Archive for the ‘Public Distribiution System (PDS)’ Category

Exchange rate data

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

The The UN World Food Prgram’s Rapid Food Security Assessment Mission (RFSA) offered some exchange rate data that I thought was worth pointing out:

Currently the official exchange rate is about USD1=KPW100 yet the market rate is closer to USD1=KPW3000. In other words, the redenomination of the national currency that occurred in November 2009 is all but neutralized. The effects of this policy on ordinary citizens appear to be mixed where people with over KPW 100,000 lost their savings. The purpose of such a policy was to control inflation by reducing money supply and to curb the growth in private enterprise. Worker salaries remained the same, but prices were reduced significantly.

The PDS prices were revised downwards in the wake of the currency revaluation making it even more affordable, at least in principle. For example, PDS prices of rice declined from KPW 44 to KPW 24 per kg and maize declined from KPW 24 to KPW 14. At these low prices the issue is the lack of commodities in the market, rather than consumers lacking money to purchase them.

An average worker makes around KPW 3,000 to KPW 4,000 per month. This translates into a dollar per month which only works in DPRK because everything is heavily subsidized and ordinary citizens do not rely on direct purchases of imported commodities. If PDS were to run out of cereals at the end April, people would not have the means to purchase cereals on the black market, where prices are KPW2000 per kilogram of rice and about KPW 1000 for maize. It is highly doubtful that the barter system which is the backbone of this informal economy will be able to withstand a shock of this magnitude over more than a couple of weeks. A humanitarian crisis is the likely outcome of such a series of events.


Some recent material on DPRK markets

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

First, Kim Song Min  (김성민), founder of Free North Korea Radio, has posted another clandestine video of a North Korean market:

You can (probably) see the ten-minute video here.  It will not work in China.  Again, the market is surprisingly ordinary; lots of fish, potatoes, and greens.

I posted a similar video several weeks ago which you can see here.

Secondly, the March 24th WFP/FAO/UNICEF Rapid Food Security Assessment Mission (PDF of the report here) included some interesting information on the DPRK’s markets:

5.2. Markets
The mission had unprecedented access to markets in the country. All teams spent a considerable amount of time surveying different markets and their attributes. In DPRK there are three main types of markets where people can buy food and non-food stuff: 1) State Shops; 2) Farmer’s Markets; and 3) City Markets.

State Shops
State Shops are open seven days a week to provide families with such essentials like the soyabean sauce, soya-bean paste, and cooking oil at discounted prices. Each household is assigned to a state shop and, for certain commodities, is entitled to a monthly quota that is set by the Ministry of Commerce. Essential food items include: soya-bean sauce (50 grams /person/day); soya-bean paste (30 grams/person/day); and cooking oil (20 grams/person/day).

Whether households can purchase their full allocation primarily depends on availability. For example, many households reported that soya-bean oil has not been available since early February. Others households informed that meat is only available on special occasions like the New Year or the birthdays of Kim Il Sung (15 April) and Kim Jong Il (16 February).

The Peoples Neighborhood Unit (PNU) [Inminban] announces when new supplies arrive and informs the household’s entitlement. Payment is collected from the households and tokens are issued, specifying items and quantities that can be collected from the state shops.

The variety and quantity of food and non-food commodities varies from county to county. Some shops were observed to have other food items for sale, such as wild vegetables, biscuits and salt. The mission observed that State Shops in rural areas have fewer commodities available than those in large urban centres.

The mission also observed non-food commodities in State Shops, including: school supplies, clothes, shoes, blankets, kitchen utensils, ceramics, cigarettes, beer, rice wine, children’s toys, and single-band radios.

Farmers Markets
The Farmers’ Markets occur every ten days or three times each month. Sellers bring their food and non-food produce to the market where they pay a fee of KPW10 to secure a two meter stall for the day. The sale of cereals is officially prohibited. The mission did not observe any cereals being sold. The main food items observed in these markets were vegetables, potatoes, fruits, eggs, meat, fish, lentils and spices. Non-food items included basic farming equipment, woven baskets, school supplies, clothes, knitted socks and gloves.

Any exchange of cereals between households is privately done through barter trade or households who are PDS [Public Distribution System] dependants get cereals as gifts from relatives and friends in Cooperative farms. The surplus cereal produced by the farmers over and above their grain allocation for home consumption has to be sold to the State Food Procurement Agency.

