Market prices so far showing resilience against sanctions

Kang Mi Jin  |  2016-03-14 13:26
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Market prices in North Korea have remained relatively stable despite stronger sanctions enforced by the international community, including China, as well as greater limitations on market operations due to nationwide preparation for Pyongyangs May Party Congress

Multiple Daily NK sources within the country have confirmed that rice prices in Pyongyang, South Pyongan Provinces Sinuiju, and Ryanggang Provinces Hyesan are trading at 5,100 KPW, 5,150 KPW, and 5,080 KPW per kilogram, respectively, similar to levels before sanctions were stepped up (5,100 KPW, 5,100 KPW, 5,260 KPW). 

This is also the case on the foreign exchange front, with 1 USD trading for 8,150 KPW in Pyongyang, 8,200 KPW in Sinuiju, and 8,170 KPW in Hyesan, showing some signs of strengthening for the local currency from pre-sanction rates (Pyongyang 8,200 KPW, SinuijuHyesan 8,290 KPW). 

There had been concern we would see fewer goods in the market because of UN sanctions, but in reality, there hasnt been much difference, a source from North Pyongan Province told Daily NK in a telephone conversation on Sunday. The state is placing restrictions on opening hours for the market for the 70-day battle (mobilization for the Party Congress), but the markets have remained lively, and theres not much change in terms of market prices. 

Further confirming trends previously reported by Daily NK last week, an additional source in North Hamgyong Province reported yesterday that some people had stocked up food worried about sanctions from the UN, but that this hasnt led to a violent gyration in prices. Actually, in some regions, were seeing prices of certain products drop, he noted. 

This price stability seen in the marketplace, in spite of the sanctions having kicked in earlier this month, can be attributed to the fact that most products are still trading as they would have save one of the Norths main export items: minerals. 

The simple reality that people have experienced similar times before is also at play. In the past, people who had stockpiled food during other sanctions discovered that after the political climate evened out a bit they were unable to get their moneys worth for everything they bought. This is why were seeing less of it, a source from Ryanggang Province explained. Initially there was a little bit of noise, but in general people are remaining calm. 

Trade with China had already been stymied since last year, she said, positing less of an impact to be felt domestically as a result. She added that most people believe that even if trade through official channels is cut off, smugglers will press on, drawing on years of experience and connections to carve out new routes as soon as others are blocked. 

Sources also agreed that the longstanding experience of market vendors, who have enjoyed relatively unfettered operations for some time, is another factor that has contributed to market stability. 

In the past, if there was talk about exports being cut off or markets being restricted, prices would have spiked almost immediately. But now most people believe that barring a state mandate to ban all market operations, there wont be any insurmountable problems, the source from North Hamgyong asserted. 

That said, if China keeps this grip on sanctions up going forward, some are worried about the other implications: namely, the future and existence of our country itself. 

*Translated by Jiyeon Lee

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Won Pyongyang Sinuiju Hyesan
Exchange Rate 8,000 8,000 8,025
Rice Price 4,800 4,900 5,200