‘Back to the future’ for Pyongyang’s markets?

When looking at North Korea’s cities on Google Earth one can’t help but notice the number of monuments to the Great Leader.  But if you are looking for the true heart of the cities, in other words where all the people are, you need to look closely for North Korea’s markets.  They do have them–in all of the major cities visible on Google Earth:

pyongyangmarket.JPG kaesongmarket.JPG
wonsanmarket.JPG sinuijumarket.JPG
(Clockwise from upper left) Markets in Pyongyang, Kaesong, Sinuiju, and Wonsan

This week, the Daily NK reported that the new regulations and crackdowns on market activity are meeting with resentment in Pyongyang. 

What happened?  Supposedly Pyongyang’s new Party Chief Secretary suggested to Kim Jong Il the idea of converting the jangmadang into farmers markets (in other words only selling agricultural goods from the countryside as in the past), and Mr. Kim approved it.

As of January 15, public announcements were placed on the entrances of marketplaces detailing what could/could not be sold in the market.  Violators are subject to having their goods confiscated by inspection units (these sorts of policies are ripe for promoting corruption).

Ever entrepreneurial, North Korean sellers simply adapted, shifting location from inside the marketplaces to back-alleys.  Seemingly, they are still subject to inspection and confiscation in these local neighborhoods, but apparently the risk is lower.  Several of these street markets are also visible on Google Earth:


But others have decided to stay put in the markets and simply hide their goods:

A portion of the people still secretly trade in the jangmadang. Simultaneously avoiding the inspection units, they refrain from putting out the goods and bargain with customers by holding up signposts. When they tell the passing-by customers, “This is what I have,” a bargain is reached. Of course, the goods are temporarily stored at a nearby residence and taken out after the bargain. (Daily NK)

Lankov also discussed the regulations and games people play to avoid the market inspection units here

The full article can be found below:
Jangmadang Will Be Converted to Farmers Markets
Daily NK
Jung Kwon Ho


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