Some sellers were able to quote terms of barter trade including: two kilograms of maize can be exchanged for one kilogram of rice; one kilogram of fish can be exchanged for one kilogram of rice; one-half kilogram of pork meat can be exchanged for one kilogram of rice; and five eggs can be exchanged for one kilogram of rice. Sellers were hesitant to quote rice and maize prices in KPW other than what is paid through the PDS.

Interestingly sellers only brought commodities in small quantities despite the fact that these markets happen only three times a month. The number of sellers out numbered the buyers but that could be the mission effect as people were wary of foreigners asking questions, particularly outside Pyongyang. The difference in the prices paid in these rural markets compared to Tongil market in Pyongyang was astounding. A bundle of spinach that cost KPW 20 in rural market was being sold for KPW 1000 in Tongil market—50 times more. However, this may not be of concern to ordinary citizens as Tongil caters more to the foreigners and DPRK elite.

City Markets
City markets are held daily in cities and often in the same structures as the farmers markets.Mission members did not observe any cereals for sale in the market. Food items observed were potato, vegetables, pulses, wild vegetables, seafood, fish, eggs, and meat, including rabbit, chicken, and duck. Non-food items included farming tools, baskets, brooms, school supplies, clothing, and other household items. Commodities were available in small quantities speaking to the size of the market. The prices in these markets were competitive and the produce similar to the farmers market.

Finally, Yonhap reports on the travels of a British Envoy to the DPRK:

Martin Uden, Britain’s ambassador to South Korea, said Sunday that a marketplace in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, appear to be stocked with large amounts of food, poultry and electronic products, despite the communist state’s ongoing search for food aid abroad.

Uden, who traveled to Pyongyang and Wonsan, a port on North Korea’s east coast, from March 11-14, said he witnessed plenty of chicken, fish and vegetables and an array of computer and camera accessories during his visit to the “Dong-il” market in the capital city.

In his travelogue that was written after his second trip to the North following the first in 2008 and sent to Yonhap News Agency, Uden said that overall, both the variety and quantity of food products available at the Pyongyang market were a “fair bit less” compared with three years ago, noting the absence of beef was especially noticeable.

“This March, I saw no beef and a tiny amount of pork. But plenty of chicken of all sizes, both cooked and uncooked, and some duck. Large amounts of good-looking fish and plentiful root vegetables,” the British diplomat said in his travelogue that offers insights into the daily life of ordinary Pyongyang citizens.

“In terms of the food aid that the DPRK is seeking at present, it’s worth remembering that even if this one market appeared reasonably stocked, it’s not possible to draw wider conclusions from that,” he said, using the abbreviation of the North’s official name.

Uden said he arrived in Pyongyang on the second Friday of March, the day of a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, but was kept in the dark about the disaster until Monday, when the state news organizations carried reports about it. He called the incident an eloquent example of information control by the government.

“In (North Korea), you can only know what the state wants you to know,” he said.

The full text of his travelogue can be found here.


Daily NK reports agricultural increase in DPRK

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

According to the Daily NK:

Even though some of North Korea’s farmland including much around Shinuiju was flooded this year, in other provinces food production has been greater than in previous years, according to sources.

One source from South Pyongyang Province told The Daily NK yesterday, “There have been heavy rains and rivers overflowing in some places this year, but the rice crop is better than last year’s. It seems to be thanks to imported fertilizer from China.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Program (WFP) also reported last month that North Korea’s grains yields had increased by 3 percent over last year, to 4.48 million tons in total.

The source explained, “In April and May this year fertilizer came just in time, so it helped with the farming. Since the situation in that period decides the number of ears of grain, if you don’t provide fertilizer production can be halved.”

Another source from Yangkang Province agreed, saying, “This year in the jangmadang in Hyesan, 50 kilos of fertilizer was selling for 220 Yuan. The price was quite expensive, but people used it even on their private fields because it was so beneficial for production.”

However, the source said angrily, “Even though farming was better than last year, the year’s distribution for farmers was a mere 30kg of rice and 50kg of corn, 20kg of rice and 30kg of corn short of last year’s distribution. So farmers complained about it but the only answer was ‘more food should go to the military’. They were lost for words.”

