nationwide, but more Pyongyang residents than provincial residents use it,” did he declare. “Residents of Pyongyang can use stores in Hamhung, but few do so because stores in Hamhung have fewer products they would like than stores in Pyongyang. Many residents of the province buy goods from shops in Pyongyang. »

That is to say, foreign currency stores in Pyongyang generally have higher quality products, so most North Koreans prefer Pyongyang-based stores.

Items ordered through online foreign currency stores usually arrive within a week. Delivering goods within this time frame seems possible because North Korea has some sort of e-commerce and logistics system, despite the country’s poor computer network and roads.

The Daily NK source said that people with lots of money can use the app to browse the selection at registered currency stores across the country, wherever they are seated, with no legwork required.

“Once something is purchased, stores ensure that the goods arrive anywhere in the country within 10 days at the latest,” he said.

The source further explained that people wondered which foreign currency stores had better products and which provided timely delivery.

“Since people have been flocking to reputable stores, stores are scrambling to compete with each other,” he said.

Young North Koreans are particularly good at using online foreign currency stores. Unlike their parents, who went to the markets with cash in hand to buy goods, the younger generation seems quite inclined to use electronic payments.

“Foreign currency store mobile apps are popular because people can lead a civilized life by purchasing and receiving goods over the Internet using electronic payment systems, which makes them widely preferred by the younger generation,” said said the source. “Some young people even use them to buy flowers or birthday gifts to send to their boyfriend or girlfriend.”

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Edwin S. Wolfe