February 20, 1988 was a happy day for the general manageress of the Tianming Trading Corporation from Macao, China; it was the opening day of the Kyonghung Shop to be run by her company’s branch in the DPRK.
Early in the morning she came to the shop and looked round the counters to see if there was anything necessary for improvement.
To her surprise she was told that Kim Jong Il would soon arrive at the shop as he was making the rounds of the shops in Pyongyang.
As he entered the shop, she greeted him with delight.
“Oh, it’s you, general manageress,” called the visitor, congratulating her for the opening of the shop.
Then he looked round the counters of the shop and inquired in detail about its management.
Stressing that the shop should be spruced up and sell a wide variety of goods, he said to the officials:
“In the future the profits that this shop will gain through joint operation with the general manageress of the Macao Tianming Trading Corporation will be diverted to improving the living standards of Pyongyang citizens.”
An old acquaintance of Kim Jong Il’s, the Chinese entrepreneur was well aware of how warm his affection for the people was.
She was again impressed by his benevolent care for them.
Reiterating that the purpose of earning forex was to improve the people’s standard of living, he said: If the Kyonghung Shop earns a lot of money, the joint venture restaurant to be built on Kwangbok Street can be operated in such a way that guests pay in local currency. In the future I will have half of the profits from the shop spent for importing materials to produce consumer goods and the other half invested in the restaurant on Kwangbok Street so that the people can pay for the dishes in local currency.
It had been agreed that the restaurant to be constructed soon would import seasoning and all other materials from Macao and serve Chinese dishes, asking customers to pay in foreign currency so as to increase the profits. So it would benefit only a limited number of people including foreigners.
Seeing through this business strategy, Kim Jong Il advised that it should receive local currency for the convenience of ordinary citizens.
The Chinese entrepreneur could not help having some apprehensions about this instruction.
The materials to be imported from Macao were expensive, whereas food was relatively cheap in the DPRK. Prices were set by the state, so it was forbidden to raise them at will. That’s why the restaurant could reap no profit if it was to receive local currency from customers.
Kim Jong Il resumed:
“As the joint venture restaurant to be built on Kwangbok Street is to receive Korean currency, it may be called a zero-profit business. Profit should not be expected from it.”
The Chinese entrepreneur was afraid that the restaurant might go bankrupt if it would gain no profit.
Unaffected by her worried look, Kim Jong Il resumed: It is not good to make the people pay for the dishes in foreign currency. Last year I had flour imported to enrich the diet of Pyongyang citizens. It was distributed among restaurants to make bread and noodles, and they sold them to customers without receiving vouchers. The people were very happy about it. We should do everything with the people at the centre of our consideration and for the benefit of their interests.
Then he reassured her that her company would receive its share of profit, whether the restaurant was lucrative or not.
She was immersed in thought for a while and came to realize that the only criterion for his thinking and action was the interests of his people and he never cared about any financial loss the state would suffer if it were for their good.
Before saying goodbye to her, he assured that she must contact him if she had any troubles.
Seeing him off, she felt her heart overflowing with admiration for his great humanity.