The source said, “The authorities keep reiterating that thanks to the Youth Captain we will live better in the future, but then give us less distribution; who would believe this? Does this not mean that the Youth Captain will also try only to feed the military?”

He added, “In the end, the vicious circle where farmers on collective farms steal rice from the farm continues. Farm cadres have already siphoned off what they want, and then farmers also do that in groups.”

The source explained, “Due to the lack of electricity and frequent machinery failures, the threshing is still going on now. Military trucks are always waiting by the threshing location, and as soon as it is done, the rice goes to military bases.”

Furthermore, he added, “Rice provided for the military is also stolen by high officials, so normal soldiers are provided only with corn.”

Previous stories about the DPRK’s food and agricultural production can be found here and here.

Stories about the UN World Food Program and FAO can be found here and here.

Read the full story here:
Higher Yields and Lower Distribution
Daily NK
Shin Joo Hyun and Kang Mi Jin


N.Korea faces 542,000 t grain deficit in 2010/11

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Acording to Reuters:

North Korea is facing a grain deficit of 542,000 tonnes in the 2010/11 marketing year after the government only partially provided for grain import cover, the United Nations’ food agencies said on Tuesday.

North Korea’s cereal import requirement in 2010/11 is estimated at 867,000 tonnes, while the government plans to import commercially only about 325,000 tonnes, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Food Programme said .

“The mission recommended to provide some 305,000 tonnes of international food assistance to the most vulnerable population,” the FAO and WFP said in a report after a joint mission to the country.

According to the New York Times:

Despite a relatively good autumn harvest in North Korea, the reclusive communist nation remains in dire need of food aid, especially for its youngest children, pregnant women and the elderly, according to two United Nations agencies.

In a new joint report, the World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization said that North Korea, even after substantial imports, would have a shortfall in staple crops — mostly rice, grains and soybeans — of more than half a million tons.

The 2010 harvest was 3 percent higher than last year, the agencies said, despite an unusually harsh winter and alternating drought and flood conditions over the summer.

But even in the best of years North Korea is unable to feed itself. Government food distribution provides only half the necessary daily calories, the report said. People are thus left to fend for themselves with small hillside plots, kitchen gardens and the buying of or bartering for food on the black market.

Aid officials have estimated that the food aid program for North Korea was 80 percent underfunded and that nearly half the country’s children are malnourished.

“I saw a lot of children already losing the battle against malnutrition,” said Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Program, after a visit to North Korea earlier this month.

“Their bodies and minds are stunted, and so we really feel the need there,” she said. , Agriculture is “the main contributor to the national income” in the North, the agencies said, although its percentage of gross domestic product has declined in the past decade to 21 percent from 30 percent. A lack of foreign currency and credit, made worse by international sanctions against the regime, prevented significant imports of fertilizer and pesticides as well as tires and spare parts for farm trucks and tractors.

In remarks before the Group of 20 summit meeting in Seoul last week, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he had “very serious concerns about the humanitarian situation” in North Korea, “especially for the very young children.”

Mr. Ban said the South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, had pledged to him that the South would provide humanitarian assistance to the North’s children.

The two U.N. agencies said their report, which was released Tuesday, was produced by teams that went to most of North Korea’s principal agricultural regions.

As the teams traveled around, the report said, “it was evident that there were no cereals in stock in the warehouses visited.”

Additional Information:
1. Here is a link to stories about South Korean aid provided this year

2. The DPRK has recently expressed skepticism over the motivations of foreign aid agencies.

3. Here is a PDF of the UN Special Report.  It is full of data and has been added to my Economic Statistics Page.

4. Here is a link to the UN report which you can read on line.

Read the full sotries here:
N.Korea faces 542,000 t grain deficit in 2010/11-UN

U.N. Urges Food Aid for North Korea
New York Times
Mark McDonald and Kevin Drew


North Koreans receive largest gift rations since Kim Il-sung’s death

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

According to the Choson Ilbo:

North Koreans were given the most extra supplies on Oct. 10, the 65th founding day of the Workers Party, since nation founder Kim Il-sung’s death in 1994, Radio Free Asia in the U.S. claimed last Friday.

