DPRK market closure reports deemed rumor

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 09-7-8-1

North Korea’s main wholesale market, in Pyongysong, was temporarily closed for just over a week during mid-April, but it has reportedly been open and operating normally since then. It was rumored, and reported [previously (see below)], that the Pyongysong Wholesale Market was shut down in mid-June. There was a report that officials felt the market had grown too large, and there was a plan to divide it into East and West Markets. However, reports of these plans have now been deemed nothing more than rumor.

A source in Kangdong-gun stated that there has been much talk of closing markets since the beginning of the year, but that no measures have been enforced and everything is operating normally. Another source reported that many traders are traveling to and from Sinuiju and Pyongysong, and that their numbers have been growing since the onset of summer. While rumors still abound regarding market closures, the source noted that there is significantly less talk of such measures compared to earlier in the year.

In January, North Korean authorities released a statement indicating that general markets would be transformed into farmers’ markets, and only open once every ten days. However, six months has already passed, and there has been no action taken. There have been no measures to transform even some of the largest markets, in Hyeryong, Hyesan, Musan and Sinuiju. That said, it is always possible that the North Korean authorities proceed with plans to close or transform the markets.

The majority of North Koreans trading in the markets do not believe the authorities could easily carry out market-closing measures. Due to the likelihood of large-scale civil revolts, the regime must come up with an alternative to the markets if it intends to close or transform them. The current food issues faced by the North make it impossible to close markets. In addition, transforming general markets into farmers’ markets would force residents to buy daily necessities and other manufactured products at department stores or government-run shops, but these shops have nothing in stock. Furthermore, preventing residents from selling in the markets makes it more difficult for them to acquire the food necessary to sustain themselves and their families. The number of empty stalls in markets appears to be slowing increasing, but a complete shutdown of the market would likely lead to protests.

Original Post:
North Korea begins closing general markets
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 09-6-26-1

It has been reported that North Korea’s market closing measure is slowly beginning to be enforced. The June 23 27* issue of North Korea Today, a newsletter from the South Korean group Good Friends, announced that the Pyongsong general market has now been shut down, in what some call the most prominent omen that all general markets will be shut down throughout the country. As the Pyongsong general market served as the central wholesale market for the entire North, some believe it was shut down first in order to encourage the use of smaller, more local traditional markets. In addition, central Party authorities have ordered department stores and general stores in Pyongyang to stock up on Chinese goods. The North Korean government has announced, on a number of occasions since last year, that general markets would be closed and turned into farmers’ markets, but for a variety of reasons, the measure has been on hold for over six months.

Regional authorities were also ordered to import various goods from China, in accordance with the demands of local citizens and regional conditions, in order to head off any concerns that daily necessities might not be available after the markets are closed. This series of measures indicates that the government is concerned that attempts to forcefully close the markets may lead to citizen revolts, as clashes between traders and police occurred previously when the North attempted to enforce market restrictions.

One official in Pyongyang stated that this measure put citizen’s concerns and inconveniences first, stating, “[The Party] must unconditionally get rid of markets. But on the inside, they see that there will be huge opposition from the citizens if they only use force, so this time they decided to combine it with conciliatory policies.” The source added, however, that authorities plan to continue to operate restricted markets while at the same time, completely changing the market system before the end of this year.

Currently, as the 150-day ‘battle’ campaign to improve the economy is underway, more and more lectures are also being given. One week after the North’s second nuclear test, propaganda speeches were given in each factory and business in Pyongsong, South Pyongan Province, stating, “Now there is no one in the world that can face off with our military might,” and, “If the United States and those countries that kowtow to it carry out an economic blockade against our country, we will see it as an act of war and stand against it with military power. If only we carry out the 150-day battle well this year, we will completely attain a Strong and Prosperous Nation. [All the people] must follow after the revolutionary military spirit of the People’s Army and open the door to a strong and prosperous nation without one day’s delay.”

