Gap Between Rich and Poor in North Korea Growing

Choson Iblo

North Korea’s gap between rich and poor has been growing since the Stalinist country started economic reforms in 2002. While some have managed to better themselves to form something of a nouveau riche class, more than 70 percent are now getting only about half the needed calorie intake from state-run food distribution centers, the Financial Times reported Friday.

The World Food Program’s North Korea director Richard Ragan told the paper the wealthy are concentrated in five cities, including Pyongyang. They are the group that can be seen going to work on their bicycles, which cost triple the average monthly salary in North Korea. The newly affluent work mostly in retail and service industries and include tailors, ice cream sellers and bike repairmen who make money in general markets, which have multiplied to some 300 since 2002. Some farmers selling surplus produce are also part of what passes for a wealthy class in North Korea.

Most of those working in industrial production subsist below the minimum level, and tens of thousands of industrial workers in towns like Hamhung or Kimchaek are losing their jobs. Among those able to work, 30 percent are unemployed, and 70 percent of the population receives 250-380 grams of food a day from state-run food distribution centers — no more than half the necessary daily intake of nutrients.

The FT said the country as a whole is experiencing 130 percent inflation but poverty is no longer shared equally.


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