The so-called “holiday supplies” are various daily necessities sold at state prices or about 1/100 of market prices on major holidays such as Kim Il-sung’s and current leader Kim Jong-il’s birthdays.

On the day, two days’ supply of food and daily necessities were supplied at state prices, a senior party official in Daehongdan-gun in Yanggang Province was quoted by RFA as saying.

Each of about 9,500 homes in the county received two bottles of liquor, 1 kg of potato noodles, 1 kg of potato starch syrup, a bottle of vinegar, a bottle of soybean oil, 1 kg of pork, a cake of soap, a pair of shoes, toothbrushes and toothpaste, the official said.

Another North Korean source said the sudden bounty led to drunken accidents and an inebriated gang fight between youngsters, several of whom were taken to hospital. The source said a tractor carrying potatoes keeled over, killing four people.

Holiday rations/gifts are a time honored tradition in the DPRK, though their significance to the North Korean people has declined since the “arduous march” and the rise of markets.

Paradoxically, their importance to foreign observers of the DPRK has in fact grown since the “arduous march”.  This is because the composition of the gifts, or lack thereof, is important data for estimating the strength of the Public Distribution System and by extension the state’s finances.  By giving the most generous gifts since Kim Il-sung’s death, the DPRK government wants us, and the North Korean people, to believe its fiscal position is improving.

Here, here, herehere, and here are previous posts about holiday rations.

Here is a story in the Daily NK featuring pictures of holiday rations.

Read the full story here:
N.Korean Regime in Rare Show of Generosity
Choson Ilbo


Regular food rations not provided as Prices Soar and food shortages grow in DPRK

Friday, August 6th, 2010

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 10-08-06-1

Over the last five months, regular food rations have not been provided even to those in the capital city of Pyongyang, indicating the severity of food shortages in North Korea. According to the ROK Ministry of Unification, rice and corn were added to the list of goods with controlled prices in at least one market in Pyongyang. A list of controlled goods with state-set upper price limits has been distributed to each market throughout North Korea since 2003. While prices may vary slightly, comparing them with earlier price caps gives a good indication of the availability of goods.

The July appearance of rice and corn on the list of restricted goods, neither of which has been on the list even as far back as February, when strict market controls were enacted in the aftermath of failed currency reform measures, indicates that the ration system is not operating normally, even in Pyongyang. It also means that not only are officials not receiving normal rations, but that average residents are relying more on markets for their food. One Unification Ministry official stated, “Rice was on the list of controlled goods in markets outside of Pyongyang in February, but couldn’t be found in markets in the capital city…in July, rice and corn emerged [as items with price caps] in Pyongyang markets.” The official also explained that as the food ration system collapsed even in Pyongyang, the issuance of price caps on rice and corn was an indication that more people were turning to the markets to buy these staples.

Looking at other goods on the list, it appears that agricultural goods cost 3~7 times more in July than in February, and manufactured goods were as much as 7 times more expensive. Necessary goods, both agricultural and manufactured, have grown considerably more expensive in North Korea over just five months. More specifically, beans were up 3.6-fold; chicken, 3.3-fold; lettuce, 3-fold; apples, 6.3-fold; rice and corn, 2-fold. Ball-point pens and other daily-use items were up 5~6-fold. In July, rice sold for 550 won per kilogram, while corn was priced at 280 won per kilo.

The price caps are upper limits set by North Korean authorities, but the reality is that goods are often sold at higher prices. The shortage of agricultural goods, and the fact that the Chinese Yuan has appreciated 3-fold since February, has led to these record price-hikes. On May 26, Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) authorities issued a decree, “Regarding Korea’s Current Food Situation,” calling for residents to fend for themselves. As prices skyrocketed on agricultural goods, one measure adopted by North Korean authorities has been to more than double exports of iron ore from Musan, North Hamgyong Province to China, while drastically increasing the import of corn. This increased import of corn has brought down the price of rice from 1,200 to 900 won per kilogram in Musan, while corn itself has fallen from 600 to 500 won. On the other hand, the drop in the foreign currency exchange rate in mid-July caused a shortage of dollars, driving the price of rice up to as high as 1,200 won per kilogram in some regions.


Life tough in Pyongyang

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

According to the Daily NK:

The gap between the rich and poor in North Korea is growing as the number of people trying to sell their family home to buy food expands in the aftermath of last November’s currency reforms, according to a source from inside the country.

