April brings fuel price hike

Firm sanctions imposed by the UN on North
Korea have now been in effect for over a month. Although rice prices and the
exchange rate in North Korean markets have remained relatively stable, the
price of fuel has skyrocketed. 

On April 4, Daily NK spoke with a source in
Ryanggang Province who confirmed these facts. The price of 1 kilogram [the kilogram is the standard measurement of gasoline and diesel fuel in North Korea, though the liter is often used colloquially] o
f gasoline, which
was 7,000 KPW [0.86 USD] at the end of March, increased in the first week of April to
10,700 KPW [1.32 USD].

Sources in North Hamgyong Province and
Pyongyang have corroborated this news, reporting that prices in their regions
are reflecting the trends prevailing in Ryanggang Province.

Diesel fuel prices have increased in tandem
with gasoline. In Hyesan, 1 kilogram of gasoline is going for 6,350 KPW [0.78 USD] at the markets,
a 1,000 KPW [0.12 USD] increase over last month’s prices.

A major factor behind the price spike is
thought to be the large-scale construction projects that are underway, the source
said, further noting that, “Workers mobilized for construction projects are
saying that their worries are increasing at the same rate as fuel prices.”

Concerns that these prices will only
continue to rise are widespread. Of particular importance, because planting
season is just around the corner, farmers are also trying to procure fuel
supplies for themselves, increasing demand and further exacerbating the
situation. This has been made more difficult by the fact that fuel previously
supplied to the markets through smuggling is comparatively harder to come by
due to intensified crackdowns on these activities.  

Furthermore, April and May are the prime
months for catching mackerel, and June is when squid season gets underway. In
anticipation of this busy period, fishermen are anxious to get their hands on
fuel. “As the saying goes,” the source said, “fishing is survival, and the
fishermen anticipate huge losses this year if they fail to secure an adequate
supply of fuel right now.”

Citizens are divided over whether or not
the sanctions are responsible for driving the increase in fuel costs, the
source added. Although some believe that this is the sanctions beginning to
show their effects, others are blaming the military for siphoning off supplies,
pointing out that prices for other goods have remained constant.