Surge in street stalls brings roads to life

Lee Sang Yong  |  2015-07-22 15:43
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A photo of North Korean vendors doing business in the street taken by a Chinese tourist who
visited the country in April. Image: 鲍勰鳃 blog

North Korea is seeing the number of street vendors swell recently on the back of relaxed regulations on market activities and private sales in general. Areas with higher levels of foot traffic have especially become popular spots for these makeshift operations, Daily NK has learned. 

Street stalls, where people can grab a bite on the go, have been growing rapidly in numbers, a source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK on Wednesday. In some neighborhoods in the province, these stalls are lined up outside the market within a 2km radius. 

An additional source in North Pyongan Province verified these developments.

Most street booths sell simple dishes for delivery men such as noodles or mock meat rice (rice placed between soybean-derived strips), and more food stalls that offer bowls of onban (seaweed broth with rice) are also popping up at a rapid pace, according to the source. 

There are more merchants who have less time to eat properly, so some even offer sweets and crackers instead, she added. A lot of times, these vendors will stop by before setting out on the road and theyll mass purchase these goods. 

Such activities are not limited to the day time. Similar to scenes that unfold on the streets of South Korea, some booths only open shop at night. Stall owners will work other jobs during the day and sell drinks and food in the evening hours to make money late into the night hours, said the source. 

These street booths generate their own electricity, and they make stews and side dishes to sell along with soju (rice liquor) and beer, explained the source. For merchants who have to travel long distances, its a great set-up to enjoy a drink and relax in short period of time. 

These street stalls are not regular stands set up in the marketplace. In principle, they do not need to pay any fees, but Ministry of People's Security officials overseeing these areas will regularly ask for rent in return for turning a blind eye to their unlicensed operations.

If you dont pay them, they come at you immediately, so the vendors have no choice but to pay, the source said. But recently, Ive seen a lot of cases, where they fight over the sum required. 

Street stalls are also appearing along the fringe of markets, where those who cannot afford to pay for a spot within the market will set up a booth outside of the parameters. With this, street booths are expanding into neighborhoods and stretching beyond the immediate market area, according to the source. 

The increase of such makeshift operations is also spreading to areas with high population density such as around train stations, bus stops, and downtown areas. Sometimes, the booths are even said to appear in clusters, with 20 to 30 operations setting up shop within residential areas, acting almost like shopping malls found within large apartment complexes in the South.

*Translated by Jiyeon Lee

 
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