The source from South Pyongan Province told The Daily NK on Thursday, “An increasing number of homes are being sold to buy food, and now it seems like about two out of every ten people around here have lost their home.”

According to the source, the rich buy up the houses, demolish them and build new ones to sell for a profit. Those who have amassed dollars or Chinese Yuan from trading are now turning to the housing market.

Even in Pyongyang, where the public distribution system continues to function, there are homeless people on the street, according to the source, who added, “When I was in Pyongyang, there were homeless people sleeping in the subway in large numbers.”

The source went on, “People’s lives are very difficult. There are even some who rely on digging up 5kg of wormwood, walking three hours to sell it, and only getting 100 won per kg.”

Currently, 1kg of rice sells for 400 to 500 won in Pyongyang, and 500 to 600 won in other areas.

The source also explained, “While public distribution still functions in Pyongyang, there are strict restrictions on movement, and even with our salaries we can’t buy food because there is too little.”

Since the economy is so bad, the crime rate is also going up, he added, “There are now more and more pick pocketing cases, and these days, they not only use small knives to steal purses, but even tweezers to pick stuff from pockets.”

The source’s assertion that there was public distribution until mid-June contradicts the claim of one NGO, which said that on May 26 the authorities ordered each area to look out for its own food supply. The source, when asked about the decree, said he was unaware of its existence.

Read the full story here:
Life Even Tough in Pyongyang
Daily NK
Kim So Yeol


DPRK abandons food rations, orders self-sufficiency

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 10-06-17-1
As North Korea’s food shortages worsen and reports of starvation continue to grow, the Workers’ Party of Korea have acknowledged the failure of the central food ration program. Since the end of May, the Party has permitted the operation of 24-hour markets, and the regime has ordered the people of the North to provide for themselves.

The human rights organization Good Friends reported this move on June 14. According to Good Friends, the Workers’ Party organization and guidance bureau handed down an order on May 26 titled ‘Relating to Korea’s Current Food Situation’ that allowed markets to stay open and ordered North Koreans to purchase their own food. This order, recognizing that the food shortages in the North have continued to worsen over the last six months, since the failed attempts at currency reform, acknowledged the difficulty of providing government food rations. It calls on those who were receiving rations to now feed themselves, while also calling on the Party, Cabinet, security forces and other relevant government agencies to come up with necessary countermeasures. Now, authorities officially allow the 24-hour operation of markets, something that most had already tacitly permitted, and encourage individuals, even those not working in trading companies, to actively import goods from China.

It has been reported that government food rations to all regions and all classes of society, even to those in Pyongyang, were suspended in April. The last distribution of food was a 20-day supply provided to each North Korean on April 15, the anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung. Because of the difficulty of travelling to markets, the suspension of rations caused many in farming communities to starve to death. When Kim Jong Il’s recent visit to China failed to secure expected food aid, the Workers’ Party had no choice but to hand down the ‘May 26 Party Decree’. While the suspension of rations has considerably extended the economic independence of North Korean people, the regime has significantly stepped up other forms of control over society. Public security officers have begun confiscating knives, saws and other potential weapons over 9 centimeters long in an effort to stem murder and other violent crimes. Additionally, state security officials are cracking down on forcefully resettling some residents of the age most likely to defect, while sending to prison those thought to have contacted relatives in South Korea.

According to Daily NK, North Korean security officials are pushing trading companies to continue trading with China, while calling on Chinese businesses to provide food aid. It also appears that North Korean customs inspections along the Tumen River have been considerably eased, and there is no real attempt to identify the origin or intended use of food imported from China. Sinheung Trading Company has asked Chinese partners investing in the North to send flour, corn and other foodstuffs. The Sinheung Trading Company is operated by the Ministry of State Security, and is responsible for earning the ministry foreign capital. It appears that food acquisition is now a matter of national security, as North Korea is expecting South Korea and the rest of the international community to economically isolate the country.


DPRK allegedly halts rations

Monday, June 14th, 2010

According to the AFP:

North Korea has completely cut off state food rations after China failed to supply the impoverished communist country with extra cereals, a welfare group said Monday.

The ruling communist party announced in a directive on May 26 that there would be no state rations for a while, said South Korea’s Good Friends group which has contacts in the North.

