Sudden market crackdowns attempt to redirect interests to Party

Choi Song Min  |  2015-09-09 11:46
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After enjoying significantly relaxed regulations on market sales over the past few years, North Korean vendors are facing a sudden step-up in crackdowns ahead of the 70th anniversary of the Partys Foundation Day, which will fall on October 10th. The state is looking to tighten the reins on market activities and other elements that could challenge social order ahead of the massive celebration, Daily NK has learned. 

Over the past few years, officials have loosened their grip on market activities, so people were able to enjoy somewhat of a better life, but recently they are stepping up on crackdowns again, a source from North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Tuesday. The wholesale market in Chongjins Sunam District, which used to open every morning, is not operating at the moment because of security personnel. 

This news was verified by an additional source in the same province and a source in South Hamgyong Province.

Early last month, the Ministry of Peoples Security [MPS] issued a statement saying it would carry out harsh punishments against those who are caught conducting sales at alley markets and on streets, angering people. The number of patrol forces has been doubled, and theyre also cracking down on night stalls down alleys, so markets have not been operating, according to the source. 

People werent too surprised about the crackdown on alley markets and street stalls, but pulling the plug on wholesale markets has larger implications for the livelihoods of those in other regions, since goods there are distributed all across the country, he said. Because of this, the embankment around the Susong river area that stretches 1,500m long is in chaos every day because of everyone being chased down by patrol agents. 

South Pyongan Provinces Pyongsong market and almost all vendors rely heavily on the market around the Huchang Customs Office in North Hamgyong Province and Sunam Market. Distributors, known as runners, who deliver wholesale products and specialize in distribution are unable to procure the products they need to send to other areas without the early morning market operations, explained the source. 

Runners in each region stay one or two days near Sunam market in private rental rooms and load their goods on trains to transport to other areas, the source said. With the sudden crackdowns that have hindered their business and cost them trains booked at black market prices, the runners are all up in arms because of their losses. 

The shuttering of wholesale markets has already started to have effects on Hamheung in South Hamgyong Province, Wonsan in Kangwon Province, and also markets across the country. The slide in supply is pushing up product prices in those areas, the source reported. Not surprisingly, this has angered residents, who have said they would rather have the 70th anniversary event be over sooner than later in the face of such inconveniences. 

Some people are speculating that if Kim Jong Un had spent the past four years focusing on winning over public support, he is now starting an era of stronger crackdowns and harsher restrictions, said the source. The shift has even been likened to the tactic of plumping people up only to gobble them up -- a method they also say was adopted by Kim Jong Il. 

Even knowing that the leadership will buy resentment by implementing such restrictions against market activities, the state is still rolling out aggressive measures against residents. The state wants to carry out its 70th Foundation Day celebration on a majestic scale, and it wants its people to focus on it instead of caring only about sales they ring up at their stalls, the source concluded.

*The content of this article was broadcast to the North Korean people via Unification Media Group.

*Translated by Jiyeon Lee

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