UPDATE: According to the Daily NK, the closing of the Pyongsong Market was not successful:

Despite North Korean official attempts to shift general markets onto an agricultural format, the general markets are operating as normal because of popular resistance to change.

A source residing in Kangdong-gun, Pyongyang told Daily NK, “In mid-April, a wholesale market in Pyongsung was shut down for around ten days, but after that it reopened and continues to operate.” He added that, “I’ve heard that the existing market was supposed to close early this year and be changed into an agricultural market, but there have actually been no shutdowns at all.”

He continued, “I don’t know the exact reason for the closure of Pyongsung market in April, but I’ve heard that there was an investigation of the individuals who manage the big wholesale businesses there. Traders strongly opposed it, so the closure of the market could not be completed.”

The source added, “In Kangdong-gun and other districts of Pyongyang, there have been many rumors about market closures, but there have not been any so far. Markets are operating normally.”

A source from Shinuiju confirmed it. “Many rumors of market closure have circulated, but they are working as usual,” the source said, “Markets in Pyongsung are operating as well, so there are still many traders coming and going between Shinuiju and Pyongsung. Especially, as summer approaches, trade is increasing.”

He added, “People still talk about the closure of the markets, but they don’t talk about it as much as earlier this year. In truth, if the jangmadang is closed, it will be hard for even the cadres to live, let alone ordinary residents. So cadres also have a negative opinion of the measure, and for that reason it will be difficult to shift to agricultural markets.” 

Read the full story here:
Markets Continue Despite Official Bluster
Daily NK
Lee Sung Jin


4 Responses to “DPRK market closure reports deemed rumor”

  1. NKeconWatch says:

    From Goodfriends:

    Pyongsung Wholesale Market to Be Closed
    The Central Party has decided to close the Pyongsung Market. Since January, North Korean authorities have been trying to close all the general markets and convert them to farmers’ markets. Due to considerable rural opposition to the policy, they decided to delay these transitions by six months. Currently, The Pyongsung Market is the largest wholesale market in the nation. The decision to close the market was made on the assumption that if the largest market were to be closed, other markets around the country would begin to decline. In the meantime, the city of Pyongsung has been reviewing plans to manage smaller markets in each of the city’s districts. This plan includes stricter restrictions on age eligibility for peddling permits. Additionally, Peddling permits will now be granted to the three poorest families from each neighborhood unit.

  2. Kevin says:

    The original Korean report is in the June 23 issue.

  3. NKeconWatch says:

    July 3rd: http://goodfriendsusa.blogspot.com/2009/07/north-korea-today-no284.html

    The Goal of Abolishing General Markets Steadily Comes Closer to Becoming a Reality
    The goal of abolishing general markets is gradually becoming a reality. Beginning in the second half of last year, North Korean authorities have increasingly made it clear that they attend to completely abolish general markets and replace them with farmers’ markets. For several reasons, the implementation of this plan was deferred for six months. The most symbolic example of this crackdown was the closure of the Pyongsung Market, which was shuttered because it held the title of being the nation’s largest wholesale market. It was decided that, in place of the Pyongsung Market, several smaller district markets should be opened. In addition, the Central Party instructed the Ministry of Commerce to fill government department stores with a significant quantity of Chinese-produced goods. Other cities have similarly been issued instructions to import as many Chinese-manufactured good as their situation permits. These policies are intended to keep supplies of in-demand items from running out in the lead-up to the Pyongsung Market’s closing. The policies are being implemented in direct response to the resistance being put up by residents, which initially caused the market’s abolition to be deferred. A party leader in Pyongyang reported that these measures were put in place to minimize the inconvenience to residents. He added, “The Central Party believes that the general markets should be shut down completely, but they fear forced eradication may result in increased resentment from residents. As a result, they are trying a policy of persuasion this time. Regardless, they are determined to completely transform the market structure. They hope that if citizens are relentlessly mobilized and severely restricted, they will not have time to develop ill will.”