People were authorised to buy food supplies through private markets, it said, adding the directive was due to delayed shipments of food from China.

“The directive was unavoidable” because China failed to send the aid which had been anticipated after leader Kim Jong-Il’s trip to Beijing in early May, group president Pomnyun, who uses just one name, told reporters.

Private markets are now open around the clock across the North, he said.

The North suffered famine in the mid-1990s which killed hundreds of thousands and it still grapples with severe food shortages. The UN children’s fund estimates one third of children are stunted by malnutrition.

The state food distribution system collapsed during the famine. Free markets sprang up and were condoned for a time.

Since 2005 the regime has been reasserting its grip on the economy, with controls or outright bans on the private markets.

A currency revaluation last November, designed to flush out entrepreneurs’ savings, backfired disastrously, fuelling food shortages as market trading dried up and sparking rare outbreaks of unrest.

The North was forced to suspend its campaign to curb the private markets.

Read the full story here:
N.Korea completely cuts off state rations: aid group


Tax? What Tax? The North Korean Taxation Farce

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Daily NK
Yoo Gwan Hee

In North Korea, April 1st is commemorated as “Tax Abolition Day.” Ever since the law, “On Completely Abolishing Taxes,” was ratified through the Supreme People’s Assembly on March 21, 1974, North Korea has claimed both within and without to be the only country in the world that does not collect taxes. However, their claim is only for propaganda purposes, for North Koreans labor under a list of state-imposed taxes and duties which grows longer day by day.

Take the example of electricity. Power distribution center members in every city and town visit households in their region alongside the chairperson of the local People’s Unit, whereupon they collect electricity payments according to the number of electric bulbs and electronic equipment therein. This process is done quarterly. In the late 1990s, the quarterly electricity bill per household in Pyongyang was about 20 won. To reduce costs, of course there were people who removed electric bulbs and hid electronic equipment such as irons whenever the power distribution center had workers in their neighborhood.

Since the 2002 economic management reforms were announced on July 1, however, electricity bills have increased greatly. For families living in luxurious apartments in the Jung-district of Pyongyang with televisions, refrigerators and electric fans, households pay as much as 800 or 900 won per quarter.

After the so-called July 1 Reform Measure, troubles between the power distribution center and the people increased. The North Korean people were understandably displeased with the power distribution center, for it was trying to collect money for a utility whose availability was and remains far from regular.

Next, let’s look at reserve food and organizational expenses. North Korea has nine levels of food distribution. From 100g to 900g is supposed to be distributed per day depending on the level, but for the purpose of stocking up reserves, up to 100g is collected from the people instead. Additionally, people are forced to submit approximately two percent of their salary for organizational expenses.

Next, to support for the construction of historical sites. North Korea emphasizes the “voluntary participation” of the North Korean people under the Party apparatus and workers’ organizations. Construction of historical sites for the idolization of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il is frequently organized. Also, officials often collect money from people in order to support those construction projects of which the cabinet is in charge.

Then there is free education. It is officially called “free education,” but school administration expenses are all covered by students and parents. Students have to collect waste paper, waste iron and waste rubber, or raise rabbits and submit the pelts to school. After 2000, there have even been students engaging in business around markets in order to provide supplies for submission to the school.

Onwards, then, to market stands rental fees. After the July 1 Reform Measure, the amount of tax collected at markets suddenly increased. Market stand rental fees already existed before the July 1 Reform Measure but, after 2002, market management centers started collecting market management tax as well, basing it on each product sold. Noodle sellers paid ten won per day, while soybean curd sellers paid three won.

Market stand rental fees became more systematic as well after general markets opened in late 2003. According to the product being sold and daily sales figures, market management centers charged rental fees. In present-day Nammun Market, Hoiryeong, the stand rental fee is said to have been fixed at 100 won per month.

Separate from the stand rental fee, monthly tax is charged on products for sale in the markets. For example, Nammun merchants pay additional taxes of 300 won for industrial goods, 180 won for pork, 150 for cigarettes, alcoholic drinks and fish, 120 won for food and 100 won for general merchandise.

So, while the North Korean media deliver their diet of propaganda promoting North Korea as the world’s only taxless country, be wise to the reality of the North Korean people suffering under an increasing tax burden.