Recent DPRK market restrictions extended to mobility of the people

Institute for Far Eastern Studies
NK Brief No. 07-11-27-1

Following Kim Jong Il’s August 26 announcement that, “Markets have become anti-Socialist Western-style markets,” measures to increase restrictions on markets across North Korea have also restricted individuals’ ability to migrate.

The Central Committee of the (North) Korean Workers’ Party released a statement in October, revealing that Kim Jong Il had stated, “The current state of anti-socialism should not be moderately opposed. A strong and concentrated attack must be laid out in order to thoroughly eliminate [this anti-socialist behavior].”

According to the Daily NK, an informant inside North Korea revealed that authorities are “contacting people who have applied for permission to travel to other regions at their trip destination and setting up interviews in order to verify that interviewees are conforming with their [stated] intentions,” and, “ultimately, long distance wholesalers are restricted in their movements, cause a reduction in the amount of goods circulating on the markets.”

Good Friends, a South Korean NGO for North Korean aid, also reported, “In North Hamgyung Province, if someone is absent from work for two days or not seen in their neighborhood, that person’s actions are carefully investigated,” and, “if someone does not check out, each of their family members are called in for interrogation.”

After the ‘Arduous March’, as market activity grew in North Korea, the number of whole-saling ‘middle-men’ grew considerably. These traders received travel permits by applying under the guise of visiting authorities, family matters, special occasions, or other personal reasons. Long-distance traders need a travel permit. In order to get such a permit, cash or goods were frequently offered as bribes.

Now, as it is becoming more difficult to receive travel documents, not only long-distance traders but also even normal vacationers are facing growing difficulties. In particular, people who need to travel to China for family visits are especially worried due to the increasingly strict issuance of travel permits.

The insider reported, “As markets grow, because wholesalers are gaining power as they make large amounts of money, authorities seem to be strongly restraining them,” and “if a wholesaler is caught, his goods are taken, leading to difficulties for market traders.”

According to a North Korean defector in the South with access to DPRK information, university students in Pyongyang are also being subjected to increasingly strict personnel inspections and restrictions. Even when they go to the library, they must fill out an exit record and can only remain out for one day before student leaders pay a visit to their home.

Students not strictly obeying school policies have their bags and pockets searched while being put under investigation and being further restricted. Of course, in the past, as well, students with problems faced inspections of their dormitory or personal goods, but recently, inspections of even everyday students are on the rise.


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