North Korea’s recent announcement of restrictions on imports of “unnecessary items” has led to a spate of “panic buying” in Pyongyang, Daily NK has learned.

“Prices of all sorts of goods have continued to increase since the announcement was made, and people are buying up what they can,” a Daily NK source based in Pyongyang reported earlier today.

Daily NK had reported on Apr. 22 that a “joint decision document” signed by both the country’s Cabinet and communist party’s Central Committee was handed down to organizations throughout the country. The document stated that the country had implemented restrictions on imports of “unimportant” items such as seasonings for food and electronics.

Several Pyongyang sources told Daily NK that the “panic buying” in the capital city began on Apr. 18 – the day after the import restrictions-related announcement was made – and that the prices of imported food, condiments and electronics sold in various stores have continued increase since then.

Sources explained that panic buying in Pyongyang had happened twice before this year. The first time was right after the authorities shut down the Sino-North Korean border to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak in late January.

The second time, according to Daily NK sources, occurred after an order was handed down by provincial party committees throughout the country in late February ordering everyone to “prepare one month’s supply of food.”

While that February order was not handed down to Pyongyang residents, news of the order in other parts of the country was picked up by Pyongyangites and they reportedly engaged in a short-lived spate of hoarding.

This recent round of panic buying after the government’s announcement on import restrictions is still ongoing, Daily NK sources confirmed.

“Rice and other farm products grown in North Korea are still available in local markets, but imported foods and condiments have doubled in price,” one source said, adding, “People are saying that even if prices rise by four-fold, they’ll need to buy [the products] because there won’t be any left.”

Imported flour is almost completely sold out in markets in Pyongyang, sources said, while five kilogram containers of soybean oil originally selling at CNY 45 (around USD 6) are now CNY 100 (around USD 14) per container. Two-door refrigerators that had cost CNY 3,500 (around USD 494) are now selling for CNY 5,700 (around USD 805), reflecting a significant jump in prices of electronics following the import restriction announcement.

Sellers of other imported goods have simply raised their prices and are waiting for prices to rise even further to sell them, sources said.

Meanwhile, local officials in the city have spread propaganda emphasizing solidarity and that people should “tighten their belts” and put “trust in the party” to get through this “difficult period” just like they did during the “period of rebuilding after the Korean War.”

NK News, an American website focused on North Korea, reported on Apr. 22 through sources in Pyongyang that North Koreans were seen “panic buying” at shops in the city.

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