The North Korean authorities have issued instructions placing restrictions on the use of motorcycles. Enforced from mid-July, the regulations have made life more complicated for the many people who are dependent on the vehicles for business.
“New traffic regulations came out saying that people can only ride private motorcycles during the morning rush hours and from 8:00pm to 10:00pm. They said that failure to adhere to the conditions would lead to confiscation of the vehicle,” a source in Hyesan, Yangkang Province reported to Daily NK on August 4th.
The new regulations, which do not apply to motorcycles for official use, have begun to be applied. “[With these sudden measures] people can’t even freely ride the bikes that they paid for with their own money. People who make a living bringing goods to market are pretty tired of it."
It is a Kim regime tradition to bestow cars on individuals as part of the essential dictatorial practice of buying off a ruling coalition. Some overseas Korean residents also own private cars. For the general populace, however, holding a car in one's own name remains not only illegal but also fiscally impossible.
Accordingly, cadres, merchants, traders and others with good security service connections obtain used motorcycles from Japan and China instead, and motorcycles have become an essential part of many livelihoods. The source said that in his view, the state may simply lack the capital to supply enough oil, and has moved to restrain demand instead.
North Korea remains starved for viable sources of fuel. A report by Korea Energy Economics Institute (KEEI) in February 2014 estimated that 51.1% of all households purchase fuel on the open market. Only 6.8% of families receive fuel rations through official channels.
The source confirmed that most residents simply cannot get oil through official channels. “People have continued to buy oil through a number of routes in order to operate their motorcycles,” he said, going on, “It seems that [the state] is trying to reduce the number of people directly purchasing oil by implementing the new regulation.”
However, residents do not expect the regulations to stick, a perspective born of experience.
“Occasionally, there have been measures like this before," the source noted, "but most of the time they have gone down the drain. There are already complaints about motorcycles that are supposedly for traffic control being used for personal errands."
If this new directive is strictly enforced “people will naturally resort to bribes," he concluded.