Economy stabilizes before Supreme People’s Assembly meeting

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 10-03-24-1

It has been reported that food prices in North Korea have leveled out in the latter half of March. An informant from North Hamgyeong Province told Daily NK on March 21 that “nonglutinous rice is 950 Won (per kilogram), corn is 220 Won (per kilogram), and pork is 1,800 Won (per kilogram).” The same source stated that prices in the Onseong town market, Namyang Market, prices were similar. It appears that the prices have dropped because of the increase in overseas food assistance to the North and the fact that emergency rations are now being sold on markets.

Of course, there is no guarantee that the current prices will hold steady in the future, and there is no shortage of people voicing concerns that with the spring lean season approaching, rising food prices and instances of starvation could be unavoidable. On February 4, North Korean authorities dictated that rice could not be sold for more than 240 Won/Kg, and that corn must be sold for 130 Won/Kg or less. Along with the fall in the cost of rice, foreign currency exchange rates also appear to be falling. On March 21, the Yuan traded for 100 Won, and one dollar sold for 720 Won.

According to Daily NK, in the Nammun Market of Hyeryeong city, glutinous rice sold for 900 Won/Kg, while corn went for 500 Won/Kg. On the 13th of last month, (polished) rice cost 1,200 Won/Kg, while corn sold for 550 Won/Kg. The exchange rate was 1 Yuan:120 Won and 1 USD: 1,00Won.

On March 20, the Korean Central News Agency reported that the second session of the North’s 12th Supreme People’s Assembly would open in Pyongyang on April 9. While the agenda was not revealed, the assembly meets each spring, generally to settle the previous year’s budget and set the spending schedule of the current year. There is no reason to believe this year would be different.

At this assembly meeting, it is also likely that new members of the National Defense Commission, Cabinet, and other high-level administrators will be sworn in. In particular, with the aftermath of failed currency reforms and growing reports of starvation throughout the country, there will likely be new economic measures introduced along with the replacement of some officials.


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