Analysis of North Korea’s ‘Market Economy’ 2

Daily NK
Kim Min Se

The “first-runners” are first-tier wholesalers who connect Chinese manufacturers and North Korean market owners in large cities such as Sinuiju, Hyesan, Hamheung or Chongjin. The goods transported by the first-runners to metropolitan markets in NK are met by second-runners in smaller cities.

South Pyongan province’s Pyongsong, Sunchon and Nampo are the hub for those second-runners, who move imported commodities to further deep into countryside of North and South Pyongan provinces and Hwanghae province.

Moon, a 38-year old shopkeeper in a market in Sunchon, South Pyongan, said “As soon as we hear the news that first-runners brought goods, we go to them with money right away. Since they run a huge amount of money, ordinary buyers can’t even meet them.”

Moon said that for second-runners including herself it took about half million NK wons (180 US dollars) to buy goods for one time. She buys merchandise from first-runners and sells it back to local storeowners.

For second-runners, it is crucial to procure enough high-quality goods with low price. If one buys bad products, he or she loses money. Same rule applies to first-runners.

Second-runners also hand over raw materials to manufacturers. The diminutive North Korean industry relies partly on them.

Chinese sugar and flour turn to bread and candy, and imported clothing materials are manufactured in home factories. Most of the manufacturers who buy raw materials from second-runners are individual handicraftsmen.

Lee, a clothing producer in Hamheung, sells her homemade clothes in market. Lee has had good relationship a number of second-runners, who trade Chinese fabric, so she can even buy stuff on credit.

Throughout the March of Tribulation in late 90s, North Korean people had depended on home industry for their basic necessities. And now it is estimated that significant amount of industrial products in North Korean markets are home-produced.

Those with little capital or without a stand in local market go to the most remote regions in high mountains or countryside and sell their handicrafts via train. Although it is not North Korean business slang, such activity can be classified as “third-running.”

The so-called “third-runners” trade their home-manufactured goods with country people’s corn, bean or rice, since it is rare to own a lot of cash in rural area.

In sum, once persecuted North Korean private markets are now reflecting every aspect of capitalist economy.


Comments are closed.