Number of market stalls grows in Kim Jong-un era

According to the Daily NK:

The number of markets and stalls across North Korea has been increasing at a faster pace since Kim Jong Un came into power, as unlike his father Kim Jong Il, the young Kim has left market activities mostly untouched by regulations. This has given people more room to improve their livelihoods and tame their disgruntlement towards the leadership.

For some years now, the state has not placed heavy restrictions on market activity, resulting in a jump in the number of stalls across all marketplaces, sources from within North Korea have told Daily NK. The relaxed environment has prompted many people to start selling at the market, leading to a gradual expansion in operations.

The number of stalls at markets in South Hamgyong, South Pyongan, Yanggang, and Kangwon Provinces has swelled significantly, according to multiple sources in each of these areas. In the case of Hyesan in Yanggang Province, the stall count across five markets has gone from 6,326 in 2012 to 7,627 this year, posting a rough 20 percent increase.

Deoksan Market, located in the Okjeon District of South Pyongan Province’s Pyongsong City, saw stall numbers jump from anywhere between 3,000 to 4,000 over the same period, recently reaching 13,510; a stall tally at Munhwa Market in South Pyongan Province revealed that stands there blossomed from around 700 to 800 a few years ago to a current total of 2,560.

With the rise of new stalls at the Bukchong market in South Hamgyong Province, rice stalls have been set off into a separate section. Some 350 vendors as of now are just selling rice, according to a number of sources. The Wonsan Market in Kangwon Province has also gone from around 3,000-4,000 vendors to 5,700, recording a steady expansion.

The loose grip on the markets ties back to better profits for the state, as it is able to collect stall operation fees from vendors. Struggling to secure state funds on the trade front, relaxing market regulations and collecting money for its coffers become a more attractive option for the leadership, sources explained.

More specifically, average market fees collected from vendors at the Hyesan General Market in Yanggang Province add up to over 4 million KPW [463 USD] a day. In a one-month period, this amount reaches over 100 million KPW, which is worth 20,000 tons of rice according to current rates. Given there are five markets in Hyesan City, the total income produced just from these fees would be worth roughly 100,000 tons of rice, according to reports from sources.

This markedly more relaxed market environment has given people more breathing room, alleviating some of the strong sentiments residents had against the leadership after going through a failed currency reform back in 2009. The changes have also given people a greater belief in self-provision, watering down their reliance on the state along with their loyalty as well, sources have explained.

Running a business at the market is now considered a right rather than an illicit activity, marking a stark change in attitude among the public from some years ago.

I have also contributed satellite imagery to RFA of various new markets that have been built in the Kim Jong-un era.

Read the full story here:
Swelling markets shift perceptions
Daily NK
Kang Mi Jin


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