Anger mounts as police crush street sales
After unleashing a ¡°70 day battle¡± to increase mobilized labor and limit market hours ahead of the May Party Congress, North Korea has also started to clamp down on unofficial alley markets and street vendors. Until now the response from the public had remained somewhat tempered regarding the mobilization, but the crackdown on street sales has fired up complaints.
¡°We haven¡¯t been able to sell things properly because of the mandate forcing every resident to take part in mobilization and ¡®uphold the Party with loyal beads of sweat to build a strong nation¡¯ in relation to the 70 day battle,¡± a source from Ryanggang Province told Daily NK on March 6. ¡°These days, MPS [Ministry of People¡¯s Security, or North Korea¡¯s police force] agents are on patrol all the time to crack down on street vendors.¡±
This chain of events has been particularly distressing for vendors in Yonbong 1-dong, Songhu-dong, Baenamugol, and Yonpung-dong of northerly Ryanggnag Province. For sellers in those locales, unfettered street selling is the primary, it not sole, means of livelihood. In the face of continual crackdowns, worries about weathering the new host of difficulties brought on by the ¡°70-day battle¡± thus weigh heavily on already weary minds.
¡°Some people have tried bringing a bit of food out with them to sell before mobilization work, but they¡¯ve had all of it confiscated,¡± the source said. ¡°In the recent years, people weren¡¯t really worried about being mobilized because the state didn¡¯t crack down on market actors and their activities. So of course when you suddenly slap restrictions [on what residents see as their right] people are going to complain.¡±
Indeed, the decree runs contrary to market regulations, or rather lack there of, during the Kim Jong Un era. Since assuming power in 2011, he has pivoted away from the suffocating market policies of his father while incrementally expanding the nation's official marketplaces.
However, following the pronouncement of plans to hold the first Party Congress scheduled in 36 years, Kim Jong Un has severely diminished people¡¯s primary channel of survival in order to produce more "achievements" ahead of the gathering.
This unforeseen change of tack, a different source in Ryanggang Province reported, is what local residents find impossible to reconcile and has precipitated such a strong response.
¡°Who would want to work hard during mobilization if they¡¯re choking our businesses like this? We¡¯re not doing this to save up cash--we¡¯re doing it simply to survive!" the source said, citing a number of merchants in the area.
She then added her own voice to the roiling mix, pointing out that "if you want to eat, you¡¯ve got to work. How are you supposed to defend your country if you can¡¯t do that?¡±
*Translated by Jiyeon Lee